PITTSFIELD -- Six multi-talented area natives have continued their practice of converting industry into art and the products will grace the city's Lichtenstein Center for the Arts at a new show all this month.
Called "Resurfacing," the latest from the six -- known as Group W -- opened Friday. The show incorporates everything but the kitchen sink -- which was possibly an oversight.
Items include machines rescued from the junkyard, comic art done pulp-style, epic paintings and sculptures. Some of the latter appear almost untouched and others products of painstaking attention. All have been organized in a room that would bring a smile to the face of any Wobblie.
The "Resurfacing" masterminds sat down with The Eagle this week. They include Bill Tobin, Mike Melle, Jay Tobin, Jesse Tobin, Mark Hanford and FX Tobin.
"The amount of work here is phenomenal," Hanford said, commenting that most of Group W's members have retired from their day jobs, allowing them room to stretch their artistic legs.
"You're going to get a wide range of styles, subjects and forms here," said Melle. "It blurs the line between industry and art."
Hanford's piece "Structural Damage" is a wicked mass of structural piping, drill pieces and paper-making equipment. Another, "Your Brain on Drugs," literally shows viewers "what 900 horsepower does to a propane tank."
Mark rescued the tank from a scrap yard after it was crushed in a pulper. The tank is now mounted and occupying a central position at "Resurfacing."
One of Jay Tobin's pieces, "Searching for Johnny," tells the story of a drowned Pittsfield boy by using a single stark item on blue-on-black canvas: A claw-like device firemen once used to pull bodies out the water. A former city firefighter, Jay Tobin found the item among the department's cast-offs and took it home. He later connected it to an Eagle story dated April 12, 1956, about the titular boy.
The six men have known one another since high school. They began working together on creative projects during the 1970s, when they made floats and other props for the city's Fourth of July parades.
They've since hosted two shows at their regular workspace -- the East Coast Refinishing building at 4 Industrial Drive in Pittsfield -- which drew more than 1,000 people.
"It might have just been the beer we gave away," Bill Tobin said.
Their artwork has been shown separately in galleries in the Berkshires, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
"We want to take over Mass MoCA next," said Bill Tobin.
"Tell them we're coming for them," Hanford replied.
"Resurfacing" joined 25 other art shows throughout the city included in the First Fridays Artswalk this month.
"We're thrilled to host them at the Lichtenstein," said Megan Whilden, the city's director of cultural development. "They reverse stereotypes and show creativity is not confined to one segment of the population."
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