(Not Entirely) Black and White, by Nelson and Fried
Show at the Eclipse Mill Gallery, North Adams, MA
By: Astrid Hiemer - May 20, 2023
Not Entirely Black and White – Show by Dawn Nelson and Leni Fried
An exhibition at the Eclipse Mill Gallery
Until May 29, open daily, 243, Union Street – North Adams, MA
While the show will be open until the end of the month, we also introduce another great resource in the Northern Berkshires, The Old Stone Mill Center in Adams, MA.
The most spectacular works in this exhibition are by Dawn Nelson, painter and sculptor, and they cover the entire width of the gallery on one end. Nelson’s paintings in general are big in size and this enormous mostly black and white painting (166” x 70”) only leaves room for a corresponding soft sculpture in the far corner of the East gallery wall. However, the amorphous ‘plastic’ made of white plastic material covering perhaps a big balloon, rubber tires, inner tubes, netting that is also hung like strings reaches from ceiling to floor. Corresponding, because it repeats the many circular expressions in the painting, which appear to be fluid. Nelson titled the sculpture: Large Installation Falling or Flying; however, we would address both works as a complete installation.
Covid-19 and political statements play a large role in this show. On the opposite wall, a center panel contains small images and refers to newly minted Covid expressions such as: front-line workers, infection rate, pandemic fatigue, supply chain, mask mandate, vaccine passport, herd immunity. The central photo shows a medical team, where each person holds a one-word sign: ‘We stay here for you – please stay home for us.’ Those years are not easily forgotten! At the top of the wall, a number of white heads are placed covered with black masks.
Four rectangular panels are installed on both sides, two read: I Can’t Breath and I Just Grab Them By The…… all in capital printed letters. This wall consists of both artist's works, the center panel is Fried's piece.
Leni Fried is here introduced as an accomplished print maker. During Covid she worked entirely in black and white. She and her husband, Mike Augspurger, own The Old Stone Mill Center, in Adams, where she works and teaches printmaking. Also, given its size, The Stone Mill has come to life with an industrial sewing center, machine shop, picture framing, surplus materials supply store, Bicycle Museum, unicycles, The Bagshare project, bikes, and metal fabrication classes on three floors.
Fried’s two major prints here are of a large and strong black tree trunk with abbreviated branches, all in subtly different dark to black tones. One mono print is titled Sinew, with a partially white and a grayish dotted background. The other mono print of the same subject, Moonlit has the same partial white, then black with a moon and starry background. They are two exquisite prints!
The Faces of Katrina, a linocut, by Fried, of many heads and bodies of apparently African Americans fill the print in a rough expressionistic style. It sent my memory back to our trip to the 9th Ward in New Orleans a year after Katrina happened. Some survivors of the disaster, who were still or again living in the 9th Ward, would open their doors or stop us in the street and tell us about their still vivid and raw survival stories. How they huddled on rooftops or on the tallest bridge in the Ward: ‘We were waiting, waiting for rescue, food or water.’
This print as well as Compassion not Combat is carved in an expressionist style that reminds me of German printmaker, Kaethe Kollwitz, the famous artist who died in mid 20th Century.
Under the Eclipse logo, always the center view in the gallery, is a rough charcoal drawing of a simple, old style bicycle by Fried. It’s really fun to see and is only one of two charcoal drawings in the show. Perhaps it served as the logo on the Stone Mill marquee.
Covid Sanctuary, a long print, depicting a wooded area with a couple of people placed far apart also shows atop a blue, mask covered face. It appears in a few prints as well as on the exhibition poster, so probably an important image for Fried, perhaps the Covid-19 spirit?
Then, Lockdown, another elongated linoprint, portraits small individual figures, away from each other, in windows or near five houses. Yes, b & w and blue convey the solemn times since 2019. We in the Berkshires are still slowly emerging from the pandemic!
There are also relatively simple small prints cut from styrofoam, which must be a fragile and fun printing tool.
Nelson, on the other hand, is showing a number of unframed mixed media drawings, some dating back a decade, simple b & w drawings of black lines or wings, three near the first wall. In other areas in the gallery she’s showing Mind Wandering Day and Night, a diptych, 20” x 43”, where essentially a fine netting and strings cover the paper in various forms or circles with a lighter and darker background.
And opposite this wall, A Dot Wandering Around depicts the dot as a continuous line or string. Nelson’s works in this show appear to draw a big time-circle from minimal stroke drawings, to repeated lines in various materials, netting, circles, as mixed media drawings. They end in Something’s Happening Here – the original painting celebrated in this review. (Dawn actually drew the comparison herself.)
Finally Dawn's video of Crows over North Adams round out the theme of not entirely black and white.
As mentioned above I went to visit Leni and Mike, to introduce The Old Stone Mill Center to our readers in more detail. It was an eye opener for me! What a fantastic enterprise and another multi-faceted resource in Northern Berkshire.
The US society has an overflown of perfectly fine and usable materials, which mostly get trashed and end up in waste locations. One can donate to the mill commercial or industrial material of almost any kind. The nearby Aladco company, i.e., fills their green, large waste containers out front almost bi-weekly with white bed linen and table cloths. Aladco cleans them and supplies hospitals and restaurants. Anything not perfect ends up at the mill, and from there is made available for redistribution. I came across in the many rooms on two floors in big or small piles other things. Of course, bicycles, big malt bags from breweries, many extra tables, wood and metal scraps, clothing material, inner tubes, toys and much more. A room on the first floor serves as a store, where one can find treasures for pennies, so to speak. And there is currently a bike sale going on for cheap or cheaper than market prices.
Leni maintains a big and well-equipped printing studio and Mike’s heart is set on his bike repair center. There are bikes, many bikes in various rooms and in various conditions, which he repairs or redesigns and has done for nearly two decades. So, the current bike sale is a way to release more bikes into communities. Also, he took that day another lot of bicycles to the Adam’s Youth Center: ‘for the kids to destroy,’ as he put it. What joy for him!?
Leni and Mike have worked with twenty-some outlets world-wide or assisting organizations over nearly seven years since they brought new life to the mill. Zero Waste Maker Space is a serious goal for them and their volunteers. There is so much more to write about The Old Stone Mill Center, and I will do that at another time. But first, you must watch the video on their website: Bikes for Bikie, a container load of material and bikes that arrived in the village, Bikie, in the Republic of Congo. It will warm your heart.
And, if you have not been to The Old Stone Mill - go check it out.