Dan Wolf manipulated negatives to create creepy to horrific artworks.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Berkshire Art Museum opens its sixth season by dipping into dark matter — art that's slightly twisted, disturbing, tortured, sorrowful, disastrous and, well, dark.
That's the theme running through "Not Just Another Pretty Picture," a group exhibit that opens on Thursday at 6 p.m. during the first DownStreet Art of the season.
"I like to do shows that I can relate to and also I feel that maybe are a little bit underrepresented in galleries," said museum founder Eric Rudd. "Gallery dealers will tell you what sells are pretty colorful things about this big that can go right over the couch."
The works of James Allen, Dan Wolf, Kevin Bubriski, Firoz Mahmud, Saira Wasim, Sandra Moore and Greg Lafave cover a variety of media from photography, stenciling, canvas and clothing. A second group, "Dark Matters," features works by the museum's advisory board members in the Tower Gallery: Keith Bona, Arthur De Bow, Robert Henriquez, Maria Siskind, Sarah Sutro and David Zaig.
It's the type of work that might not find an easy sale and, as Rudd's description cautions, "might not be for everyone who walks through our doors." But also, he points out, this type of darker art has been a part of our cultural landscape since the beginning — portraying crucifixion, war, death, poverty, tragedy, violence to elicit a reaction from the viewer.
Allen, a Buffalo, N.Y., transplant who moved to Williamstown seven or eight years ago, is exhibiting his "tableaus" of painted canvases that evoke despair.
"I probably find it more internally necessary. It sounds pretty profound, but not that much," he said. "To deal with the things that I kind of don't understand, you need to get some sense of control over them more than the things that I love. ... Almost everything I do probably relates a lot to some kind of social or cultural problem."
His canvas cutouts came about with the help of his wife, a quilter, who was able to help him bring his ideas to fruition. They stand out against the white walls in the museum's first floor, pushing them more prominently within the space of the viewer.
"I like that it really occupies our space in a sense, as opposed to traditional frame stuff, where you enter the other world within that frame," Allen said. "I didn't know this when I started but I thought that when I started seeing how they reacted on that wall, I thought, wow, if they come into our space, right, yeah, space is just timeless."
The works on display have a sense of timelessness; they don't refer to a specific moment in time. In one, sickly looking women follow a man in black with a hidden face, in another, skeletal figures lead a starving man in a dance of death. The largest piece, "Nuns and Guns," is a tableau of nuns and armed soldiers of indeterminate nationality and period.
"There's a mystery about it, there's a need to say something to recognize it, too," Allen said. "And I think that my own feeling about what art can do. And there's all kinds of art, I understand that. It all has its own purposes in the final. And I like lots of things that are nothing like mine. But I think art can can help us come to grips with things that we have difficulty coming to grips with."
On the second floor, Mahmud was hanging a large stenciled work portraying the death of Husayn ibn Ali at the Battle of Karbala. Husayn had faced off against a larger contingent and his forces were wiped out outside Baghdad in the 7th century. In the painting, he's being cradled by his father under a golden beam while an angel hovers above and soldiers lurk in the corners.
Mahmud, a native of Bangladesh, said much of his work inspired by historical events, not surprisingly since he's a student of history and his father and grandfather were historians and teachers. His family is originally from Iran and his grandfather traveled to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, while Mahmud has traveled on to Japan and now New York City.
"I traveled to many countries, my grandfather, father, we moved from one city to another," he said. "We had a lot of history, migration history, we have regional history, which is connected to my art, my life, to our life. ...
"In general, I make paintings on our regional history — encompassing Bengal, Moghul history, Islamic history."
He uses a stencil technique known as rendering, or "layapa." He collects histories and artifacts or takes photos and then determines how it will be laid out. He uses a variety of tools to layer the paint. He also works in other media, including photography, and other of his works at BAM will be on victims who lost limbs.
This is Mahmud's second time in the city after doing a residency at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art last year.
"Yes, beautiful city. People are so nice, so friendly. And it's the artistic environment," he said. "It has Mass MoCA, the neighboring city has two good institutions Clark Art Institution and Williams College museum. The city has nice growing up artistic environment. So that like, yeah, I never been to a small city in the U.S. So this is my first city that I traveled and stayed. So that's really inspired me to to be involved into it."
"Not Just Another Pretty Picture" will have an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. with refreshments and appetizers by Meng's Pan-Asian. Rudd thanked the museum's donors who help keep the 24,000-square-foot facility open.
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Trick or Treat is a go, and the city has set guidelines for Halloween this year.
Thursday morning the city announced that Halloween Trick or Treat City hours for the City of North Adams will be held Saturday, Oct 31 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
"Over the past six months, we have canceled, postponed, scaled back, or reimagined the majority of community events in North Adams in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of these decisions made in the interest of public health and safety has been necessary, and I know that many of these changes also been disappointing and difficult for our residents and visitors." Mayor Tom Bernard said in a press release. "I didn't want to add Halloween to the list of cancellations, especially since our case counts right now show that North Adams residents have done such an amazing job of slowing the spread of COVID-19. So, my team and I thought long and hard about how we could provide a framework to help make Trick or Treat as safe as possible."
Bernard said the city has reviewed guidance from Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and has come up with a list of recommendations dubbed "GHOST Protocol – recommendations for a fun and safe Halloween."
G: Grab and Go Only
Participating residents should hand out treats in goodie bags or other contactless ways.
H: Have Fun
This should need no explanation!
O: Only Visit Participating Houses
Traditionally people leave on a light or decorate to signal they are participating; trick or treaters should respect those who choose not to participate.
S: Stay Close to Home
Participants should remain in a compact, walkable neighborhood as much as possible.
T: Take Your Mask
As with any public activity, trick or treaters should wear a cloth face covering to protect themselves and those with whom they come in contact; following CDC guidance trick or treaters should not wear a costume mask over their cloth face covering.
While the city supports Trick or Treat activities during the announced hours, the following activities are not recommended during the Halloween season:
"Trunk or Treat" events where children go from car to car instead of door to door to receive treats are not recommended.
Gatherings or parties with non-household members are not recommended even if they are conducted outdoors.
Carnivals, festivals, live entertainments, and haunted house attractions are not recommended.
In accordance with CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines the city also asks those participating in Trick or Treat activities to:
Observe good hand hygiene, including hand washing and use of alcohol-based sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol. Carry hand sanitizer and use it often, especially after coming into contact with frequently touched surfaces and before eating candy;
Stay home and refrain from Halloween activities, including handing out Halloween treats, if they feel unwell, have tested positive for COVID-19 or been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or have traveled to or from a higher risk state in the two weeks prior to Halloween; and
Maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet of physical distance from all other participants who are not members of the same household.
The CDC website also offers suggestions for other lower-risk alternatives to participate in Halloween.
"I know nothing says 'fun' like added rules and regulations," Bernard said. "And I want to be clear that if we experience a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases we might need to cancel Trick or Treat. For now, though, I hope our young people are looking forward to dressing up for Halloween, and I know I can't wait to see all the great costumes in my neighborhood, in a safe and socially distanced way of course."
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