Spring brings new art: A look at what's on tap in April at selected local galleries

Work by Washington, D.C. artist Oliver “Liv” James, which examines how the extremes of capitalism have affected BIPOC people, is at 50 Arrow Gallery in Easthampton this month. 

Work by Washington, D.C. artist Oliver “Liv” James, which examines how the extremes of capitalism have affected BIPOC people, is at 50 Arrow Gallery in Easthampton this month.  Image courtesy Jason Montgomery/50 Arrow Gallery

Rich and somewhat abstract, dreamlike landscapes by painter Kamini Avril are featured at Easthampton’s Oxbow Gallery.

Rich and somewhat abstract, dreamlike landscapes by painter Kamini Avril are featured at Easthampton’s Oxbow Gallery. Image from Oxbow Gallery

Multidisciplinary artists and sisters Janelle and Lisa Iglesias offer some collaborative work at PULP Gallery in Holyoke this month.

Multidisciplinary artists and sisters Janelle and Lisa Iglesias offer some collaborative work at PULP Gallery in Holyoke this month. Courtesy Dean Brown/PULP Gallery

Sisters Lisa and Janelle Iglesias, from left, and their mother, Bodhild Brendryen Iglesias, are seen at PULP Gallery in Holyoke, where some of the collaborative fabric art from all three women is on view.

Sisters Lisa and Janelle Iglesias, from left, and their mother, Bodhild Brendryen Iglesias, are seen at PULP Gallery in Holyoke, where some of the collaborative fabric art from all three women is on view. Image courtesy Dean Brown/PULP Gallery

Work by Japanese-Spanish artist and writer Tana Oshima is on view this month at PULP Gallery in Holyoke. 

Work by Japanese-Spanish artist and writer Tana Oshima is on view this month at PULP Gallery in Holyoke.  Image courtesy Dean Brown/PULP Gallery

“Modern Farmer,” oil on muslin by Charlie Hunter, at William Baczek Fine Arts in Northampton.

“Modern Farmer,” oil on muslin by Charlie Hunter, at William Baczek Fine Arts in Northampton. Image from William Baczek Fine Arts website

 “Oxbow,” oil on panel by Robert Sweeney, at William Baczek Fine Arts in Northampton

 “Oxbow,” oil on panel by Robert Sweeney, at William Baczek Fine Arts in Northampton Photo by Robert Sweeney/William Baczek Fine Arts website

Illustration by Eric Carle for the 1989 book “Animals Animals” by Laura Whipple. Part of “Birdwatching with Eric Carle” at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst.

Illustration by Eric Carle for the 1989 book “Animals Animals” by Laura Whipple. Part of “Birdwatching with Eric Carle” at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst. Image from Eric Carle Museum website

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 04-12-2024 2:43 PM

April weather can be fickle, as this week, with some warm, sunny days to start, followed by a few days of clouds and rain, has shown.

But if you can’t get out into nature as much as you’d like, you can still see plenty of artwork in the region, which might put you in a more colorful mood. Here’s a look at what’s on tap this month at some local galleries.

50 Arrow Gallery, Easthampton — Oliver “Liv” James, a graphic artist, muralist and street artist who works in the Washington. D.C. area, has helped create a number of colorful murals in that region that are aimed at celebrating Black history and social justice, such as one in Annapolis, Maryland, offering larger-than-life portraits of former Supreme Court justices Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

50 Arrow Gallery has just opened a solo exhibit of James’ work, “The Debt You Owe,” that showcases the artist’s paintings and prints, which in turn examine the inequalities of capitalism and the oppression many BIPOC communities have traditionally faced as part of that system.

Using multi-layer stenciling and mixed media, a number of James’ prints display Indigenous men and women on different kinds of currency, for example, or more provocative images of flowers jutting from a gun barrel, or extending from a noose set in an empty frame.

As exhibit notes put it, James’ art “serves as a powerful reminder of the interconnectedness of global economies and the human cost of unchecked capitalism … Yet the darkness of such provocative topics does not stop her from using pops of color and beautiful and bright mixed media.”

James, who also has a background in business, says “I am just a street artist painting what is on my mind, and I think about the ones that society wants us to forget.”

Oxbow Gallery, Easthampton — Also in the city this month, the Oxbow Gallery features work by painter Kamini Avril, who offers dense and somewhat abstract landscapes that can convey a dreamlike sensibility, as well as a smaller show by abstract expressionist painter Lorna Ritz from Amherst.

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Avril’s exhibit, “The Hands See What the Eye Feels,” includes forested landscapes where the view can seem dark, even impenetrable; vines, bushes, creepers and other foliage provide an almost tactile feel.

In notes on the Oxbow website, Avril discusses how her approach to painting and drawing has changed over the years; at one time she wanted to communicate “deep feeling, often through a kind of non-linear storytelling” through her work.

But in more recent years, she notes, she’s shifted gears, as she bases her work more on “the world observed and the innumerable mysteries of perception, as re-created through memory and making.”

PULP Gallery, Holyoke — An unusual double exhibit this month at PULP includes collaborative work by two sisters and their mother, all of whom live in different places, and a smaller show by Japanese-Spanish writer and artist Tana Oshima.

Las Hermanas Iglesias are the sisters Janelle and Lisa Iglesias, who live on opposite coasts (Janelle in California, and Lisa in Massachusetts, where she teaches art at Mount Holyoke College) but collaborate on a variety of work such as fabric art, photography, and installations, outside of their individual art projects.

“As the children of Norwegian and Dominican immigrants born and raised in Queens,” the sisters note on their website, “our multidisciplinary work explores issues of hybridity, social participation, and transnational identities.”

The two women also fashion collaborative textiles with their mother, Bodhild Brendryen Iglesias, with these “dialogic call and response” projects passing between family members to create “a corresponding visual conversation where abstract motifs are translated from one medium into another,” as exhibit notes put it.

And Oshima, who was born in Japan and now lives in New York, contributes a variety of work to the Holyoke exhibit, including colorful pen and ink drawings, paintings, and text that reflects her experience as a publisher of zines and a translator of contemporary female Japanese literature into Spanish.

William Baczek Fine Arts, Northampton — Spring feels like it’s been pretty slow in coming this year, with the exception of a few days earlier this week, but it’s an important theme of the new group exhibit at William Baczek Fine Arts, where views of fields and flowers mingle with a few landscapes marked by drifts of gritty, lingering snow.

Work from 13 artists is represented, including rich, old-school oil paintings of flowers by Larry Preston, all of them presented against dark background. Vermont painter Charlie Hunter, by contrast, offers rough-hewn views of barns, other agricultural buildings and railroad crossings, set amid cloudy skies and a few patches of snow that capture the early-spring cold of the Green Mountain state.

Scott Prior’s oil on panel “Fire on the Beach” hints at warmer weather to come, while Robert Sweeney presents two impressionistic, pastoral views of the Valley: a look at the distant Connecticut River Oxbow from a ridge in the Holyoke Range, and a line of growing pumpkins in a Hadley field.

The exhibit also includes work by abstract artists such as Laura Gurton and Anne Lilly and the surrealist paintings of Travis Louie.

Eric Carle Museum, Amherst — Among a number of exhibits, the Eric Carle Museum is featuring a show named after its namesake and founder: “Birdwatching with Eric Carle.”

Showcasing artwork from nearly 30 books by the late children’s book writer and illustrator, “Birdwatching” demonstrates how Carle used birds in almost every book he created, sometimes as main characters or supporting characters.

These avian creatures are displayed according to habitat: long-billed macaws in a tropical rain forest, arctic penguins on an iceberg, clucking chickens in a backyard coop.

There’s also Joy, a small bird who plants a tiny seed each spring on a stone mountain, gradually transforming it into fertile land, and the red bird and yellow duck from Carle’s first picture book, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”

According to the museum, the exhibit includes work from Carle’s early career in graphic arts, such as a poster he designed in the 1960s to advertise Chlor-Trimeton tablets for a pharmaceutical company. Below his menagerie of birds is the tagline “When feathers stir up an allergic storm.”

Also of note: Leverett Crafts & Arts has just reopened for the season, with a dual show this month by the husband-and-wife team of Bill Dolan (paintings, notably of landscapes) and Dianne Dolan (varied sculpture).

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.