New Water Street Gallery Evokes Nostalgia With First Exhibit
Hudson Art on Water Street in Williamstown has opened with an exhibit by Michael McKay.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A love of art motivated Jeff Hudson to open the newest art gallery in Williamstown.
“When I found out that the space at 112 Water Street was for rent, I grabbed it," Hudson said. “I have a two-year lease.”
Hudson Art, Inc. debuted with WAX NOSTALGIC, a solo artist exhibit of work by Michael McKay, which will be on view through August 9.
Born and raised in southeastern Massachusetts, McKay attended Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, where he studied printmaking, painting, sound, film and all aspects of performance art.
McKay ultimately chose painting as his preferred medium. And in 2001, he together with his wife, artist Monika Pizzichemi, founded Empty Set Project Space in Pittsfield, which now serves as a full-time art studio. His work has been exhibited in solo shows and group shows in various venues in the Northeast, including Albany Center Gallery and Boston Center for the Arts.
At Hudson Art, in keeping with the theme WAX NOSTALGIC, McKay decorated the window to look like those of grocery stores of yesteryear. He stacked in triangles boxes and cans of his version of nationally known products such as Tide, which he called, "Time - Day In Day Out.” Also in the window there is a poster he crafted that is a throwback to the hand painted signs used in old time grocery store to announce specials, etc. but McKays poster is witty and thought-provoking: FREE LUNCH $4.29.
“I find inspiration in outdated Cold War-era, American advertising and textbook illustration styles and the hollow fiction of the American dream that they signify,” said McKay.
Artist Michael McKay has the first exhibit in Jeff Hudson's new gallery on Water Street in Williamstown.
Included in the exhibition at Hudson Art is “North Attleboro (Jolly Cholly)” a 42" x 24" acrylic on board depicting a dilapidated sign that points to an abandoned diner.
"It was a little greasy diner in the 50's where all the kids hung out,” he said.
McKay said he worked from a photograph when creating a 30" x 43" acrylic on paper painting of a high-rise building on Broadway and East 9th Street, New York City.
“I photographed (the building) when I was visiting New York, but it was not until I came across the photograph some time later that I started the painting," he said.
For people of a certain age, the painting “Bakunin (Life During Wartime)” may stir memories of the fear that cast a shadow over their days in that period..
“Michael is drawn to the Cold War era, those days in the 80s when things got hot between the United States and Russia,” Hudson said.
"It's fascinating," McKay said.
Next McKay and Hudson answered questions iBerkshires put to them.
Question to Hudson: You have been involved in a number of fields other than art. Tell us something about that.
Answer: I (could be called) a Renaissance man. On my death bed, I will have no regrets. I have tried everything, retail business, film making, art, music and more. My influence in art was my grandmother. She was one of first women (who attended ) Massachusetts College of Art. I cannot be as good as she was, but I have a real love for art and music.
Question: How long have you known Michael and how did you meet?.
Answer: I was in Pittsfield and saw the poster in a window of his studio about 3 years ago. I went to him and said, “Come to Mass MoCA and bring your poster.” He must have thought I was crazy. (Hudson and his wife Jane have an innovative emporium on the Mass MoCA campus in North Adams.)
Question: What is it about Michael’s work that most impressed you?
Answer: I am impressed by his ideas and his skill to visualize them in art.
Question to McKay: In your formative years, was there a particular career you wanted to pursue?
Answer: I always drew. Originally I wanted to be an architect.
Question: Tell us about your painting Bakunin (Life During Wartime) Why did you give it that name?
Answer: In my painting, a man is seen dismantling the ground floor of his house in order to obtain materials for the construction of a bunker in his basement. The Mikhail Bakunion quote the title alludes to is “The passion for destruction is also a creative passion.” Some translations substitute urge for passion. Picasso was fond of paraphrasing the quote. The “Life During Wartime” portion of the title refers to a song with that title by the band The Talking Heads which has lyrics with survivalist overtones and is an implied soundtrack to the painting.(Bakunion was a prominent Russian revolution agitator wholived from 1814- 1876).
Question: Did anything in particular prompt you to create the "Free Lunch” poster?
Answer: The design of the ‘Free Lunch’” poster in the window is one of a large series of works. There have been over 150 such paintings so far. It is part of the series of works that Jeff was originally drawn to. I originally created the posters as a way to draw attention to my studio space in Pittsfield, which was also functioning as a gallery at the time. The space has 15 windows facing a busy intersection in Pittsfield and with a poster in each window it is quite eye-catching. You can see more about the series on my website: emptysetprojects.com
Question: Why did you say earlier that the Cold War was fascinating?
Answer: I find the Cold War interesting because it is primarily a fictional, imaginary war, more of a condition than a war. I 'm fascinated by the architectural spaces in the way that they were simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. Thousands of missile silos, public bomb shelters and suburban family bunkers hidden away underground, now largely forgotten and decommissioned. Even these decommissioned radioactive remnants have been re-buried deep in the earth never to be seen again.
I'm interested in how we remember or memorialize a war that never happened, a war without battles, casualties or heroes. How does no illustrate or construct a monument to 50 years of perceived helplessness, fear, paranoia and government waste?
Question: What would you like people to take away from viewing your work?
Answer: That varies largely depending on the piece, but I suppose that at its simplest, I would hope that viewing my reframing of the physical world or bits of recent history might help the viewer come to a deeper understanding of the world and our place in it. I'm not a crazy idealist who will tell you that art can save the world but will say that it can't hurt."
Hudson Art at 112 Water St. is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday until summer, when it will be open more often. For information, call 413-458-9781.