By STEVE PFARRER
Spring is here — or at least the calendar says it is. And as the weather (hopefully) warms, there’s more incentive to get outside and check out what’s on view at local art galleries. Here’s a look at some selected shows this month.
PULP Gallery, Holyoke — Multidisciplinary artist Ashley Eliza Williams, who works primarily as a painter and sculptor, also has one foot in a world one doesn’t necessarily associate with art: science.
This month, PULP is featuring the varied work of Williams, a native of Virginia now living in western Massachusetts who uses art to explore connections to the natural world, especially what she calls “interspecies communication,” or “conversations between living and non-living things.”
Her art can include somewhat surreal or expressionist paintings, such as the lower legs of a person, seen on the bottom of a shallow body of water, surrounded by tiny red fish. In another, a hand tentatively holds a poisonous centipede.
She also makes sculptures of minerals and imaginary lifeforms out of clay, wax, and other materials. “Today,” she writes in exhibit notes, “I study the sentience and sensory capabilities of rocks, squids, clouds, and other beings. I aim to weave stories about desire and longing.”
In an interview a few years ago with the online site “Where the Questions Live,” Williams also said “My goal is to reach a deeper understanding of the natural world we live in, one lichen at a time, and also to tell stories about the landscapes that we have and that we’re in danger of losing.”
Aside from exhibiting her work or taking part in artist residencies at places such as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Hersbruck Museum in Germany, and the Vermont Studio Center, Williams has worked with scientists in a number of locations. Today she is also a lecturer in art at Smith College.
Also on view this month in the front room at PULP Gallery is work by Frederique Q.R. Zacharia.
Oxbow Gallery, Easthampton — Spring being here, this might be an especially good time to check out the work of Janet Palin, a longtime Oxbow Gallery member and landscape painter whose new show, “Open Spaces,” centers on panoramas of Iceland and New Mexico.
Palin says she spent years as an oil painter, concentrating on portraits and still life work. But a trip to Iceland in the late 1990s led her to switch to landscapes, using pastels and often painting en plein air.
In work such as “Late light, West Fjords,” she offers a snapshot of Iceland’s rugged beauty, in which stark, treeless mountains form a backdrop to a softer view in the foreground of grass and the waters of a tidal inlet, lit in one place by a ray of the setting sun.
“So Far” captures an expansive scene from New Mexico, with the view extending from small bushes and trees across a colorful patchwork of fields to an impressive range of purplish-gray mountains, the peaks dressed by puffy clouds and glimpses of blue sky.
Palin’s exhibit also includes more intimate landscapes from New England.
Work by abstract expressionist oil painter Elizabeth Myerson, titled “See What I Say,” is on display in Oxbow’s back gallery.
Burnett Gallery, Amherst — Bernice Massé Rosenthal made her mark as an inventive sculptor of assemblages, using wood, recycled materials and in some cases paper. As the Amherst artist once wrote, “Finding curious discarded pieces is the grist for my art mill and the inspiration for new creations.”
Rosenthal, who put herself through Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts while working as a nurse, died in January 2022 from complications from COVID-19 despite having been vaccinated and boosted. This month, the Burnett Gallery at Jones Library is hosting a retrospective exhibit to showcase her unique art.
The solo exhibition offers selections of her work covering a period of some 50 years. Her painted wood assemblages, especially some of her later work, were designed to be interactive: displayed in different orientations, manipulated by viewers, or set in motion by touch.
Rosenthal, born in 1938, worked at different scales, making freestanding sculptures for outdoor display, others that could be mounted on walls, as well as smaller ones that could be placed on a table or bookshelf.
Originally involved in painting and in stone sculpture, Rosenthal later trained as a paper conservator and worked in the conservation and trade of antiquarian maps, which led her in turn to design paper collage.
Gallery A3, Amherst — Leverett artist Karen Iglehart, who says Buddhism informs some of her work — one goal is “to eliminate what seems unnecessary” — is featured this month in a show titled “Becoming Form,” a collection of abstract oil paintings and photographs.
Iglehart says she explores the emergence of form in the layering of color. Though she’s primarily a painter, she says she’s included photographs taken in Gloucester and Venice that inspired and relate to her recent oil paintings.
Influenced both by abstract expressionists and colorists including Richard Diebenkorn and Fritz Scholder, Ingelhart’s new work includes paintings such as “Boat Series Red and Gold,” three small boats viewed from the side, including one with a small sail, set against a muted gray backdrop.
Meanwhile, up the road north a bit, Leverett Crafts & Art this month is offering “Over Under and Through the Warp,” a showcase of work by over 40 established tapestry weavers as well as newcomers to the fiber arts.
According to publicity notes, the show “emphasizes the versatility and adaptability of this age-old medium for a modern audience.”
“When we tell people we are tapestry weavers, the first image that comes to mind is a medieval wall covering with unicorns hanging in a castle,” says weaver Martha May. “Our goal is to dispel this thinking and treat the viewer to a contemporary body of work using the same techniques used by weavers of the past.”
Michelson Galleries, Northampton — Children’s book author and illustrator Mo Willems is getting some maximum exposure this month in his adopted hometown, as R. Michelson Galleries features his work in two exhibits: “20 Years of Pigeon” and “Wrecked Tangles.”
The former show highlights artwork and other material from Willems’ children’s books, including the “Pigeon” series, which began in 2003 with “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus,” a Caldecott Honor title.
“Wrecked Tangles” features Willems’ abstract artwork, from paintings to doodles to sculptures, some of it reflecting the “stresses of the past year,” such as a drawing of what looks like a shark fin that’s titled “Triangle Under Too Much Pressure.”
Proceeds from both shows will benefit Empty Arms Bereavement Support through the Mo and Cher Willems Foundation.