West Stockbridge — Driving home from an appointment in Pittsfield, choosing Barker Road rather than the speed and perils of Route 7 found me in the center of West Stockbridge on a breezy weekday morning. I decided to break the day’s fast at No. Six Depot with a red eye and a plate of quickly fried eggs with bacon and Berkshire Mountain Bakery toast while reflecting on the ostensibly insignificant, albeit worldly, location. From my seat – a contemporary Lisboa side chair by Barcelona native Joan Gasper – the landscape is awash in versatility. There is a French restaurant across the way, a sculpture park beyond the parking lot, the historic Shaker Mill looming behind me and the undulating Berkshire Hills standing sentinel over it all. Pianist Emmanuel Ax even takes a seat on the deck and takes cover under a red canvas umbrella. This hamlet, a far cry from the urban cities that spring forth just two hours due east in Boston and 2.5 hours south in New York, currently boasts a new exhibit by a pair of New York City artists.
Brian Wood and Ashley Garrett, while not unfamiliar with pastoral living, found No. Six Depot as a result of its proximity to their “upstate” studio, located on County Route 5 just south of Canaan on the side of Mercer Mountain. Brian Wood, whose work is in the permanent collections of both the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will be showing a series of drawings; painter and curator Ashley Garrett, who shows in galleries and museums in New York, Los Angeles and abroad, brings to the gallery a series of paintings inspired by objects and landscape, inquiring as to how they work to transform us. Their work will be on display through Friday, Sept. 15.
The artists were both raised on farms and, while that has no bearing on how they met, it has “really helped us to understand where the other is coming from,” says Garrett, noting that each of them is very observant of the land, animals, life cycles, environment and evolution of the seasons. The exhibit includes a series of pieces in graphite on paper by Wood as well as one archival digital print. Wood, who hails from Saskatchewan, says he has encountered “nothing like Canada” insofar as the landscape. His influences are many, beginning with a series of mentors when he was young, but Wood is clear in that he is “not directly influenced by any one artist.”
Throughout his career, Wood has been immersed in the questions and processes of consciousness, the mystery of intense images arising to awareness, and their complex relationship with and away from time. His approach is to let all of history flow through his work in some way, and the result is alluring. Creative minds working in other media are drawn to his subject matter as reflected in “Five Tableaux Vivants,” poet Robert Kelly’s response to five paintings by Brian Wood.
Of the Berkshires? “I much prefer to work here than in the city,” Wood explains. It is this intimacy of place that, he says, “affects my inner life, which is where I paint from.” He goes on to explain, “I have found, after working in different parts of the world, that, after a certain amount of time in any one place, that place affects your work really subtly.” Wood cites, “[the] light upstate has really affected my paintings in a way that is not noticeable until later.”
An exploration of how the intimacy of place transforms us is central to Ashley Garrett’s work. Her past includes time spent riding and training horses in the Berkshires and she speaks of “big skies … [having a] big impact on our work,” noting her shared background in the landscape. Garrett’s paintings, oil on gesso paper, reflect a penchant for “the immediacy … [due to paper being] thinner and freeing due to it being tactile,” in a way that canvas is not. Garrett notes, “the intimacy of place started [in my] working from things I knew growing up – my experience with horses and animals has grown out of this. I am grounded in things that I know.” This stems from her growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania and translates to her current work as reflected in “the environment, the light, the surroundings [she finds] upstate.”
Despite working together in the same studio – granted, in separate areas — this is the husband/wife artists’ first show together. “We often show each other work in progress … [thanks to our] privileged space … [that leads to] trust and familiarity with what one is currently doing,” says Garrett. And, says Wood, “we always help one another hang [our respective] shows … [which allows] each of us to see the conversation the other might miss.” Head on over to No. Six Depot, take in unexpectedly worldly sights and sounds of West Stockbridge, and see two well-established New York City artists quite literally working together on the wall. For more information, visit www.sixdepot.com or stop by the cafe/gallery located at 6 Depot St., West Stockbridge, open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Finally, this note from Brian Wood about a poetry reading at his exhibit in Saugerties, New York:
I’m pleased to invite you to a reading by poets Robert Kelly and Charles Stein on Sunday, Sept. 17th at 4pm at my painting exhibition at Cross Contemporary Art, 99 Partition St., Saugerties, NY 12477.
Robert Kelly is an American poet whose early work was associated with the deep image group. He is the 2016-2017 Poet Laureate of Dutchess County, N.Y., with more than sixty poetry titles, including Kill the Messenger Who Brings Bad News (1980), which received the Los Angeles Times First Annual Book Award. He received The American Book Award (Before Columbus Foundation) for In Time (1991), the Award for Distinction from the National Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Kelly recently wrote a group of poems to Brian Wood’s Paintings (The Doris.) Included in his many titles are The Hexagon (2016), Heart Thread (2016), Opening the Seals (2016), Red Actions: Selected Poems 1960-1993 (1995), Lapis
Charles Stein‘s work comprises a complexly integrated field of poems, prose reflections, translations, drawings, photographs, lectures, conversations, and performances. Stein is the author of many books of poetry including Views From Tornado Island (2016), There Where You Do Not Think To Be Thinking (2015), From Mimir’s Head (2011), The Hat Rack Tree (1999), Parts and Other Parts (1982), and a verse translation of The Odyssey (North Atlantic Books). Deeply investigating Being in all his work, his Persephone Unveiled (2006) has an illuminating chapter on Parmenides of Elea. His critical writing includes a meditation on Terry Winters’ paintings in Placing Space, Picturing Time (2015), a study of poet Charles Olson’s use of the writing of C.G. Jung in The Secret of the Black Chrysanthemum (1987), a collaboration with George Quasha on the work of Gary Hill, An Art of Limina: Gary Hill’s Works & Writings (2009), and is editor of Being = Space x Action: Searches for Freedom of Mind in Mathematics, Art and Mysticism (1998). In Robert Kelly’s words: “Charles Stein…is a poet with all the means of his craft at hand…one of the smartest men of his generation, and one of its most exemplary poets.”