'Berkshire Grown Artists' plant roots in Stationery Factory exhibit

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DALTON — Walk the curtained corridors of Stationery Factory on Flansburg Avenue and enter a world of ice, exploration and art.

In a long hallway gallery, photographer Shaun O'Boyle documents dwellings scattered across Antarctica, from sprawling scientific settlements to shacks that housed legendary explorers Scott and Shackleton. Inside a remote "Fish Hut" laboratory — a tiny orange speck in a vast wasteland — an 800 lb. Weddell seal basks beatifically in the warmth of an air hole bored through eight feet of ice.

O'Boyle has brought the haloed southern sun and imperiled glaciers — plus a penguin or two — back to his hometown, where he now shares wall space with six other artists in his first local exhibit. All but one grew up in Dalton; two, including O'Boyle, still live there.

The exhibit, "Berkshire Grown Artists," on view through April 17, opens Friday with a reception with refreshments and musical entertainment.

Curator and Rhode Island resident Helen Roy — one of eight Dalton-raised sisters — was not art-school trained. "I worked for 35 years as a special ed teacher," she explained recently while installing the show.

In 2015 she bought art supplies to buoy up her daughter in New York City. Instead, Roy "fell in love" with the new creative medium, taking classes to hone her technique.

As her output grew, she arranged exhibits to share and sell her paintings. "I needed more space, and I love passing work on," she said. Her first show in Washington, D.C. was quite a success.

Two years ago, she wanted to stage a hometown art show, and was invited to use the Stationery Factory event space gallery, owned by former schoolmate Steve Sears.

"We named it Berkshire Grown Artists, with the theme being people who grew up in the Berkshires," Roy said. "It was a great success and we decided to do it again."

The seven artists exhibiting on the former Crane & Co. factory walls — four returning from the first show — are broad in style and content. Each exhibits 6 to 30 pieces large and small, in media including acrylics, oils, watercolors, photography and thread.

Sears introduced Roy to O'Boyle, an architectural designer and photographer she hadn't seen since high school. "I had no idea he was doing this," she said.

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Over the past five years, O'Boyle made several highly-competitive National Science Foundation grant-funded trips to Antarctica, and recently returned from South Pole Station. He photographs historic and current architecture against a striking frozen backdrop, capturing humanity living and working in extreme conditions.

At 13,000 feet, he noted, Mount Erebus on Ross Island "is one of three active volcanoes in the world that has an open lava pit." And the explorer huts "are like little time warps, all the equipment is original that they brought down and just left. It's a remarkable experience to walk in there."

He spent a Guggenheim Fellowship in Arctic Svalbard and Iceland, where he photographed an old Russian mining city, complete with abandoned gull-covered playground. "They're very loud and raucous," he said, "it's light 24/7 over there and the birds are active all day long."

Elaborate frames surround Alexander Bastow's ethereal soft-edged sunset landscapes and skillfully rendered winter ponds. His oil paintings call to mind acclaimed artist George Inness, two centuries his senior.

Rachel Sawyer's watercolors depict plants and creatures in nature — wise-eyed owl, fiercely focused fox, snail atop a woodland mushroom.

Three Dalton-born-and-bred Roy sisters also display artwork.

Helen Roy calls her collection "a celebration of color," with sunset seascapes, crashing waves, geometric lines and exuberant abstract scenes formed by bold palette knife strokes. Visual art is all about "how what you see makes you feel," she said.

Rosemary Roy's art depicts whimsical birds and bright flowers representing her sisters. On a trip to France, she "fell in love with the lighting in Provence, and started sketching." After a decade of beach scenes she now paints acrylic flowers and birds she describes as "a little bit cartoonish, very playful." Some very small works sit on diminutive desk-top easels.

Oldest sister Elizabeth Roy Norton's Berkshire scenes run deep with mystery, nature marked by human presence and constructed decay. A white propane tank rusts beneath foreboding Housatonic skies; dark shadowy woods beckon beyond the sunlit meadow; paint peels off a windowed wall. Husband and guitarist Tom Norton will perform at the opening.

Her daughter Sarah Fortini's medium is thread, abstract embroidered rounds that conjure up moods and mimic moss with earthy tones, snowy whites and ebony blacks.

The show "is a great opportunity for our town to come out," Helen Roy said. "It's a very supportive community."


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