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Pushing artistic boundaries in the Berkshires: Art exhibit featuring Billy Zane and Charlotte Rose opens at Red Lion Inn

"When I bring other entertainers [to the Red Lion Inn], they’re all like, ‘Why did you bring me here?’" explained exhibit co-curator Michael M.A. Cash. "But then by the time they leave, they have all fallen in love with the place. It’s an education process.”

Stockbridge — The Red Lion Inn held a celebration party for the opening of the art exhibit “Foreign Substances” on Saturday, April 20. The exhibit brings together art from British-based artist Charlotte Rose and Hollywood-actor-turned-artist Billy Zane.

The exhibit, which will be up at the Red Lion Inn until August 15, is part of a growing exhibition of artwork from world-renowned artists at the historic inn. The exhibit is co-curated by Michael M.A. Cash and Richard Post. Post is the father of musician Post Malone, and Cash is a music producer and creative director who has worked with Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Harlow, Bob Dylan, and Ralph Steadman. Cash also curated the Steadman art exhibit which debuted last year at the Red Lion Inn.

“I used to get dragged out here as a child, and then as a young man, I started hanging out here,” Cash told The Berkshire Edge. “There’s something about the Red Lion Inn that kind of sucks you into it. To me, it’s like a black hole of art and curio cabinets. When I bring other entertainers in here, they’re all like, ‘Why did you bring me here?’ But then by the time they leave, they have all fallen in love with the place. It’s an education process.”

“When my family bought the inn in 1968, there was already a lot of stuff here, including the teapots and antiques,” Sarah Eustis, CEO of Main Street Hospitality Group, owners of The Red Lion Inn, said. “My family added more layers to the inn, including my mom who started to add more modern photography. What she did was more of a ‘wink and a nod’ kind of edgier. We’re doing a version of what she did with the Red Lion Inn, which is to evolve this inn and keep it moving forward so that we can have fresh perspectives that diverse and new groups of people will relate to.”

“Norman Rockwell has had his time,” Cash added. “He’s been gone since 1978, at least 46 years. As far as art goes, you have Mass MoCA which is contemporary. You also have the Clark and the Rockwell Museum.”

Cash said that he gave a tour of the Berkshires to both Zane and Rose, neither of whom had ever been out to the area before. “Both me and [Rose] went out to a diner, went to every little thrift store, and got clothes,” Cash said. “She’s been to Manhattan, but she’s never been to the Berkshires.”

He said that Rose, who is also a British-based model, has a substantial international following. “Someone told me that they drove 18 hours from North Carolina just to be at today’s opening,” Cash said. “She’s an amazing new artist that everyone is following.”

Artist Charlotte Rose with one of her paintings, “Brutus Blend,” from her “Shakespeare Tobacco Company” series. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

For her series of paintings at the Red Lion Inn, Rose combined Shakespeare and tobacco packages for “The Shakespeare Tobacco Company.” As described in the press release for the event, her paintings compare “Shakespearean tragedy with the shady tactics used by cigarette companies to sell dangerous goods.”

“I am massively inspired by 1960s branding,” Rose said. “But I also like a lot of other branding from that era, including cereal boxes, alcohol branding, cars, and a whole plethora of stuff. But the cigarette box is something that really resonates with me because it feels like a bit of an anchor. It’s very nostalgic, and [a cigarette package] feels like it is something that is always on someone’s person. I feel like people really associate a brand of cigarette boxes with a grandparent or a father.”

“Black Macbeth,” which is part of Charlotte Rose’s “Shakespeare Tobacco Company” series of work. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

Rose said that she was inspired to combine Shakespeare with cigarette packaging because she studied literature and creative writing when she was attending university. “I’m from London, so Shakespeare is just something that has always been in the background of my life,” Rose said. “I ended up merging the two together in my art because I felt like there are a lot of themes in Shakespearean plays, like death, mortality, and greed, that really represents big tobacco. The art series is all about death, essentially.”

Actor and artist Billy Zane in front of his work “Tannhauser Gate.” Photos by Shaw Israel Izikson.

As an actor, Zane has over 120 movies and television appearances to his credit, including “Titanic,” “The Phantom,” and “Zoolander.” His work on display at the Red Lion Inn is a diverse collection of acrylic paintings and photographs. “During the height of my movie career, I found that singular expression was a great antidote to art by committee,” Zane said. “I like to sling paint onto a canvas. I like abstraction. It’s the physical expression that speaks to me. And to me, the process is the product.”

“Mission Statement” and “Miriam Says,” by Billy Zane. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

Zane added that his art “comes with joy. They are cooked with love. So if you do hang it on your wall, know that it will resonate nicely. It’s not made of angst nor ambition. They’re just purely born of gratitude and joyous expression.”

The exhibition is co-sponsored by The Norman Rockwell Museum, Shakespeare & Company, and the Berkshire International Film Festival. The launch party on April 20 included music and a performance by members of Shakespeare & Company.

Some of the many attendees at the Red Lion Inn’s launch party of its “Foreign Substances” art exhibit. The party featured a performance by members of Shakespeare & Company. Photos by Shaw Israel Izikson.

For more information about the exhibit, visit the Red Lion Inn’s website.

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