Stockbridge Station Gallery hosts art worth stopping for
STOCKBRIDGE — It has large windows, and a train is more likely to pass by than a pedestrian. But the works inside the newly named Stockbridge Station Gallery, including a current exhibition of Scott Prior's paintings, have made this unlikely art venue a worthwhile detour for Route 7 travelers.
"This show really establishes the gallery with its new name," Jim Schantz said during a recent tour of the Northampton artist's work.
Schantz and his wife, Kim Saul, have been subleasing Stockbridge Station from Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum, which has been leasing from Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick's High Meadow Foundation. Located in a lonely lot along the Housatonic Railroad tracks, the structure dates back to 1893 but, thanks to substantial interior renovation, has proved a suitable home for the River Art Project. Displayed on a mix of brick and white walls, the annual art exhibition has raised money for organizations such as Housatonic Valley Association, Housatonic River Initiative and Riverkeeper. This summer, that show closed at the end of July, making way for Prior's pieces, a longer season and a formal name for the gallery.
"We've taken this Victorian space and made it a little bit of a contemporary gallery feeling in here. We brought those two worlds together," said Schantz, who owns nearby Schantz Galleries with Saul. "And that's what Scott's work is, too. It's the bringing together of the classical, the academic, the very classical realist painting, with contemporary art."
The exhibition, which is on display through Labor Day, is a survey of Prior's still-life, landscape and figurative pieces. Upon entering the space, gallerygoers will encounter three oil-on-panel still-lifes — "Candy and Flowers," "Sunset in June Window" and "Roses by the Sea" — hanging above a platform that Schantz converted from a train bench. Nearby, the show's largest work, "Nanny in the Garden," towers on a central wall. The oil-on-panel depicts Prior's ex-wife, whom Prior also painted in a work, "Nanny and Rose," that is part of the Museum of Fine Arts' collection. In this piece, Nanny is in front of some flowers, a hand on her hip. She is also backlit, creating an interesting effect around her hair.
"There's like a halo," Prior said by phone.
The artist calls light — its conditions, its emotional impact — the "primary subject" of his work. While he works from photographs and creates remarkably detailed images, Prior doesn't deem his work photorealism. Schantz doesn't, either.
"His work is so poetic," Schantz said.
Prior prefers "realism." Edward Hopper was a realist. He's the artist who inspired Prior's focus on light decades ago. For Prior, light's transitory nature makes it powerful.
"Certain effects are profound because they won't last very long," Prior said.
Prior has participated in the River Art Project and will be part of the gallery's next show, which will feature works by Bart Elsbach, Michael Filmus, Ann Getsinger, Mary Sipp Green, and Schantz and will be on view through Columbus Day. (The gallery will reopen in June.)
When Prior was first approached about presenting his work at Stockbridge Station, he was apprehensive.
"Most galleries don't have windows," Prior said.
But he quickly came to appreciate the unconventional art space. During his show's opening, a train went by.
"I like old things," he said. "I like old things that people have the capacity to preserve."
Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at email@example.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.
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