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Award-winning artist Julie Bell's fantasy animals and realistic works are on view at the Berkshire Museum through September.

Berkshire Museum Opens 'The Wild Indoors' Exhibit

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
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The pieces are displayed with some of the museum's collection of taxidermy animals. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Museum has opened its newest exhibit, "The Wild Indoors," by award-winning artist Julie Bell. 
The exhibit runs through Sept. 29 and combines some of the museum's collection of taxidermy animals with Bell's fantasy art and realistic painting of the wild animals from across the united states. 
This is Bell's first solo museum exhibition for wildlife or fantasies. She uses oil painting to bring to life wildlife including a lion, wolves, bears, cows, bisons, a dog, and more. 
"It's the first solo show I've had in a museum. And I'm just really, really, very excited about this. I just appreciate it so much that you're there," Bell said. 
"I'm just very honored for this to be taking place. These paintings mean a lot to me. It's my personal work and and I'm just really, really so appreciative for you to come out and see it and for it to be in this beautiful museum."
The diverse pieces of work on view makes the viewing experience fun and interesting, Berkshire Museum's chief curator Jesse Kowalski said. 
"A lot of people gravitate towards different ones … it's a fun show. It's really beautiful artwork. And I think there's just something for everyone here," he said. 
A lot of people are attracted to the dog painting named "Big Oscar," which is of a neighborhood dog that would go from house to house when Bell was younger, Kowalski said.
She has always had a fascination about animals and spends a lot of time around wildlife. Animals also often appear in some of her fantasy work, such as a zebra in her fantasy painting "Behind the Veil," which won a Silver Spectrum Award in 2016. 
"She just loves animals. She just feels a real connection to them and for her a lot of the fantasy artwork, she talks a lot about dreams and the subconscious and her fantasy art is really a way of kind of bringing that to life," Kowalski said.
"She mentioned specifically the zebra painting, about when she was a child she would have a lot of nightmares about zebras chasing her and things, so [that] came out of that, these childhood dreams."
Bell has an eclectic background being commissioned to create advertising illustrations for well-known companies including Nike, Coca-Cola and The Ford Motor Company, her website says. 
She has also worked with major publishing houses in New York City to paint book covers and created album covers for artists such as Meat Loaf.
"She was the first woman ever paint Conan for Marvel Comics, which paved the way for many other commissions from Marvel, DC, and Image Comics to illustrate superheroes in fully rendered paintings," her website says. 
"Her first published cover for Heavy Metal magazine broke ground for other illustrators with the introduction of her now legendary Metal Flesh. Her hyper-realistic style is known for its sexy, powerful images of warriors and amazons and a sensitive, exquisite use of color and texture."
Bell usually works one piece at a time and they can take two to three weeks to complete, Kowalski said. 
She's lived in a dozen different locations and attended six colleges and universities to continue her artistic passion, focusing on the human figure and life drawings, Bell said. 
She took up weight training because of this love of the human body and became a nationally ranked competitive bodybuilder. 
It was this path that led her to meet her husband, Boris Vallejo. Vallejo is an award-winning science fiction, fantasy, and erotica genre Peruvian-American painter. She modeled for some of his pieces and they bonded over their shared love of art. They married in 1994 and live and work in Pennsylvania. 

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Dalton Public Safety Facility Advisory Committee Discusses Next Steps

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
DALTON, Mass. — The town's Public Safety Facility Advisory Committee held its first meeting on last Wednesday. 
The committee voted to have two co-chairs and elected Don Davis and Craig Wilbur for the positions. 
The committee will be examining all the options for a new police station or combined public safety facility. The goal is to have a recommendation for the Select Board by a year from December. 
"The Public Safety Facility Advisory Committee shall examine all issues regarding the proposal for a new police station, including the potential for a new building to house the fire station and the emergency management director," Town Manager Thomas Hutcheson said. 
He also emphasized not to feel limited in this scope. 
"Issues include, but may not be limited to, whether and where to lease, buy or take property or to use existing town property, including whether to build a new building," he said 
The ex-officio seats are Bob Bishop as the Select Board representative, Police Chief Deanna Strout, Hutcheson, and Building and Grounds Superintendent Jeff Burch. 
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