TROY — Second Street is becoming more of a destination for visual arts and artists with the addition of two galleries.
The most recent to open is at 344 Second St., which features the exhibit “The Other Virus,” highlighting works from local artists that reflect on some of the ripple effects of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as issues like police violence and sexual assault.
The space is run by artist Jean Tansey and her partner, musician Matt Warner.
“I was very active in the Kingston art community and enjoyed many evenings at friends’ storefronts, which is what inspired me to purchase the storefront at 344 Second Street in the Osgood Neighborhood,” Tansey said. “… I loved the vibe and wanted to be part of what was changing here in this lovely, walkable city.”
She and Warner found the storefront space on Second Street more than three years ago and have been renovating it ever since. “The Other Virus,” which opened last weekend, is their first exhibit, though they have a growing number of ideas for other community events and exhibits.
“My husband being a musician . . . and myself being an artist, we’re thinking of this as a gathering place for artists, musicians and other thoughtful folk,” Tansey said.
“The Other Virus” is certainly a good place to start. It begins right at the front windows, with works by Rebecca A. Flis and Star Herrera.
The former’s work takes objects like goggles, gloves and a bottle of hand sanitizer which have become quite ubiquitous amidst the pandemic, and presents them in cast iron. The piece, called “Relics of 2020,” reflects on the juxtaposition of preservation and decay, a common theme in the artist’s work.
In the other window, Herrera’s work features white bedsheets strung across the ceiling, twisting and hanging down. Words from survivors of sexual assault are printed on them, with found rubble beneath. Called “Comfort Zone,” the work is both subtle and shocking.
Inside, one is greeted by a large metal bug-like sculpture, featuring antennae and holding weapons in each appendage. Titled “I Ask Not What Can I Do For My Country, But What Will My Country Do For Me?” (by Steven Rolf Kroeger) the piece reflects on police violence.
Further along in the exhibition is a painting by Tansey featuring Melania and Donald Trump, with Melania walking ahead of him. The piece is called “Unmasked, POTUS and FLOTUS,” touches on how politicized masks have become. Another work, called “CUTTINGS” by Carolyn DiFiori Hopkins reveals black and white images on or inlaid in white cardboard.
“The intent is to pose questions while intentionally providing few answers in a provocative didactic manner. Addressing questions of COVID-19, BLM, conflicts, revolution, social change, and human rights activism: these works are political re-constructions or pastiches,” reads the artist’s statement.
Not too far away is a striking abstract piece from Michelle Bowen, who uses a “Huelitic Code” to create not only images but words. Each color is associated with a letter so that with a few stripes of paint Bowen spells out the words “fake” and “real.” These are placed inside the word “news.” While the majority of the work features vibrant shades of blue, pink and green, there are bits of another painting peeking through. According to Bowen, the base painting is a fake that was purchased on eBay and marketed as “real and authentic.”
The work has been a conversation starter, even for visitors who wouldn’t typically have an appreciation for visual art, according to Tansey.
For artist and guest curator Andrea LaRose, Bowen’s work hits a sweet spot, appealing to both artists and those who wouldn’t normally appreciate abstract work.
“Abstract art gets a really bad rap from non-artists. . . . It’s hard to enter. Someone who has an art background can appreciate [Bowen’s work] for composition, color, all of that other content. But someone who really wants to investigate can pick that up and read it. To be able to read art and get it is amazing. She’s reaching so many different audiences with one way of working,” LaRose said.
With this exhibition, LaRose wanted to include work from artists who typically work in a political framework, whether that meant social or personal.
“I didn’t want to limit it too much because what’s the point of that? Being an artist is about expressing yourself in whatever creative ways you have to. Some people are more heavy-handed than others, clearly, and that’s good . . . That’s kind of what I was thinking about for ‘The Other Virus’ It’s really important to support people who are still creating,” LaRose said.
She and DiFiori co-founded The Hallway at Second Street Studios, an exhibition space that opened just earlier this year. It’s an artist-run space in a non-traditional setting at 68 Second St. The Hallway, which is currently run by LaRose and Tom Brisson, is meant to provide an alternative exhibition space for under-represented artists of the Capital Region and it features exhibitions once a month, with sales going directly to the artists.
Of course, the pandemic interrupted the exhibition plans, and they had to pause those for a while, starting in-person exhibitions again in mid-summer. Yet, the pandemic and the new vocabulary that rose around it caused some other, deeper quandaries.
“. . . In March, April, May, everyone kept saying ‘nonessential’ and it hurt after a while. Are you saying art is nonessential? I think a lot of artists went back and forth: Am I valuable? What is my worth now? And that’s a hard conversation to have with yourself so it was so nice to go back in the space and just say you are valid. This is valid, whether or not you’re on the front lines defeating COVID, you are still doing something to engage your communities, to engage your friends, to better someone else’s life. That’s I think what we want to keep pursuing. We can’t stop,” LaRose said.
The two galleries are focused on fostering the arts community, and bringing artists together.
“I’m registered as a business but I have no interest in a for-profit [venture] or writing grants . . . we’re really a gathering place,” Tansey said.
“The Other Virus” will be up through Nov. 22 and viewings are available from 1-5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. There will be a closing celebration on Nov. 22 from 3-5 p.m. and many of the featured artists will be present. For more information visit 344 2nd Street on Facebook or 344secondstreettroy on Instagram.
For more information on The Hallway and Second Street Studios visit Second Street Studios on Facebook or Instagram.