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    "Slice of Humanity" opens at Nina's Nook February 1

    TURNERS FALLS — “Slice of Humanity” at Nina’s Nook in Turners Falls presents the work of five artists capturing the human figure using paints, brushes, markers, pens and mixed media collage: Robert Bent, Suzanne Conway, Lauren Paradise, Jeff Wrench, and gallery owner/artist Nina Rossi. A wide variety of figural work is represented, each artist working their inimitable style to fill the walls of the Valley’s smallest gallery.

    Robert Bent of Greenfield paints using a loose brush stroke, sometimes incorporating pastels and charcoal into impressionistic paintings that retain a certain lovely openness about them. Bent explains,  “For the most part I take my work in a representational trajectory running along an expressionist/modernist/abstract spectrum. I like to consider my painting and drawing as aiming for non-fictional expression, revealing my decisions about mark-making and my multiple responses to the chosen subjects. I recognize that there are certainly fictional (abstracted) components in individual pieces.” He intends for these explorations, responses and perceptions  to “reveal the questions and tensions flowing from that process.” Mostly self-taught and with several stints in art school, Bent believes that “painting records, in a form of visual poetry, the practitioners placement in the world, in community, in what is recognized as reality. Putting color and line on canvas becomes a form of verse with each painter’s dialect revealing the artist’s development and the experience of knowing.” 

    Suzanne Conway of  Colrain is a humor illustrator, and her drawings are notable for the expressive lines. “I have always had ‘twitchy’ hands,” she explains, “with an insatiable desire to draw humans, usually humans in motion, at rest, thinking, dancing, playing, bumping around in crowds.” 

    Although she studied International Relations at Mt. Holyoke College,  and received a Masters in Education at UMass Amherst,  “my passion for Art always drowned out any drive towards any ‘high-powered career’…  My college notebooks were always littered with human torsos, breasts, expressions, legs, etc.   Later on, as I paid my bills working in law office cubicles, I continued to ‘spit out’ humans in motion on post-notes, message pads, etc. throughout the years.” 

    Growing up in a boisterous family of 11, she became an illustrator at the young age of three and has sought to master the art of cartooning ever since. Her keen eye captures the personality of each subject and the general mood of everyday scenes with loving detail.

    Lauren Paradise lived in the Valley for fifteen years and although she is now living on a mill pond in the Midwest, she maintains her many ties to Western Mass. She grew up in Rome, Italy and was taken to many concerts, galleries, museums, operas as her family traveled all over the world. She attended art schools in London, England and Urbino, Italy and studied under Malio Guberti Helfrich, a family friend. She draws inspiration from the work of  Bonnard, Matisse, Utrillo, Beckmann and Vladimir Naiditch. 

    Says Lauren, “I cannot imagine life without painting. I hope that people fall a bit in love with my made up characters and scenes of life as I see it.” Her small scale paintings are populated by people doing ordinary things—sitting in cafes, waiting by phones, waitressing, singing on stage, drinking coffee, laughing with friends. She uses expressive dry brush outlines and blocks of color to make up her compositions, which are reminiscent of story boards for a worldly writer such as Collette. 

    Jeff Wrench is a relative new-comer to the Valley, moving to Northampton from Connecticut last summer. He is a experimental musician (or noisician) under the name Brutum Fulmen as well as a painter. Says Wrench, “I like to examine the things we see every day, which are often taken for granted and may have a beauty that is overlooked. This includes making paintings of average (non-celebrity) people, and the incorporation of found materials such as paint chips and wallpaper samples. Likewise, I draw attention to the paint itself by using heavy brush strokes and colors that may not necessarily conform to reality. These techniques and the use of ‘ready-made’ surfaces create opportunities for serendipity.” 

    He points out that people are most interested in other humans as subject matter, and seeks to capture the shared human experience. His music parallels his attention to the ordinary and the found by composing with “noises of ordinary objects which make sounds that are usually only ignored.” 

    Nina Rossi is exhibiting her geometric interpretations of the figure in several drawings, sculpture and mixed media constructions.  The unusual divisions represented by her pen create an architectural blueprint that also somehow remains faithful to the character of the subject. In addition to the abstract figure studies, Rossi presents expressive line drawings depicting local people working their jobs: fixing motorcycles and snowblowers, working at the DPW, the bank, farms, restaurants, stores, and other mundane  scenes.  A handful of acrylic portraits done on cardboard pizza rounds depict locals who used the Millers Falls laundromat during a week in August. 

    Gallery hours are: Thursday, Friday, Saturday from noon until 5 p.m. or by appointment: 413-834-8800. Nina’s Nook is located at 125A Avenue A in Turners Falls, next to the Black Cow Burger Bar. The “Slice of Humanity” exhibit will run from February 1 through March 31. Visit online at

     Untitled by RObert Bent

    Portrait on a paint chip by Jeff Wrench

    Acrobats by Suzanne Conway

     Evening Walk by Lauren Paradise


    Figure drwaing by Nina Rossi

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