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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man

By Grier Horner

August 10, 2014

Photos by Grier Horner

The passenger pigeon, which used to swarm in flocks so large they eclipsed the sun, flies again at MASS MoCA.

Once the most abundant species in North America, the species became extinct about September 1, 1914, when Martha died at the Cleveland Zoo. She was the last known survivor of an unrestricted hunting frenzy.

Last night MASS MoCA held the opening reception for Eclipse, an exhibit commemorating a lost species. It does this through video, sound and text in a cautionary tale that is beautiful and compelling.

Eclipse is the work of the art team of Susannah Sayles and Edward Morris in collaboration with Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker magazine. Kolbert wrote Requiem for Martha, which she read at the opening and which you can read in the handsome catalogue given out at the exhibit.

The show is the second piece of good news for MASS MoCA this week, overshadowed by the signing of a bill by Governor Patrick that grants the museum $25 million for renovation of the remaining buildings in the old Sprague Electric complex. The money comes with the stipulation that MASS MoCA must raise $30 million on its own. Much of that space will be used to mount long term shows like the LeWitt, which has been a big draw, and the new Anselm Keifer  building.

Once complete the expansion will realize the long-held dream of museum Director Joseph Thompson. Thompson's life and the museum's are intricately intertwined. He worked tirelessly - and at times without pay - to get the museum financed  and built. There was a long and land-mined period from before 1988, when the state promised financial backing, until 1999 when it opened. Thompson and his staff have proven opponents like The Berkshire Eagle editorial board where wrong when they argued that the museum should not be built because it could never attract the crowds needed to make it work. Very wrong.

The show is first in the four-story corridor and metal stairway at the end of the museum's Sol Lewitt building and the next building on the museum's sprawling campus. The buildings were connected by a skylight but in the process of mounting this show, workers found that the structure supporting the skylight was badly deteriorated and will have to be replace.

The video which plays on 100 feet of wall and ceiling depicts the birds in the days when they were the biggest aviary species in North America, flock to a tree in such numbers that they cover it so densely they become the foliage. The pigeons, which resembled mourning doves, but were larger, then flock across the ceiling in numbers that almost cover it completely. As hordes of the birds leave the tree branches become visible, but the birds still cover the ceiling. But as the tree loses its birds, the migration trickles to a few birds on wing and then to none.

Peter Kalm and John James Audubon described the flocks this way:

"In these almost solid masses, they darted forward in undulating and angular lines, descended and swept close over the earth with inconceivable velocity, mounted perpendicularly so as to resemble a vast column, and when high, were seen wheeling and twisting within their continues lines, which then resembled the coils of a gigantic serpent."

Why were they called passenger pigeons? The French named them 'Pigeon de passage' or 'pigeon of passage' because of the huge size of the migratory flocks passing overhead, accoring to Answers.com.

As the birds flew over in flocks as large as four kilometers long and one kilometer wide, they were easy pray. You didn't even really have to aim. The birds were in demand as food for slaves and the poor.

 

This is a photo of a passenger pigeon preserved through taxidermy. And below is part of the audience. The shot was taken from my vantage point on a landing well above them.

Supported by numerous foundations, the work willl be up until September 1 next year. Below is a shot that gives you an idea of the stairway in this new gallery space.

 

 

 

 

 

August 4, 2014

 

Photos by Grier Horner

Here are some of my favorites from the four exhibits Babbie and I hit on First Friday in downtown Pittsfield last week. Above, the painting I liked most - Colored Fences by Peg A. shown at Memories in the Making mounted by the Alzheimer's Association. You can see the work of the association's artists at the Downtown Pittsfield Inc. office on the Dunham Mall across from City Hall. Like the 20 other First Friday shows, it will be up through the month.

The Memories in the Making exhibit is a reminder that the urge to create doesn't have to end with the onset of Alzheimer's. The famous abstract artist Willem de Kooning's (1904-1997) demonstrated that. He was diagnosed with the disease in his late eighties. But during the following years, he painted more than 300 abstract works.

Critics were divided on the merit of these paintings. According to Wikipedia: "Some have said that his very last works present a new direction of compositional complexity and color juxtaposition, and are prophetic of directions that some current painters continue to pursue. Some speculate that his mental condition and years of alcoholism had rendered him unable to carry out the mastery indicated in his early works. Others claim some of these paintings were removed from the studio and exhibited before de Kooning was finished with them." Whatever the case, Wikipedia says, "unfortunately, de Kooning's last works have not been afforded the amount of critical commentary or substantial serious assessment that his earlier works received." And whether the late paintings were great or not, the fact remains that he didn't stop painting.

 

 

This photo, Moscow Ballet, by Denise B. Chandler is part of the Berkshire Art Association-sponsored show, BAA Redux: Industrial Manifest. Ms. Chandler informed me on facebook last night that she took this shot in September 2011 while leaving the port in Moscow and starting the 400 mile trip to St Petersburg. These cranes reminded me of the ballet dancers I had seen while there...Moscow danced one last dance for me."

Industrial Manifest also included this classy ceramic sculpture. The four-foot long Red Serrated Line by Jim Lawton echoes the sawtooth roofline of many factories, including one on Union Street in North Adams and the former factory that houses the Dia museum in Beacon.

 

 

 

I thought the best staging of an exhibit was Susan Geller's opening at the Berkshire Medical Center lobby. Enlivening the event was Al Bauman's jazz trio. Behind the band is Ms. Geller's beautiful Snowy Night: Bousquet. She resisted the temptation that has hurt some shows there of trying to cram too much art onto the limited wall space. She limited the show to four large photos. And it looked great.

 

Terry Rooney at the Berkshire Community College Gallery in the Intermodal Transportation Center on Columbus Avenue had the most original work. The late Al Hood, who remodeled her home and studio, built her a host of shaped wooden platforms to her specifications from wood recycled from the job. She went on to use them as an integral part of her art.

In a piece of social commentary At Bagels, Too, Judith Learner showed photos she has taken to illustrate her food journalism.

A couple years ago she started noticing that the nation's income inequality was showing up in her field, with "more and more people eating free meals and more and more eating $235 dinners or taking a day's cooking class with lunch for $350."

Her photos are arranged to document this trend. Above is a pork loin appetizer at a $195-a- ticket Tanglewood gala and below is a free pork chop lunch at the Christian Center in Pittsfield. 

 

 

 

Here's a photo of the leader of the pack, Mary McGinnis in the purple blouse. On First Fridays she leads free tours of the event that she was the driving force in launching in 2012 and which she chairs. This group numbered about 10.  Last week she improvised a show of children's books she has written and illustrated backed up by hundreds of comic books as a fill-in for a scheduled window exhibit that fell through at the last minute.

 

Here are my two favorite outfits of the evening: the woman in the American flag wrap above (whose name I neglected to get) and Susan Geller, seen below as her reception was closing.

 

The show that drew the biggest attendance of those I took in - and there were about 20 I didn't get to - was this one sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association.

 

 

 

August 1, 2014

Photos of Ian Grey's portraits by Grier Horner

Ian Grey's portraits grace the long corridor at MountainOne Bank in North Adams in a show, Elements, that opened yesterday as part of the city's monthly Downstreet Art Thursday festival. Started a year ago, the goal of his project, Grey says, "is to take an element from each person's life and use it to create a unique portrait."

 

 

The self-taught photographer says these are pictures of "everyday people who are courageous and adventurous enough to bare a part of themselves for my camera." That person in the shot at the top of this post is Katie Mahaney. And the one with the scarf is Darcie Sosa. Below the two talk at the opening. Ms. Sosa is on the right with Ms. Mahaney's portrait over her shoulder.

 

 

This is a shot of Phyllis Criddle wearing one of the dresses she sells at MASS MoCA, where she is head of museum shop. She is showing at least two "elements" for Grey's camera - the dress and the tattoos, both works of artistry. (I did a post on her dresses on March 19, which you can get to through my archives at the top of this page.)

"When I make a portrait i ask the subject to take a leap of faith. Knowing our most creative selves lie in the periphery of our beings, it's an act of courage for a person to explore these regions in front of the camera," Grey said.

Here Ian Grey talks with a woman who was admiring his work.

 

In "The Light of Dreams," Grey creates a gauzy atmosphere that makes the beautiful woman all the more dramatic.

 

Liz Bissell, vice president of marketing at MountainOne, makes a point at the opening. The bank, she said, created the hallway gallery to enliven the long corridor that leads from Main Street to the parking lot.

 

In Arms of Love Grey offers a tender shot of father and daughter. And below in Taken Grey introduces a touch of theatrical comedy. (While the pictures are protected by non-glare glass, some glare occurs in some of the photographs.) His exhibit is up until late August. He's a photographer doing top notch work from his home on Florida Mountain. You may have seen the shots he takes of hummingbirds that was shown last month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 30, 2014

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Who knew 50 people could make so much noise with paper and create so many varied sounds: marching, raining, chanting, chattering, shooting, shuffling, clapping, flocking. It would rise to a tumultuous rhythmic commotion and fade to a surprising silence as the performers streamed in  diverging and merging lines and configurations.

Ann Hamilton knew you could make music with paper and yesterday she staged the world premiere of Page Sounding in a section of MASS MoCA that I had never seen before on a courtyard of the former factory that I had never seen before. (There is a lot more space in this contemporary art museum to expand - a lot more.) In the photo above the white-haired artist is congratulating the performers. It was Hamilton who in 2004 converted the huge main gallery into a snowfield as falling sheets of paper collected on the floor in her popular Corpus (below).

 

 

Yesterday's performance was part of the museum's 13th annual Bang on a Can summer music festival. And the people dressed in paper and equipped with paper mitts and paper scrolls were Bang on a Cans fellows and faculty.

 

 

These are the mitts they wore and used as cymbals. Made of stiff, handmade abaca paper, the company produced noise by waving them, clapping them together and slapping them against their paper costumes. The costumes themselves rustled and crinkled when their wearers moved. When the performance about paper and communication began, it communicated the wrong message to a baby in his mother's arms and he started crying. She had to carry him out. Afterwards she said that he hadn't cried at the terrific noise of an 80-foot tree falling by their house. But I could understand how the uncanny noise of the paper could scare him.

 

The crowd was enthusiastic, joining in the sound making by rattling their programs.

 

In the end the participants ripped up some of the paper, balled it up and threw it in the air. Below a smiling couple exits across the paper - strewn floor. Like a number of people she appears to have picked up a piece of the paper as a memento. Many in the audience lingered after the show, happy to congregate and talk about what they had witnessed..

 

 

This was my second Bang on a Can performance in a week and only the third since it started 10 years ago. I didn't know what I was missing. Last week i became very enthusiastic about the festivalf, mesmerized by the synthesizer duo of Vicky Ray and Aron Kallay. For their last piece of powerful atonal music they utilized 100 piano tunings. I didn't know there are different tunings for pianos, just as there are for guitars. They had all hundred plugged into their computers so they could change from one to another by simply hitting a special key. In this picture they are nearing the end, having hit the 98th tuning. And below they end with a dramatic flourish, pounding their forearms into the keyboard.

The Bang on a Can Festival, which started July 16, ends with performances every day through Saturday. Saturday's parting gift is a six- hour marathon by 50 musicians and composers, including chamber music with Wilco drummer Glenn Katche and Steve Reich's newest composition, Radio Rewrite, a remix of two songs by Radiohead. For information about the remaining sessioins, go to massmoca.org.

 

As you can undoubtedly tell, this is a composite shot made of two photographs.

 

 

 

 

July 28, 2014

Photos by Grier Horner

Lucy MacGillis has just had her twelfth show at the Hoadley Gallery in Lenox and as usual a lot of her paintings were sold. In the month it was up, collectors bought 14, said Stephanie Hoadley of the Church Street business. I don't ordinarily start a post about an art show with sales figures. But MacGillis's success is noteworthy. Most exhibits in the Berkshires don't have results that approach hers. Sales of her work, along with art seminars she offers, support her life as an artist in Umbria. The workshops she's giving this summer are at PS187 in Stockbridge and in Vienna and Germany.

After the Pittsfield native graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2000 she went to Italy on a University Scholars grant - and stayed.

"My life is holistic here. Vito (her young son) and I go for walks in the olive groves around the house, we make treasure hunts, collect pine cones. I make my own olive oil, eat good food, enjoy local wines," she said in a fine interview last year with Larry Groff in his art blog - Painting Perceptions. If you like her work it think you'll find that post gives valuable insights into the artist and how she works.

I'm a big fan of Lucy's work. The one above, Cupcake di Carote, is one of my favorites. My eye was drawn immediately to the brilliantly executed mortar and pestle in the middle of the painting and then takes a tour of the rest of it's sunlit surface.

 

 

This year I thought that I'd show you the MacGillis exhibit in context, which will also give you a better idea of the gallery itself and how her art and these surroundings come together so harmoniously. Thomas Hoadley, the other half of the owning couple, is an artist whose ceramics are available here as is work by a number of people turning out fine pottery, art glass and jewelry.

 

In the interview Groff asked MacGillis if her career had been helped or hindered by not having a studio in New York.

"I'm grateful for the distance I have from the New York Art world," MacGillis said. "I'm generally not comfortable around the business of art...I figure if I'm doing anything worthwhile, New York will find me."

Waiting to be discovered isn't usually the way to get into New York galleries. Maybe it will work for her. But in the meantime she is an art star in the Berkshires and in her circle in Italy and one of the few artists I know personally who supports herself through her art.

MacGillis doesn't do many portraits, but this one, Lanzano, is very strong.

 

Umbria seems to be her natural habitat as an artist. "Everything I see inspires me here," she told me a few years ago. "The compositions that I see in my rearview mirror even on
banal errands to the industrial zone, fascinate me. I am constantly seeing colors that make me want to paint.".

*There is a point at which I become so immersed in painting, total self abandonment," she told Groff. "Here I’m in this sort of hypnosis of looking, mixing, looking and laying down marks."

 

The colors she loves in Umbria are the ones you see in these paintings, the earth tones that she uses so well and applies to her canvases with such energy. She paints her landscapes outdoors, rather than in the studio.

"The experience of being physically in the landscape I’m painting is important, the heat, the smells, the sounds of the nearby sheep, the train’s distant horn, the light. I’m convinced that it all plays into the feel of the painting and I react to all this," she said in the Groff interview.

 

 

Her painting of roadside trees casting shadows hangs above a rack of scarves.

 

Wall space in the gallery is limited, so even the bathroom has been utilized. One of these was sold, but I'm not sure which one.

I'm sorry this post comes after the show is down. I've been tied up in my own art and have been falling behind on the blog. Where I used to be pretty faithful about posting every other day, week-long gaps (and worse) have been cropping up on the Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man.

 

 

 

July 21, 2014

A visitor looks at Casey Krawczyk 's masterful, brooding self-portrait.  To it's left is Lucifer by Michael Rousseau, another phenomenal figure painter. All photos by Grier Horner

 

A large new art museum has sprung up in North Adams and in a county rich with museums it plans to fill a void by devoting itself to the work of Berkshire artists. Started and financed by Eric Rudd, a North Adams artist and developer, and directed by Keith V. Shaw, a respected art critic and teacher, the Rudd Art Museum (RAM) will provide major space for the works of its founder but will also devote lots of room to showing work by other Berkshire artists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To make this happen, the Eric and Barbara Rudd Foundation bought the former First United Methodist Church. Large and imposing it is located at the top of Main Street across from the library.

RAM's first show, Figuring In, opened several weeks ago and it signals that this is a project that needs to be taken seriously. "With this exhibit we announce our arrival," says Shaw. He has a right to sound proud, having put together a show that is packed with strong work by a dozen artists from Cheshire, Great Barrington, Lenox, North Adams, Pittsfield, South Lee and Williamstown.

 

This is the church former Methodist Church that gives the new museum tons of gallery space. One of Rudd's seething sculptures is caged in front along with another out of sight to its left.

 

The first space that will open to house Rudds work is the spacious, high-ceilinged cellar. This is just one of a number of large underground galleries that will provide a permanent collection for Rudd's work. The pieces above are from 1966-67. This is Rudd's second museum. In 2001 he bought the much smaller Unitarian Church on Summer Street and named it the Chapel for Humanity.

The photo below shows an installation he is building in the main section of the Methodist Church. It looks like it will be awhile before this part is ready to open.

 

Above is a 1981 portrait by David Zaig of North Adams. It was obviously inspired by Chuck Close in its mammoth size and see-every-whisker realism. But it is more soulful than most of Close's portraits. Below is another Michael Rousseau, this one La Petite Mort. Drawing on two classic sculptures, he comes up with a totally contemporary and compelling piece.

 

In his striking Woman and Man,  William Oberst of North Adams gives both the pale woman and the recessed man expressions that give very little away in this enigmatic oil. It's easy at first glance to almost miss the man, who stares out at us rather than looking at her. Does this inscrutable whiteness playing a symbolic role as in the whitness of the whale in Moby Dick? Does she represent death. Or am I just trying to sound intelligent.

This nude, Red, by Kris Galli of Lenox looks so natural she almost breaths. Below  is an installation view in one of the museum's galleries that will have revolving shows. You've already seen the Oberst and the Galli. Then comes a nude by Rousseau and a charming Conjurer by Julia Morgan-Leamon of Williamstown, which is shown larger in a following photo.

 

 

 

Joel Rudnick of Williamstown  sets the mood in this 1968 painting, Psyche Forlorn, by dramatic use of the light coming in from a kerosene lamp she's holding and from an unseen window high on the right .

I love Morgan-Leamon's Tipping Point below for the pure joy of the girl's jumping from the raft they have intentionally overloaded at one end to make it tip.

 Death enters the picture in the late Viola Rose Moriarty's Portrait of Peter May. The Bennington painter died last year in her mid-50s. RAM is staging a special exhibition of her paintings in yet unused space in the Upper Gallery. The reception is July 31 from 5 to 8 in conjunction with North Adams' second Downstreet Art festival of the season.

 

While most of the work in this exhibit was done with paint and brushes, Paul Chojnowski of Cheshire burns and scorches his images into wood - like this one, Search Light - or paper. I've been in awe of his blowtorch technique for years. Below is Lisa Griffith's Gray Gown. The woman defined by the gown, which is made of abaca paper, Cell-U-Clay and pine needles, is headed for a fall. Griffith is the head of the Studio Art department at Berkshire Community College, where I took several classes with her. Keith Shaw, the museum director, also teaches art history and western civilization as an adjunct professor at BCC. As he puts it, "I'm not giving up my day job."

 

 

Another artist using unlikely material to is Brent Whitney of Lanesborough. He laboriously fashioned his yellow Posterior Dispenser, above, out of pressboard and then lacquered it. You would swear it was a made of metal and mass produced in a factory. There is a warning light just above the slot in the sculpture. For a long time I couldn't see why Shaw had put it in this show about the human figure. It finally dawned on me that this represents the lower back and "posterior" of a person and the title suddenly injected humor into the work. Next to it is another Rousseau.

The photo also shows that even upstairs you can't escape the fact that not long ago this was a church.

 

Above is Meryl Joseph's Majwah, Desert Queen done in 2001. You may remember her as the woman who bought the Howard Block on First Street in Pittsfield in hopes of converting it to live-in studios for artists. While she was unable to pull it off, contractor David Tierney Jr. has converted it into handsome apartments. Joseph shared a dream with Rudd who had successfully converted his Eclipse Mill in North Adams into 40 live-in artists lofts. That was a major step in bringing artists to North Adams. Rudd has also reportedly been very successful building housing in Mexico.

Doug Paisley of WIlliamstown has had a very confident and distinctive touch in his Confidence Man series. Look out. This guy might try to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. One of the paintings in the series was a big hit at a group show at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield earlier this year. In addition, Paisley currently has a Confidence Man solo show at a downtown gallery in North Adams.

 

In Leo Mazzeo's startling Perseverance, stylized people scramble up a rocky hillside. . Shaw has given the 2011 painting a prominent position in the first gallery.

 

Climbing the stairs to the Upper Gallery you are greeted by another of Zaig's giant portraits. The church's elevator is not currently operating so the two galleries of contemporary art - both upstairs - are not accessible to the handicapped.

Rudd came up with the figure as the subject of the first show. Shaw says the exhibit "reminds viewers that the depiction of the human form remains a vital pursuit for today's
artists."

Berkshire region artists are shown occasionally at MASS MoCA, more often at the Berkshire Museum, infrequently at the WIlliams College Museum of Art,  almost never at the Clark (The only local figure show there in my memory was Transcript Photographer Randy Trabold.) and the Rockwell Museum, devoted to the Stockbridge artist and illustrators, also shows area high school art.

While I expect many artists think a museum should be devoted to their work, few have the money or drive to create their own. But Eric Rudd is an exception. The unanswered question is whether this will become another draw for the vibrant North Adams art scene. If the quality of the first show - which will be up through September 15 - becomes typical of its offerings, RAM should have no trouble finding an audience. There are plans to add more rooms to show regional art. "We're expanding slowly to maintain the quality of the exhibits," said Shaw.

There is no admission charge to the museum which will not be open in the winter. There is plenty of on-street parking. Remember to have a quarter with you to feed the meter.

 

Brief Bios of the Artists

Paul Chojnowski of Cheshire: Originally from the Berkshires, he studied at Hobart College in Geneva, NY, and then ended up in Atlanta, GA, for many years. During 1990s he returned to the Berkshires. Primarily with a welding torch, he burns and scorches his images onto paper and wood panels, using water to control the nuanced modelling.


Kris Galli
of Lenox: She is a self-taught painter.

 
Lisa Griffith of Pittsfield: Received her M.F.A. from the School of Art Institute in Chicago and teaches Fine Arts at BCC.


Meryl Joseph of Great Barrington: She is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work encompasses mixed media, film and kinetic sculpture.

Casey Krawczyk of South Lee: Born in Minnesota, she studied at the New York Academy of Art in NYC. Beginning in 2005, she taught fine arts at Western State College of Colorado until moving to the Berkshires in 2014.


Leo Mazzeo of New Ashford: He is primarily a painter and publisher of the web-magazine Arts Indie.  

Julia Morgan-Leamon of Williamstown; An artist and media producer from the Berkshires, she received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is currently the manager of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Gallery 51 in North Adams.

Viola Moriarty: 1958-2013. She was an artist and a teacher. A native of Denver, , she moved to Bennington in the 1990s. RAM will have a memorial show of her work opening Thursday, July 31, with DownStreet Art night.


William Oberst
of North Adams: He holds an MFA in painting as well as a Ph.D. in philosophy. After retiring from teaching painting and drawing at Stony Brook on Long Island, he moved to North Adams.

Doug Paisley of Williamstown: He is a studio assistant at Williams College.


Michael Rousseau of Pittsfield: He studied at the Rhode Island School of Design.


Joel Rudnick of Williamstown: Born in Brooklyn, NY, he studied at the Arts Students League of New York and under David Levine. He has been working and living in the Berkshires for many years now.


Brent Whitney
of Cheshire: He studied at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Currently he is primarily a sculptor and runs Swieto Studios.


David Zaig of North Adams: Born in Jerusalem, he studied at the Slade School of Fine Arts, London, and has taught many years in England and the US.

 

 

 

 

 

July 15, 2014

 

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

While I have been consentrating on Altered States photo prints lately, I have not abandoned painting. Here are three abstracts, all oils. Each was painted over an existing painting as my effort to cut down on the number of canvases we have stored in our house. Each is on a 24" x 48" panel. Some of each existing painting is utilized in the new one by scraping down to it through the new oil paint before it dried.

Above is 30 June 2014. It is distinguished from the other three by two thick vertical lines dividing the piece into three parts. Each of the others, 20 June 2014, below and 5 June 2014 at the bottom, is also divided into three rectangles. But the demarcations are not as pronounced.

 

I like doing these. They go together relatively fast and are expresssive. I use pallet knives to apply the paint. When you start one, you don't know what you're going to  end up with.

These are a continuation of a number of abstract I did for my Scarlet Letter series in 2005. One of those is shown below. They were smaller - 18" x !4" - and I showed them vertically. Another difference is that they were done in acrylic instead of oil. I'd like to show you the paintings the new ones cover, but I can't locate the jpgs.

 

 

 

 

July 14, 2014

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

We were on the Cape Cod Bike Trail last week. Babbie and Shannon rode and I walked. Along the way I paused to photograph a bumblebee hard at work in a rose. As I was taking pictures, a second bumblebee barged in. They tussled like wrestlers for a couple seconds until the first bee beat a retreat. I'm writing about it as if they were fighting. But I don't know anything about bees. Maybe they were just in each others way.

On the subject of flowers, I was startled by the beautiful colors of some of Babbie's wave petunias. The colors are so rich they  could be used for royal robes.

 

 

July 5, 2014

Photo by Grier Horner

 

Kris Galli is a Lenox artist whose work I have admired for years. Her work is so distinctive it would be easy to identify if they lined paintings up the way the police line up suspects. Locally you can see her paintings at Alta in Lenox, which has two dinning rooms lined with her art or Chocolate Springs, also Lenox, which has a couple. Currently Kris has a solo show at the Spencertown Academy in Spencertown, N.Y. It's well worth the drive over to see the exhibit, Dreams and Digressions, which opened Saturday and runs through August 10.

The longer I look at it the more I admire the painting above, Vigil, which is 36" x 36". In her dark velvet jacket, holding a garlanded staff topped by her high hat, white sails in the background, who, or what is she waiting for?

A hallmark of her work is the skilled way she handles skin, material and hair.  In many of her paintings the subject is waiting, reflecting or trying to figure things out.

"I don't know where these things come from," she says of what she paints. "I carry a notebook with me so when I get ideas I can write them down."

Then she'll go to one of her many models and have them pose to match her idea and photographs them or has their pictures taken by her husband, Edward Acker, a professional photographer. As she's painting with the photos as her guide, she'll often add an element to the picture that wasn't in her original vision.

 

Photo from Kris Galli website

In "You Will Figure This Out" above, Anna Masiero grapples with a tangle of line that symbolizes the complexities of life that a young woman has to sort through. In the painting, Kris extended the line above and to the sides of the model, to increase the tangle in her original vision.

It is her favorite of the many paintings in the exhibit in which Anna is also the model in one other, Troubadour.

 

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Here Kris pats a puppy that one of the show visitors carried in. Hats crop up in a number of her paintings, as in Everyone You Have Ever Known, below.

Photo from Kris Galli website

 

Photo from Kris Galli website

Coincidently, the two paintings that were sold on Saturday where both of young women wearing hats. Above is Walking Her Heart Out of Town and below is Abby.

Photo by Grier Horner

I like the photo I took below because of the woman's animated reaction to Kris's paintings.

 

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Kris doesn't have a masters in fine art  or a BFA from an art college. She never took an art lesson. In fact she doesn't even have a degree from high school (although years later she got her GED). Adventurous and anxious to leave an unhappy home life behind, she left high school to hitchhike across America - twice. The final time stuck and she didn't return to school.

"I started painting at 18. I had a roommate who was a painter and I picked it up from her - and loved it." Later she was influenced by a local painter, Richard Britell, who she lived with in the early '80s. He is still at the top of her list of favorite painters, which includes Odd Nerdrum and Picasso in his blue and rose periods.

In the Rose Room. Photo by Grier Horner

Kris says she is in awe of artists like Lucien Freud, "who can put a green streak down the side of someone's face and have it look right." All she can bring herself to try is "a little green dot."

"I can see my work improving," the 52-year-old painter says, "and I hope it continues to."

She says she'd like to paint more loosely "but I may be 80 before I can work that out."

The 24 paintings in this show range in price from $1,200 to $3,600, depending on size. Some years she has sold 15 paintings, some years none. Also she usually takes a few commissions every year.

Photo by Grier Horner

Above she's talking with some of the people who came to the show. The painting is The Abstractionist. Below is Reflection. The hair waving across her forehead has been hit by the light in the gallery, distorting the color.

I met Kris in the early 80s when we were coworkers at The Eagle. She was a compositor and as an editor I worked closely with the composing room. She later worked at the Berkshire Courier and, briefly, at the Record.

While she was at the Courier she was selling paintings through the Clark Whitney gallery for about 6 years.

After quitting the Record, she decided she was through with the 9 to 5 working world. She assists her husband with aspects of his work. But after that it's painting. "To be honest, I think I taught myself to paint because I just didn’t fit in anywhere else," Kris says on her website: http://krisgallifineart.com

Photo by Grier Horner

"I’ve been painting for about twenty-five years, with the exception of those times when I’d take a long drive and throw all my brushes into the woods in a fit of despair," she says on her web page. "Later, I’d have to find them, and I ended up with all kinds of cuts and scratches. Now I tend to just throw them out onto the lawn. Anyway, it’s something that just keeps following me. I can’t stop painting. Not for long."

 

She Could Do Things Like That. Photo by Grier Horner

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LINKS

Seth Harwood, writer

Leslie, poet

Joe Goodwin, painter

Juliane: bimbopolitics

Lisa Reinke, painter

John Mitchell, commentary

Charles Guiliano, MAVERIC, art critic

Saatchi Gallery

ArtDaily.com

Steve Satullo, movies

Christine Heller, artist

 

 

 

 

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