Seventh annual Berkshire Salon a predictably erratic democratic show


NORTH ADAMS -- The annual Berkshire Salon Exhibition, now in its seventh year at the Eclipse Mill Gallery, is a strikingly democratic undertaking. Anyone who meets its modest age and residency requirements can get wall space and his or her name on the checklist. They also get to pick the art they want to hang.

The result is predictably erratic.

Hanging within an arm span, for example are a still life with grapes and avocadoes, a tiny Jackson Pollock knockoff, and an icon-style image of "Our Lady of Guadalupe."

The 44 paintings, photos, sculptures and mixed-media entries from nearly as many artists in the Berkshires and nearby New York and southern Vermont similarly lurch from the ham handed to the accomplished; from visual cliché to art that is fresh and engaging.

Why such a low threshold in an artist-run space that has some standing for selectivity? It's a community thing, organizer Ralph Brill told me, a nonjuried way to connect artists who range from students to professionals.

"They seem happy with the mix," he said.

They may be, but it leaves the viewer to sort through the scattershot.

Among the standouts was photographer Joanna Gabler's female nude, digitally or otherwise manipulated to suggest a dance of ghostly auras, a flickering human flame in the darkness.

Jim Peters and Kathlinecq Carr collaborated on "Two Windows (Black)," a disturbing mixed-media composition on paper. In it, a nude figure huddles on a bed in a dark, crudely furnished room. A curtain partially screens a toilet. Is the figure confined? Caught in a nightmare? Or merely asleep? We can only guess.

Ernie Kirk's "Blue Piano" actually was a junked upright, painted bright blue, that caught his eye and his camera lens. He framed and manipulated just a portion of it -- keyboard and frontal carving -- to create a vivid composition of angular and curvilinear shapes.

Pennie Brantley's oil on canvas "Depth of Perception" plays with visual illusion by casting a long staircase in sharp focus within a hallway that is randomly in and out of focus, defying the rules of optics and subtly disorienting the viewer.

"Sylvia 1," a big, soft-focus digital print by Roy Volkmann, has a nude model, in a seemingly impossible, high-tension position, dynamically filling the frame of the image; while Stacey Heatherton's "Madrugada de las Estrellas" pictures horses and riders on a racetrack at dusk (or dawn) their silhouettes backlit and seeming to emerge from another dimension.

Finally, Robert Lafond's small oil on canvas "Third Near Bond, Brooklyn," picks out (as do other of his works I've seen) a forgettable slice of ordinary streetscape and makes it memorable as art.

If you go ...

What : 7th annual Berkshire Salon

When: Through June 1. Noon-6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. 

Where: Eclipse Mill Gallery, 243 Union St., North Adams

Admission: Free

More info.:


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