Open for business: local art galleries offer a variety of in-person shows this month

  • “Grocery Clerks,” watercolor on paper by Robert Masla.  Image courtesy Michelson Galleries

  • “Essential Goods and Services, (Satch, Nancy, and Laura of Ashfield Hardware),” watercolor on paper by Robert Masla. Image courtesy Michelson Galleries

  • “Immigrant Farm Workers II,” watercolor on paper by Robert Masla. Image courtesy Michelson Galleries

  • “A Shining City on a Hill,” painting by Ruth Kjaer. Image courtesy Elusie Gallery

  • “Lucardo, Tuscany,” pastel painting by Mallory Lake. Image courtesy William Baczek Fine Arts

  • “Isola, Lake Como,” pastel painting by Mallory Lake. Image courtesy William Baczek Fine Arts

  • “After Reprimand #104,” platinum/palladium print from Polaroid original by Susan Mikula. Image by Susan Miluka/courtesy William Baczek Fine Arts

Staff Writer
Friday, October 23, 2020

October has shaped up as a rich month for art exhibits in the Valley, as more venues reopen and a variety of shows remind us of the area’s diversity of artists.

There are also reminders that COVID-19 remains a dominating force in our lives. Masks, limits on visitation and other safety protocols are required in all galleries, and in some cases the art has been shaped by the pandemic — both in the content of the shows and the fact that virtual exhibits are also in place.

Here’s a look at what’s happening:

R.Michelson Galleries — Closed through spring and summer, the Northampton gallery still has a virtual exhibit from September in place through October. “Forests, Farms, and Riverways,” an annual project that recognizes the work of The Kestrel Trust, the land preservation group in Amherst, features paintings and photos from 16 artists, all designed to celebrate the natural world. Part of the proceeds from sales goes to the Trust.

One of the contributing artists, Robert Masla of Ashfield, has also produced a solo, in-person show at Michelson Galleries this month that celebrates Valley landscapes — but with an added element. In “Gratitude: The Unrecognized Essential Workers Series,” Masla fills many of his oil and watercolor paintings with portraits of people who have kept things moving during the pandemic.

Earlier this year, Masla had been preparing to do a straight landscape show. But when the coronavirus arrived, he shifted gears. Now, in paintings that feature farm laborers and grocery store employees, and postal carriers and EMTs, Masla offers a salute to people who he says “are often overlooked but are no less essential to a whole, functioning, prosperous human society.”

His exhibit also features many bucolic images of fields, woodlands and waterways, but his work reflects as well the political and social turmoil that has engulfed the nation this year. One of his larger works, “Take a Knee: Rural Communities in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter” (it’s 24 x 72 inches), depicts a crowd in a field before a small church, with many people kneeling and one woman holding a Black Lives Matter sign.

And some of his paintings are tributes to specific local people. A modest watercolor painting (16 x 20 inches) shows two women, both wearing masks, on the porch of the vintage building that houses Ashfield Hardware & Supply on the town’s main street.


Elusie Gallery — In Easthampton, Jean-Pierre Pasche, owner of Big Red Frame framing shop, reopened his accompanying Elusie Gallery late last month, after the space had been closed since March. Pasche wrote in a recent newsletter that visits to the gallery can now be made by appointment.

For this month through November, he’s featuring the work of Easthampton artist Ruth Kjaer in a show called “The Myth of Utopia.” Some of her new abstract paintings, according to exhibit notes, use “several stories from ancient Greek myths to illuminate the problems and the discrimination faced by women today.”

One painting, “A Shining City on a Hill,” also references a term U.S. politicians have used to cite American “exceptionalism,” which the painter turns on its head, per exhibit notes, in noting that our society increasingly seems to be not special but rather is “punctuated by violence, racism, and bitter political divides.”


A.P.E. Gallery — The Main Street Northampton venue, which reopened in September with a photography exhibit, is now featuring collected works from Florence’s Zea Mays Printmaking. “Extractions: Green to the Extreme” includes work by 38 artists who examine the consequences of natural resource exploitation.

The exhibition is also associated with a pan-global art project, “Extraction: Art on the Edge of the Abyss,” a broad-based, multimedia “art intervention” that looks at the effects of mining and other extractive industries on water, soil, forests, trees, marine life, and other parts of the environment.

Zea Mays members, according to exhibit notes, were challenged to join this “international art ruckus” with a loud and spirited voice while using only repurposed, plundered, rescued, recycled, and traded materials in their art.


William Baczek Fine Arts — Also on Main Street in Northampton, William Baczek Fine Arts, which has been open since this summer for limited visitation, has a dual show for October. One part offers previously unseen work by the late Vermont artist Mallory Lake, a longtime exhibitor at the gallery who worked primarily with pastels.

The new Lake show includes a wide range of pastels as well as some encaustics and monoprints. The pastels are the main course: richly layered and surprisingly detailed landscapes and settings from northern Italy in particular, such as “Lucardo, Tuscany,” a warm view of grassy fields and and scattered trees with a small cluster of red-tiled villas in the background.

Also at the gallery is “After Reprimand,” a collection of platinum/palladium prints by photographer Susan Mikula, who splits her time between western Massachusetts and New York City. These impressionistic, black and white images of the human form are “almost cinematic, offering fragments of a story perhaps still ongoing,” as exhibit notes put it.

“Faces are often hidden by a turned cheek or a cascade of long hair; figures emerge from gauzy fabric and soft shadows.” The images are “the product of a unique process that pushes the boundaries of conventional photography by combining old and new technologies.”

Both shows are on view at the Baczek gallery Through Oct. 31.

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