Collage Convention: Cutting It Up in North Adams
The dead of winter is a time when many shivering denizens of the Rural Intelligence zone —especially the more zealous fans of the toasty comforts of a wood stove — become more familiar with the contents of their wood sheds.
Used as a verb, “woodshedding” is a term jazz musicians invoke in reference to hours of diligent practice, far from the sight of an audience or even other musical peers. For political underlings, being taken to one is the process they go through when some embarrassing gaffe has been made in public.
It is more in the latter spirit that MCLA Gallery 51 presents the fourth go-round of its biennial event 100 Hours in the Woodshed. But this art happening doesn’t prize solitary, single-minded rehearsal. Quite the opposite: it’s a merry conclave of some 30 collage artists who will work elbow to elbow, glue gun to glue gun, for five days straight as they build a gallery show together. And the public is invited.
Things kicked off with a “meet the artists” reception at MCLA Gallery 51 on Thursday, January 24. The next morning the artists got to work, clocking twelve-hour days as they work at rows of tables in the gallery. Visual art is predominant, but there’ll be artists working with video and sound as well. The public is invited to watch the process on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. MASS MoCA curator Susan Cross and newly hired gallery manager Ryder Cooley curate the show, which is installed in the gallery on the double, in time for an opening reception on Tuesday, January 29.
Danny O’Brien is a collage artist (bottom right, VW Collage 2012) with a taste for paper, in all its various forms; a 2012 series features various clippings affixed to discarded book covers. He created the Woodshed event as a way to ward off the cold-weather doldrums.
“It began as an art project — no, ‘project’ is the wrong word. It began as an art event to confront the winter blues that can sometimes happen in the quiet of the Berkshire winter,” O’Connor says. “Verbally, I can’t express how excited I am to do it each year because it’s mixed with so many things besides art. There’s a lot of friendship, there’s a lot of good humor, there’s a lot of music.”
In the past that last bit has come from Boston-based musician Max Jeffers, playing his guitar in the gallery for the benefit of the artists. At a past Woodshed he met video artist Lana Caplan and went on to collaborate on soundtracks for her work. (Jeffers is also creating on the collage end this year, in addition to playing a gig around the corner at PUBLIC eat + drink on Saturday, January 26.)
About half of the participating artists are Berkshire-based, O’Connor says, with the rest coming from New York City, Boston, and around New England. Artists crowding into the ‘shed this year include MCLA visiting professor Laura Christensen (Bryce Canyon, bottom right), fiber artist Maggie Hunt, painter Gregory Scheckler… and two dozen others. Most work principally in the medium of collage in their professional lives, but there are others who typically use other styles but want to be part of the happening.
“Sometimes we can get a little competitive,” says Jeff Smith, a participating artist whose collage work is done with wood and metal. “I like the atmosphere of many differ artists, a lot of whom are my friends, getting together for the purposes of creating art. The energy is very good for nurturing production.”
Besides the bonds among artists and the group show itself, another byproduct of the Woodshed comes with the effect on gallery-goers, some of whom drop off raw materials like wallpaper or old maps for the artists to work with if they choose.
O’Connor wants to see the energy among the artists translate to the public.
“You get to come in and feel that buzz yourself. A lot of people come in and they get very inspired. They’ll see an artist working with tissue paper, or whatever it is, and it will trigger their own ideas. Part of the point is to inspire people to see that the everyday stuff they generally toss out, with a little bit of glue, could be a whole lot of fun.” — Jeremy D. Goodwin
100 Hours in the Woodshed IV
MCLA Gallery 51
51 Main Street, North Adams
Meet-the-artists reception, January 24, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Opening reception, January 29, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Show runs through February 24
Max Jeffers performs live at Public eat + drink, January 26, 10 p.m.