October is shaping up to be a busy month for art exhibitions in the valley, as more venues reopen and a variety of performances remind us of the diversity of artists in the region.
There are also reminders that COVID-19 remains a dominant force in our lives. Masks, visitation limits and other safety protocols are required in all galleries, and in some cases the art has been shaped by the pandemic – both in the content of the exhibitions and in the fact that virtual exhibitions are also in place.
Here’s an overview of what’s going on.
“Forests, Farms and Waterways,” an annual project that recognizes the work of The Kestrel Trust, the land preservation group in Amherst, features paintings and photos by 16 artists, all designed to celebrate the natural world. A portion of the proceeds from sales is donated to the Trust.
One of the contributing artists, Robert Masla of Ashfield, has also produced an in-person solo exhibition at the Michelson Galleries that celebrates the landscapes of the valley – but with an added element. In “Gratitude: The Unrecognized Essential Workers SeriesMasla fills many of his oil and watercolor paintings with portraits of people who have made a difference during the pandemic.
From farm laborers to grocery store workers, postal workers and paramedics, Masla’s work pays homage to people who he says are “often overlooked but who are no less essential to a thriving and functioning human society.” “.
His exhibition also features many bucolic images of fields, forests and waterways, but his work also reflects the political and social unrest that has engulfed the nation this year. One of his largest works, “Take a Knee: Rural Communities in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter” (it measures 24 x 72 inches), depicts a crowd in a field in front of a small church, with many people kneeling and a woman holding a Black Lives Matter sign.
And some of his paintings are tributes to specific local people. A modest watercolor (16 x 20 inches) shows two women, both masked, on the porch of the period building that houses Ashfield Hardware & Supply on the town’s main street.
Gallery Elusie — In Easthampton, Jean-Pierre Pasche, owner of framing boutique Big Red Frame, reopened his accompanying gallery Elusie late last month, after the space had been closed since March. Pasche wrote in a recent newsletter that visits to the gallery can now be made by appointment.
From this month to November, it features the work of Easthampton artist Ruth Kjaer in a show called “The myth of utopia.” Some of her new abstract paintings, according to the exhibition notes, use “several stories from ancient Greek myths to illuminate the issues and discrimination facing women today.”
One painting, “A Shining City on a Hill”, also references a term that American politicians have used to cite American “exceptionalism”, which the painter reverses, by way of exposition, noting that our society seems more and more not special. but is instead “punctuated by violence, racism and bitter political divisions”.
APE Gallery — The Main Street Northampton site, which reopened last month with a photography exhibition, now features works collected from Zea Mays Printmaking in Florence. “Extractions: extremely greenfeatures the work of 38 artists who examine the consequences of the exploitation of natural resources.
The exhibition is also associated with a pan-world art project, “Extraction: Art on the Brinka large-scale multimedia “artistic intervention” that examines the effects of mining and other extractive industries on water, soil, forests, trees, sea life and more.
According to the exhibition notes, the members of Zea Mays were challenged to join in this “international artistic uproar” with a loud and lively voice while using only materials that were reused, looted, rescued, recycled and exchanged in their art.
William Baczek Fine Arts – Also on Main Street in Northampton, William Baczek Fine Arts, which has been open since this summer for limited viewing, has a double show for October. One section features previously unseen works by late Vermont artist Mallory Lake, a longtime exhibitor at the gallery who worked primarily with pastels.
The new Lake exhibition includes a wide range of pastels as well as encaustics and monotypes. Pastels are the main course: richly layered and amazingly detailed landscapes and settings of northern Italy in particular, such as “Lucardo, Tuscany”, a view of grassy fields and scattered trees with a small group of villas with red tiles in the background. .
The gallery is also showing “After Reprimand”, a collection of platinum/palladium prints by photographer Susan Mikula, who divides her time between western Massachusetts and New York. These impressionistic black-and-white images of the human form are “almost cinematic, offering fragments of a story perhaps still unfolding,” as the exhibit notes put it.
“The faces are often hidden by a turned cheek or a cascade of long hair; figures emerge from a vaporous fabric and soft shadows. The images are “the product of a unique process that pushes the boundaries of conventional photography by combining old and new technologies.”
Both exhibitions are presented at the Baczek gallery until October 31.
Steve Pfarrer can be contacted at [email protected]