The art of springtime: Local and regional galleries offer a variety of work in May

  • “The Mat Hatter Worried,” wood engraving from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Barry Moser. Image courtesy Michelson Galleries

  • “Never Saying a Word,” wood engraving from “Huckleberry Finn,” by Barry Moser. CONTRIBUTED/Michelson Galleries

  • CONTRIBUTED/Michelson Galleries

  • Left, “Atelier Jianshu Over R.M. Schindler’s Packard Residence,” oil on wood; right, “Open House,” aluminum and painted aluminum, both by Don Gummer. Contributed/Springfield Museums

  • “Lemon and Lime,” oil painting by Larry Preston. William Baczek Fine Arts

  • “Daffodils,” oil painting by Larry Preston. Image courtesy William Baczek Fine Arts

  • A dimensional painting by Carl Caivano: acrylic, enamel and metal. Image courtesy A.P.E. Gallery

  • “Artemesia,” print by Nancy Campbell. CONTRIBUTED/A.P.E. Gallery

Staff Writer
Thursday, May 13, 2021

Sculptures as poetry. A retrospective on Barry Moser. Still life paintings inspired by 17th-century Flemish masters. Old paintings and drawings restructured as collages during the pandemic.

As spring advances and the weather warms, local art galleries are offering a wide range of exhibits in May, and although safety protocols for COVID-19 remain in place, it’s a good time to get out and sample some of the work that area artists continue to make. Here’s a look at some of what’s on tap.

R. Michelson Galleries

The acclaimed wood engraver Barry Moser has had a long partnership with Richard Michelson, owner of the downtown Northampton gallery. As Michelson told the Gazette in a previous interview, the first exhibit he ever staged in his gallery, some 40-odd years ago, was of Moser’s work, and he’s regularly showcased examples of Moser’s engravings, drawings and fine book printing ever since.

Through May 30, Michelson Galleries is hosting a retrospective look at Moser’s 50-plus-year career, one in which the Hatfield artist has produced engravings and illustrations for hundreds of books, including limited-edition, hand-produced copies of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” “Frankenstein,” “Huckleberry Finn” and “Moby-Dick,” as well as his famed Pennyroyal Caxton Bible from 1999 — the first Bible fully illustrated by one individual since 1865.

His luminous, black-and-white wood engravings display what Michelson calls “a mastery of a medium notorious for being difficult and unforgiving.” They can also offer a dramatic sense of composition or a sly sense of humor: Moser is known both for some self-portraits poking fun at himself, as well as using famous faces for some fictional characters, like that of Richard Nixon for Humpty Dumpty in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” his version of the Lewis Carroll story.

The Michelson Gallery exhibit showcases work from throughout Moser’s career, and it’s also being staged in conjunction with Brandeis University Press’s new publication of Moser’s “Wood Engraving: The Art of Wood Engraving & Relief Engraving,” considered a seminal work on the subject, copies of which are available at the gallery.

Springfield Museums

New York City-based artist Don Gummer first began attracting notice in the 1970s for his large, wooden wall reliefs before moving on to larger, free-standing sculptures of bronze, metal and stained glass. At the Springfield Museums, “Constructing Poetry,” an exhibit opening this month  and running through Sept. 12, draws on work from throughout Gummer’s career, including indoor and outdoor sculptures.

Held at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, the exhibit includes wooden wall reliefs and maquettes created between 1977 and 2021 as well as Gummer’s newest work, “Colosseum,” and a preparatory drawing that gives some insight into his artistic process.

The work, according to exhibit notes, helps illustrate the artist’s interest “in the act of construction and spatial relationships” and the way in which he was initially influenced by the “structured beauty of floor plans ... his ongoing series of reliefs often reimagine architectural plans by placing the schematics of one building on top of another.”

Outside the D’Amour, several large sculptures have been installed, work that Maggie North, Springfield Museums’ curator of art, calls “simultaneously formal and lyrical” and “extremely dynamic … [they] explore ideas about balance, stability, energy, and space.”

William Baczek Fine Arts

In an interview a few years ago with art critic Brian Sherwin, Worcester-born painter Larry Preston said he’d experimented with different styles in the past: surrealism, abstract, landscape painting. But still-life painting, he added, has remained his primary focus.

Through June 12, William Baczek Fine Arts in Northampton is featuring 20 new oil paintings by Preston, ranging from arrangements of flowers, a tabletop of sticky, half-eaten donuts, and a glass vase filled with slices of lemons and limes. The dark backgrounds of his paintings, coupled with the more luminous objects featured in the work — and the intricate detail and nuance he brings to those objects — recall the Flemish still-life painters who influenced his work.

Preston, a former musician who now lives in western Massachusetts, also uses multiple layers of paint in his work, giving a rich texture and sense of depth to each canvas. And as he says in exhibition notes, “There are a lot of different levels of light that are fun for me to paint. ... I like putting hard surfaces next to soft surfaces and shiny surfaces with older, duller surfaces.”

Hope & FeathersFraming and Gallery

Valley artist Randi Stein was something of a late bloomer, taking up drawing at age 42 after she got a copy of the book “The Zen of Seeing,” by Dutch-American artist Frederick Franck. Some 30 years later, Stein, who’s also involved with dance and writing, has created a varied body of work: painting, drawing, collages and more.

Through May 29, her exhibit “Stories in Paint and Paper” is on display at Hope & Feathers Framing and Gallery, on Main Street in Amherst near the Emily Dickinson Museum. It’s a show, Stein writes in exhibition notes, that’s been inspired by the pandemic, as the enforced isolation in her studio led her to create new work by “tearing and cutting and re-arranging” some of her older work into collages.

“This year has turned many people’s worlds upside down,” she says. “It seems appropriate to be telling new stories, and discovering what was perhaps absent from my sight thirty years ago.”

A.P.E. Gallery

At the Main Street Northampton gallery, multi-disciplinary artist Carl Caivano and printmaker Nancy Campbell will share space in “Out-Takes & In-Sights,” which runs through May 29. Caivano, of Amherst, creates what he calls “dimensional paintings” that combine paint, enamel and metal, and he also creates digital paintings and photo collages. His goal with this kind of work, he writes, is “to combine various macro- and micro-scaled elements that range from galaxies to subatomic particles into a single unified expression.”

Campbell, a Mount Holyoke College professor emeritus of art, brings Eastern influences to much of her work, notably medieval Japanese scroll painting. In both her screen printing and lithography, she says she works to “evoke an Eastern sense of balance between fragility and strength by using a system of highly structured intricate abstraction.”

Oxbow Galleryand Gallery A3

Oxbow Gallery in Northampton and Gallery A3 in Amherst have struggled amid the pandemic because of their small size, which mostly prevented in-person visits. But Oxbow reopened for limited visits in April, and this month will feature work by abstract painter Mary Witt and woodcut artist Brianna Ashe in the larger front room, and by sculptors John Galt and Chris Serra in the small back space.

Galley A3 is still closed to in-person visits but offers window displays and Zoom presentations. May through June, the gallery is featuring “The World of Water,” a variety of art — sculpture, painting, photographs, prints — that examines water’s “great power and beauty, its essential abilities to sustain and destroy life, and its qualities of transparency, reflection, and refraction,” according to exhibit notes.

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