Local artists having success in unique ways

Sunday July 1, 2012

Dan Narkawicz paints city landscapes with nail polish.

Autumn Doyle has used deer hair and driftwood in her artwork.

Gabrielle Senza creates wall art that is deliberately destroyed.

Michael Vincent Bushey's showpieces indicate there's more to art than oil paintings.

From the materials used to the philosophy behind their artwork, Narkawicz, Doyle, Senza and Bushey represent Berkshire artists who dare to be different.

The quartet say they long have used an outside-the-canvas approach to creating art that is inspired by life experience and their surroundings and has become an accepted part of the local arts scene.

‘Plan of attack'

Narkawicz, 55, a mechanical engineer by trade, unknowingly began his art career 10 years ago when he painted with his three young daughters using nail polish given to them by their grandmother.

The hobby turned serious after Narkawicz, a Pittsfield resident, suffered a stroke in 2005 while living in the Midwest. Unable to work, he painted more often and discovered that using recycled or scraps of new hardwood flooring made for good "canvases."

Once the interlocking boards are cut to size, clamped together and prepped for the nail polish, he starts painting primarily from sketches or photographs of his subjects.

"I always have a plan of attack after I design my ‘canvases,' " he said.

Narkawicz said his artwork has evolved from small pictures of flowers to medium and large renditions of city landscapes such as Boston, Hartford and Minneapolis. A sample of his work recently was on public display -- for the first time ever -- as part of a local artists exhibit at the Berkshire Carousel workshop in Lanesborough.

Narkawicz said family and friends finally persuaded him to show off his unique paintings, which they have enjoyed for years.

"People have to work in a medium a long time before they become comfortable with what they do," Narkawicz said. "I feel very comfortable right now."

‘Labor intensive and crazy'

Doyle, 30, has developed a natural, archaic approach to her artwork, and that approach has become more primal during her 12 years as a serious artist.

While honing her skills as a student at Berkshire Community College, the Dalton native said she used old tarps and roofing material in her paintings and sculptures. She moved on to natural items, such as deer hair found in the woods or at state deer-checking stations during hunting season.

"I used the hair in the paint to give it texture," Doyle said. "You could feel the art with your eyes."

Doyle's most recent creation involves a giant sculpture made out of driftwood gathered from the Hoosic River. The three-dimensional representation of the river in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene can be seen on a trail behind Cole Field on the Williams College campus. The sculpture was included in an outdoor exhibit of area artists as part of the Riverfest celebration in Williamstown in late May.

Doyle said she is contemplating a more ambitious driftwood-based project that would depict a waterfall cascading down the side of a building and "splashing" at the bottom.

"The project would be labor intensive and crazy -- but not crazy enough to abandon," she said.

The key is finding a building owner willing to display the waterfall simulation. Doyle said she believes she can find one.

"What's really cool is there's a want and need for this kind of work," she said. "Art is not just happening at art galleries."

‘Moved to tears'

When it comes to risk-taking, Senza, 44, epitomizes the Berkshire artist willing to boldly go where most area artists may never have gone.

Within the past year, the Great Barrington resident has begun a series of works titled "Terra Temporalis." By taking powder graphite and using her fingers, she draws directly onto a wall of the art gallery. When the exhibit ends, the artwork is painted over -- lost forever.

Senza said the obliteration of her paintings of natural settings, usually found in the Berkshires, represents how society is slowly eating away at the environment.

"That's exactly how I feel when I drive by a commercial development," she said.

Senza debuted "Terra Temporalis" last fall at the Sandford Smith Gallery in Great Barrington and at the Everhart Museum in Scranton, Pa. Her simple yet life-sized natural landscapes lasted from mid-October into December, and then they were wiped clean.

Senza said many were stunned to learn that the wall art that had taken hours to create had a short lifespan.

"One man was moved to tears," she said.

Senza currently has wall art on exhibit at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center in Vermont through July 8 and at the Ybar -- a wine bar on North Street in Pittsfield -- until Jan. 1.

Senza's 20-plus-year career in the Berkshires does include artwork that still exists. She has painted industrial landscapes on old, rusted metal and on aging boards, and she's done traditional oil paintings on canvas.

The one constant during her artistic evolution: "I help people see things they might not notice, or consider, before seeing my work."

‘Welcoming environment'

While print making has been around for centuries, Bushey, 32, has discovered that his use of the art form seems to be unique to most people viewing his work for the first time.

"I'm surprised many people don't recognize what I do, as some aspect of it is taught in high school art classes," he said.

Bushey primarily uses a variety of print-making known as block printing. While block printing usually involves wood and is a process widely used in East Asia, Bushey's employs the "linocut" technique, in which a sheet of linoleum is used. A design is cut into the linoleum with a sharp knife, gouge or V-shaped chisel. The cut areas are removed, leaving the uncarved -- or raised -- image to be inked with a roller and then impressed onto paper or fabric. The actual printing can be done by hand or with a press.

Bushey has been doing block printing for nearly a decade. However, he has found the Berkshires more receptive to his work since he relocated to Pittsfield from Cape Cod two years ago. He cited the overwhelming response to his first local solo exhibit in May at Gallery 25 in downtown Pittsfield.

"I find this area a welcoming environment for artists," Bushey said. "I don't feel like I'm making my art in a vacuum, [because] people are interested in what I do."

To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.


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