Storytelling on the body: Art at IS183

Thursday July 19, 2012

STOCKBRIDGE -- In his self-portrait, Filipino artist Bembol dela Cruz has burned Intricate depictions of organs and hieroglyphics onto swathes of dried pigskin that look human.

He has had a longtime fascination with marking and identity.

"Tattoo symbols are part of one's story, an emblem, their own unique self-expression sealed forever in the skin," he said.

Drawing on the long tradition of tattoo art in the Pacific islands, he will photograph people, in his studio or in quiet outdoor settings, wearing his art painted on their skin.

This summer, he will photograph local people in the Berkshires.

Until Aug. 13, dela Cruz, along with United Arab Emirates abstract painter Noor Al Suwaidi, will be one of the inaugural artists in IS183 Berkshire Residency Exchange. The county's art school has partnered with Omi Inter national Arts Center, Project Art and ArtBerkshires to bring them and find ways for them to connect with people here.

Dina Noto, IS183's coor dinator of residencies, exhibits and visiting artists, wants the arrival of these artists to reverberate throughout the hills.

"We're highlighting the value and impact of artists by making them available to everyone here," she said.

Noto came to IS183 originally as a resident artist, after graduating from the prestigious Cali fornia Institute of the Arts. She works with experimental animation to complicate her autobiographical works. She teaches her process as a new addition to the art school's offerings.

"Animation makes the narrative aspect of painting more salient. I'm bringing together two elements that fascinate me," she said.

During the four weeks of the Berkshire Residency Exchange, she will head "pop-up studios" with dela Cruz and Al Suwaidi. People can talk with local and international artists at cultural hubs such as Stonover Farm Gallery in Lenox and the Com pu works building in Pittsfield.

"We're inserting two vastly different worlds, one from the Philippines and one from the United Arab Emirates, into the arts community, then merging that world into the Berkshires at large," Al Suwadi said.

Al Suwaidi works with vibrant pastels to achieve an effect of shuttling between the abstract and symbolic. Gazing at the forms that comprise the cleverly titled "Bare with Me," for instance, reveals a pair of embracing women rendered in colorful impressions.

"The oscillation defines my journey through life," she said.

These shifts in inspiration and combination of styles are also familiar to dela Cruz. Like Noto, he uses metaphor and real images to make sometimes unsettling social commentary. He sums up the recurring theme in his work with the enigmatic phrase, "Ev erything is nothing, but nothing is everything."

Dela Cruz has lived and worked in the city of Manila all his life. At the University of the Philippines' College of Fine Arts, he majored in painting. He tends to express his takes on current events with artful placement of cadaver bags and other found materials. In a 2007 exhibit called "Measures" he overlaid pictures of destruction taken in his native Philippines, and in Lebanon, with colorful primary school rulers. He titled each piece with the date of each catastrophe.

In the Berkshires, he plans to have the local people he meets become his artistic material.

He takes photographs of people with ‘tattoos' in his studio or in natural settings. His aim is to make tattooing, a medium that traditionally transforms its owner into a living canvas, accessible to a public who cannot make the lifetime commitment to a single design.

"At the end, the painting on the canvas will be the result of a basic tattoo experience without the pain. I want to let others satisfy the curiosity of having their own personal markings," Dela Cruz said.

Al Suwaidi also wants her work, informed by her life experiences in the United Arab Emirates and abroad, to reach any viewer.

"Because of, and not despite, the abstraction, the portraits and figurative work can speak to any audience," she said.

Dela Cruz considers the Berk shire Residency Exchange an in valuable opportunity not only for himself, and for the international artists that come in years after him for the Berkshire Res idency Ex change, but for anyone seeking to expand their world view.

"Sharing and communicating in a different culture can broaden (us)," he said.

What: Meet, Greet and Open House

When: Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Pop-Up Studios, Comp uworks building, 1 Fenn St., Pittsfield

What: iCOVET Brunch

Join ArtBerkshires for a behind-the-scenes visit with gallerists Geoffrey Young from Geoffrey Young Galler and Suky Werman from Stonover Farm Gallery, for a tour of highlights from their exhibition, ‘Soul Appetite,' to benefit IS183 Art School. Meet the artists of the IS183 Art School Berkshire Residency Exchange (BRE) for a moderated conversation with Seth Rogovoy on their experiences at the midway point of the month long collaborative program and residency.

When: Sunday July 29 , 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Stonover Farm Gallery, 169 Under Mountain Rd., Lenox

What: First Friday Artswalk

Berkshire Residency Exchange Artists Noor Al Suwaidi of the United Arab Emirates and Bembol dela Cruz of the

Phillipines introduce and present the work of Bridge students from Taconic High School.

When: Friday, Aug. 3, 6 to 8 p.m.

Talk at 7 p.m.

Where: Ferrin Gallery, 437 North St., Pittsfield

What: Farewell Studio Party

When: Sunday, Aug. 12, 4 to 7 p.m.

Where: Pop-Up Studios, Compuworks building,1 Fenn St., Pittsfield


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