The Artists in Adams, Mass

Interviews and Studio Visits

By: - Aug 30, 2009

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Part one reported on the arts and cultural organizations. For this article we interviewed some of the individuals, who are living or working in Adams:
Dan Rose
Dan Rose is currently showing "The Secret Century" at Greylock Arts. The exhibition will close at the end of August. Greylock Arts bills the multi-location installation as follows: "Art and artifacts from a time and place familiar, yet unknown." He has sophisticated knowledge, which he expresses with fine simplicity. At the Opening Rose also parked his sports car out front at the gallery. He had built the fantastic fiber glass shell himself. It's a prized and  fickle car, which he drives only occasionally. The tires had barely done 1000 miles.
Dr. Dan Rose has exhibited internationally; he has a PhD in cultural anthropology and is Professor Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Design.  He has authored several scholarly books on cultural anthropology, and much more. Rose has had his studio on Summer Street for many years and is friends with everybody on the street, as we found out.
We first became aware of Dan Rose's work last year at the "Berkshire Salon, 2008" at the Eclipse Gallery in North Adams, now an annual exhibition at the mill. Invited are all Berkshire artists, who wish to participate with one work and for a minimal fee. There were nearly fifty participants and even more this year. It has become a community affair with a smashing opening celebration.
John Lisee
John A. Lisee is a photographer. He traces his family history in Adams back to his great grand parents, who moved here from Maine. His grand parents of French Canadian and Polish ancestry met in a mill, and he was born at the Adams hospital. He has been interested in photography since his teens and bought his first camera and photo and darkroom equipment from Jim Smith, the photographer and photo shop on Park Street. Then he was just taking snap shots and continued to take photographs throughout the years.
 In his twenties he moved to New York City and worked at the famous and fabulous Strand Book Store near Union Square for six years. He moved back home with a greater understanding and openness to life and people. Lisee showed his first professional photographs in 1997 at the Adams Memorial Library and had his first solo exhibition at the David and Joyce Milne Public Library in Williamstown, in 2000. It was titled: "There Was a Time." Another photographic work in progress is "The Decline of an American Mill Town," still black and white photography, exhibited since 2004. He is now working in digital and color photography and participated at the Greylock Arts Gallery in 2008 in: "Being There: A Geocoded Landscape."
Making a living in the Berkshires as an artist is difficult and so John, who has years of experience with a commercial cleaning company,  is currently trying to establish his own commercial and home cleaning business.
Henry Klein
Henry Klein has lived in the Northern Berkshires for fourteen years now. His family still resides in Connecticut, near the New York border. He originally came to the Contemporary Artists Center in North Adams twice to participate in an artist in residence program. He liked the proximity to MASS MoCA, galleries, and meeting other artists. Renting a studio at the Beaver Mill was ideal. Klein had been drawing and painting since he was five years old and developing into a painter came quite natural to him. His grandfather was a painter and he has an uncle, who is a painter as well.
He and his wife Dawn, an English teacher in Pittsfield, moved to Adams in 2001, where they first lived in a small, yellow house, now his studio. Two years ago, they purchased a larger, one family home, nearby. Klein has been working as a technician at the Conservation Center on the grounds of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown for the last ten years, which he enjoys in that beautiful environment. But the lure is there and the hope to work full-time as an artist also exists in his mind.
Klein developed wave-like paintings, in varying color densities on canvas, with shimmering results. Similarly, he is experimenting with wave-like collages, cut from cereal boxes and posters, which end in various artistic expressions. He is experiencing commercial success with his rock paintings, which he paints directly from rock formations near his studio. Hudson 's Antiques and Art represent Klein and show his work on the Mass MoCA campus and in Williamstown.
Kay Canavino
Kay Canavino's first connections to the Berkshires date back to 1992. She moved from Boston to the Northern Berkshires in 2002 and rehabbed two properties in Adams. She is now working in a great little former school house.
Kay has exhibited her photography work nationally and throughout Massachusetts prominently since 1990. Some of the exhibition titles are as follows: New England Photographers Biennial Exhibition, Danforth Museum of Art, Framingham, MA (jurors: Karen Haas, Curator of the Lane Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Arlette Kayafas, Director, Kayafas Photography Gallery, Boston), 2007;  National Juried Photography Exhibition, Toledo Friends of Photography, Toledo, Ohio, (juror: Olivia Parker), 2002; Kay Canavino: Natural Selections, The Dean's Gallery, MIT, Cambridge, MA,  1998;  Kay Canavino: Landscapes in the Dark, Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA, 2006; and, of course, Being There: A Geocoded Landscape, Greylock Arts, Adams, MA.
The "Landscapes in the Dark," are a series of sharply contrasted, black & white photographs, which convey details or larger images, landscapes, and moods, only the hours of the night can reveal. Usually, Canavino prepares her work carefully and sets up her subject matter. She is a trained studio photographer.  But, in 2000 she joined an academic group and traveled to Cuba , where she photographed street scenes and day to day adventures. She showed that work in 2001 during a "Latin American Juried Exhibit," at Salem State College, Salem, MA.
As all artists have expressed: Making a living in the Berkshires is a challenge ! Canavino has commercial customers as well. Among her ongoing professional relationships are the Crown Plaza Hotel, Interprint, and General Dynamics, all companies in Pittsfield . Her commercial work appears in product brochures and publicity materials. She would very much like to find a gallery in Hudson, NY, to represent her fine arts work.
Karylee Doubiago
"To convey what I see takes more than one medium or technique. I love the idea of taking a traditional process and create something new and unexpected." So, Karylee Doubiago has become an extraordinary quilter many years later after receiving her undergraduate degree in Fine Arts Photography from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. She still works in photography, makes jewelry, as well as three dimensional objects. She uses beautifully cut and polished stones, which her husband, Mark Doubiago, slices from bigger, rough stones. They are semi-precious stones from around the world, and he brings shining life to the small and glistening objects.
Doubiago has participated in many national quilt exhibitions, primarily in Texas and Colorado, since 1997. Texas is one of the hubs for serious quilters. Only in recent years has she started to exhibit closer to home. She admitted that early on, it was easier to send work away to exhibitions, where she would not face criticism. But she has garnered great success in the 'Mecca of Quilting' with her work. She has written articles for quilting magazines, among them: Creative Machine Embroidery in 2007. She was included in a major quilting book: "Journal Project, a Page from my Book by Karey Bresenhan," a five year long project. The book features approximately a third of then exhibiting artist-quilters.
Gallery 51, North Adams, showed her work in the July 2009 exhibition "Threaded." There, she showed quilted sections of x-rays from friends and family. They are unexpected images in the medium. She may also add beads, doll heads, layer a quilt with printed or hand dyed fabrics, produced by shaving cream and color. She may paint onto a quilt faces or whole figures, or add computer generated designs.
Karylee is currently working on a new series for an exhibition in Pittsfied, MA, "Icons." Materials for this series were presented to her by a friend. The former owner, a deceased and elderly lady, was very religious. But the subject matter for these new quilts evolved, before she had known details about the cloths. Doubiago admits to have "Artistic ADD." She has to start many pieces in short succession without necessarily finishing them. "They will reveal themselves in due time,"she says.
Doubiago was awarded 1st place for her Kimono in 2004 at the Berkshire Quilt Festival and in 2003, 2nd place for "Dresden Flower" at the same event. In 2008 she received an individual artist's grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Karylee grew up in Williamstown, but the Doubiago family is now happily ensconces in a large, rambling, and art filled home in Adams. It is complete with two sons, one daughter, and their two dog. Her e-mail address includes the word: LoneWolf. That says something about her – as well as other artists, who are living and working in Adams.
Barb Armata
Barb Armata's calling card shows a black and white silhouette of tiny imagined animals and a pied piper. The title reads: "Illustrations of the Odd, the Alien, and the Everyday."
Her exquisite and beautiful drawings and gouaches are yearning for new company, meaning new work. She, and her sister have given full-time care to her mother for many years and in the last several years to her father as well. When we called for the interview, she felt that to nudge her to new work and professional outreach, may be too soon, since her father had just passed away. But we had a fine interview anyway.
Barbara grew up in Adams. Her grand parents came to town during the Polish immigration wave and worked in the mills, where they met. "Imagine the times, when these sixteen and seventeen year old young people left their families in Polish villages behind, to come to America. They were on their own and so young. Adams, and other mill towns must have been quite lively." 
Armata received an Associate Degree of Visual Arts from the Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, but is largely self-taught. For fifteen years she would travel to Boston, Chicago, Baltimore, and Philadelphia art fairs. Approximately 20 illustrators would sell their work in a silent auction system. Works were sold to White Wolfe in that manner, but to other publishers as well, for young adult books and magazines.
Her illustrations appeared in "Phantasy Magazine" and "Cricket Magazine" for children. She illustrated for Books of Wonder: The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allan Poe, and Rudyard Kipling's, The Haunting of Holmescroft, in the Classic Frights series, and more. White Wolf published until the late 1990s collectable cards and games, for which she contributed many images. The cards would be collected by kids like baseball cards.
Armata's work is done with precious fine details, set in fantastic landscapes, in black and white or color. It is exquisite work in the realm of the imagination. She left us with the thought, that  "The new easel in the closet will now come out."
Bill Zelazo
William Zelazo's family came to America and Adams four generations ago. He is of German, Scottish on his mother's side and Polish descent on his father's side. Artists, we interviewed, would refer to John Maziarz as an influential painter in town, who taught art at the Williamstown High School. 
Maziarz was Zelazo's father's cousin and so he was exposed to artistic work and activity early in life. Since a successful artist was a member of the family, his parents did not object that young Bill would enroll in an art school. He received an undergraduate degree from Rhode Island School of Design and a graduate degree (MFA) from the University of Arizona.  His last exhibitions were in Hudson, NY, and at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield some years ago. But teaching art was not in Zelazo's cards.
He had worked in construction in Seattle, Washington, and upon returning home to Adams, eventually became a prison guard in Hudson, NY. He's still commuting there daily, and is considering  keeping his position for a few more years. His second wife, Nancy, who moved here from the Philippines five years ago to marry him, just gave birth to a girl.
But Zelazo is a consummate painter. Their house is bursting from his own work. Bill insisted on a critical dialogue about his portraits and landscapes. He has strong opinions about every subject that came up in conversation and put it right on the table. He likes a good argument and so does this interviewer. He claimed that "painting is something I do," clearly there is more to that statement: Painting is something he must do!
Bruce Koscielniak
Bruce Koscielniak is fortunate enough to support himself entirely from his artwork, bookwork, we should state. Over time he has published twelve books with his own texts and illustrations. He started out writing children's books, but has evolved to subjects, where research would be required.
Since 2000 Koscielniak has published the following titles for young readers: "The Story of the Incredible Orchestra." As a student, he played the violin in county wide school orchestras, and later he took up the jazz guitar. So the subject was close to his heart. The next book is titled "Johann Gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press," followed  by  "About Time – A First Look at Time and Clocks" In 2006 Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, published "Looking at Glass – Through the Ages."
The books, while written for a young audience, are nevertheless informative for any reader. The development and inventions of instruments and the orchestra over the last 600 years was fascinating, and the many intricate drawings large and small are quite wonderful. The same is true for all other books that he published.
He is currently researching a number of subjects and is preparing proposals to some publishers. His books have been sold to other countries by A. Knopf Publishing House, New York, and have been translated into Dutch, German, Korean, and Portuguese. Several of his books are still in print.
Members of the Koscielniak family, originally based in the Berkshires, moved to Nevada and Arizona, but Bruce prefers to live in Adams and the Berkshires. He skies and has taken up snowboarding in the last few years. He lives in one of the beautiful Victorian Houses in town, which he purchased in the 1980s. He studied and received an art history degree from Williams College, which he financed by using the GI Bill after the Vietnam War.
We first encountered him and his large scale oil paintings in 2008 at two exhibitions at the Eclipse Mill in North Adams. Bruce considers himself primarily an oil painter, and he is a fine painter indeed - in a sports car.
The artists, who were interviewed for this article, were also asked the following questions: What else should the town of Adams do to increase viability and visibility for arts and culture, than what is currently initiated ? What can the arts and cultural community in town do ?
Here are some suggestions: Become more open to positive and constructive influences from the creative community. Be open and welcoming to newcomers. All artists in town add their share to the tax base of Adams.
Assist in creating inexpensive work and exhibition spaces in the empty store fronts and buildings in the business districts. The large and empty former Berkshire Hathaway building would also serve well for cultural events.
The creatively active community in Adams needs leadership to mediate between the town and the arts community. And, "Money drives Art" – without adding financial resources, the arts cannot sustain itself in the long run. Invest in Art !
Henry Klein contributed the following statement: "I do love my town of Adams and I would like to purchase and renovate property as much as I can. Creative people start businesses and become employers, as well as make art. Creating businesses is also a creative process. A healthy art district is a sign of a good economy all around."
The town of Adams and its people would benefit and prosper much more in return, in so many ways. Pittsfield and North Adams have in the last few years gained visibility and economic strength by investing in the arts and culture. Adams can do the same and draw more visitors beginning next year. They will come, enjoy our town, and stay a while.