Back in step: Gallery A3 reopens with dual exhibit after long layoff

  • Janet W. Winston and Laura Holland with their artwork at Gallery A3 in Amherst, which just reopened this month. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Details from an accordion book at Gallery A3 by Laura Holland; this work, inspired by being home during the pandemic, is called “Stay-at-Home Still Lives.” STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Laura Holland with her extensive accordion book “Stay-at-Home Still Lives,” part of her contribution to the new dual exhibit “Inward & Outward” at Gallery A3 in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Laura Holland with her extensive accordion book “Stay-at-Home Still Lives,” part of her contribution to the new dual exhibit “Inward & Outward” at Gallery A3 in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • These landscapes, inspired by a pre-pandemic visit to New Mexico, are by Janet W. Winston, whose work is part of the new exhibit “Inward & Outward” at Gallery A3 in Amherst. The gallery just reopened this month. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • An accordion book by Laura Holland is based on a photo she took of an unique stringed instrument, which she then printed, cut and folded to create a much more abstract image. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Janet W. Winston with her artwork at Gallery A3. Her paintings, prints and collages capture landscapes and impressions from pre-pandemic visits she made to New Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsular. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • “Cenote II,” an oil on canvas painting by Janet W. Winston of a sinkhole cut by water in limestone in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsular. Photo by Larry Rankin/Gallery A3

Staff Writer
Monday, July 26, 2021

As Laura Holland saw it, it was almost like being a pioneer.

“It felt like that,” said Holland, an artist and a member of the A3 collective as she stood in the Amherst gallery recently, which has just reopened this month after being shut down since March 2020 because of the pandemic.

“It seemed a little strange at first to be back inside, hanging the art, having people come into the building,” she said. “I felt a little out of step.”

Now Holland and Janet W. Winston, another A3 member, are trailblazing the downtown gallery’s return to in-person art, with a dual exhibit, “Inward & Outward,” that runs through July 31. Their shared show, which was supposed to open last spring under a different title, combines paintings, prints and collages by Winston and accordion-book art by Holland, who’s also a photographer.

Though some other art galleries in the region opened last fall, albeit still with various safety protocols in place such as limits on the number of visitors, A3 members wrestled a little longer with reopening because of the room’s small size. The gallery did host regular window displays of art beginning last summer, but it took awhile to get all the members on board to reopen, Holland and Winston say.

And their show, which was originally titled “Vision,” has undergone some changes in the past year. The new title itself seems an apt choice in the wake of the worst of the pandemic, reflecting the interest many have now in looking outward to the wider world — even as the isolation and separation from friends and family that so many people have experienced speaks to the inward gaze and thinking still prevalent.

Winston’s half of the show represents the outward gaze, as she offers a range of pieces, created pre-pandemic, that capture the textures and colors of two places she visited: New Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

“I felt like I needed to see some different landscapes, something different to paint,” she said. “I wanted to challenge myself.”

She found plenty of inspiration at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico, an area of narrow canyons and “tent rocks” — narrow, conical spires of rock — about 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe. One of Winston’s larger oil paintings offers a fine view up a canyon, in which segmented walls of white rock seem to lean a little precariously over the canyon floor of uneven stone and scraggly vegetation; a huge wedge of black volcanic rock sits to the left.

Another oil on canvas painting captures one of New Mexico’s colorful sunsets, where towering clouds and slowly darkening sky dominate the frame; at the bottom, a rolling landscape of brown and red leads to distant mountains. Winston also used her time at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks to create smaller, somewhat more abstract paintings on wood blocks.

Her visit to the Yucatan moved her to create some collages that offer various views of Mayan ruins, as well as two colorful oil paintings and two smaller prints of cenotes, or water holes that are carved into limestone beds. The cenotes, Winston said, “are really very extraordinary … the limestone is very porous, and water creates pools of varied color.”

Her oil painting “Cenote II,” for instance, offers a dramatic contrast to the dry landscapes of New Mexico. What at first glance seems an abstract swirl of blue, purple, yellow and other colors reveals views of tiny fish, fallen leaves and waving underwater plants.

Holland’s experience during the pandemic led her to recast her work for the new exhibit. Her “Inward” half of the show is centered on her largest accordion book, a 16-panel affair she calls “Stay-at-Home Still Lives.”

“Once I was stuck at home, I started noticing all these things I never really paid much attention to, small things, that I wanted to photograph,” she said. Her husband likes to eat hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, she said, so normally there’d be eggshells and shell fragments left over that would typically be discarded. But she “looked at them more closely now, and I thought, ‘These are beautiful,’” she said.

In “Stay-at-Home Still Lives,” then, Holland has assembled photos of eggshells and other kitchen discards — tea bags, orange and lemon rinds and slices, a few carrot pieces — and some more abstract images such as swirls of soapy water in the sink and coupled them with text in her accordion book, which traces a zig-zag path about 10 feet long down a shelf along one wall in Gallery A3.

Holland, a freelance writer who also has taught writing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, says accordion books essentially combine her interest in writing and visual art and are another way of telling a story.

For “Inward and Outward,” she has constructed some smaller accordion books as well, including two based on photographs she took: one of the interior of a typewriter and another of a stringed instrument (the latter was invented by the late Vermont musicologist Gunnar Schonbeck and displayed some years back at Mass MoCA).

Holland than altered the photographs to give them a more painterly look, printed them on paper and, as exhibit notes explain, cut and folded the photos, reassembling them onto the pages of the accordion books to push the art “further to abstraction.”

You can see “Inward & Outward” through July 31 at Gallery A3. New visiting hours are 3-7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. For the moment, there will be limited capacity — four visitors at a time — and visitors are also asked to wear face masks. A new ventilation system has been added to increase safety.

Visit gallerya3.com for more information, including a link to an online discussion with Holland and Winston about “Inward & Outward.”

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