Holub salon brings together Pioneer Valley artists
Tuesday, Jan. 19, the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s chancellor, Robert Holub, and his wife, Sabine Holub, opened their home to both artists and art enthusiasts alike for the fourth monthly Hillside salon. At 6 p.m. that night, approximately 60 guests mingled and settled within a half an hour to enjoy the presentations of five local artists.
Artists included Photographer Mary Frey, Printmaker Anita Hunt, Video Artist Fraser Stables, Designer Anja Schutz, and Art Director Lillianna Pereira. Sabine Holub welcomed guests to the “informal and non-academic event.” From there, each artist was given 20 seconds to show 20 views of his or her work, a total of about 6.5 minutes per artist. Thirty minutes of group discussion and more mingling followed the presentation.
Mary Frey started the show, portraying her progression through black and white photographs to colored photos accompanied by text. Her subjects included everything from kids playing Monopoly, to owls, to close-ups, and nakedness. She described her work as “strange, ghostly, and beautiful.”
Anita Hunt stepped up next, and enlightened the crowd on her printmaking processes, explaining that she has eliminated all solvents and acids (and now uses less toxic materials). She focuses her art on ecosystems and local habitats, deliberately taking her photos out of focus to “leave room for invention in the final process.”
Fraser Stables showed video clips and pictures of his subject, Scott, “an aging rocker” who talks about applying makeup before an 80’s concert. Stables explained his interest in metaphors, saying there are many “metaphors in one’s own environment.” Examples from his slides included Scott repeatedly standing by the refrigerator, tattoos, colored hair, and Spiderman and wrestling posters.
Anja Schutz’s art inspired much interest among viewers, as she focused on her designs for many businesses including “The Lady Killigrew” and “The Rednezvous.” Her simple, 60’s-modern style drawings can be found on billboards, t-shirts, posters and books as well, including “A Night for Mingus and Mong” and “Sex for America.” “I like quirky things,” said Schutz, which was clearly demonstrated on her business card.
Lillianna Pereira nervously finished the presentation, demonstrating her interest in collage. “I’m very good at drawing the human figure, although they’re mostly muscular and unusual,” she said, explaining her comic book inspiration. Her work was “very autobiographical,” portraying many girls looking in mirrors or out windows.
In a very relaxed setting, Sabine started the discussion, and artists answered both honestly and jokingly. Schutz noted that in school, her “report card always said, ‘Anja is fantastic in art, but needs to pay more attention in class.’” Stables, a Scotland native, explained his start in the arts: “In Scotland, if you’re not good at anything else, you do art.” Pereira said she got into collage because “I like to get my hands dirty.”
Sabine Holub was very pleased with the evening’s progression. It was an “intimate setting,” she said, explaining that it good to have “access to the artists” (as opposed to in a gallery or museum).
Sabine Holub explained that the point of art is not to interpret it, but to “just enjoy it.” “Some art I can relate more to,” she said, “some, I go ‘What the heck is that?’ You keep an openness and that’s sort of fun, too.”
Rebecca Dufault, executive assistant for the Holubs, said she was very excited to help organize the event. “It’s very comfortable,” she described it. She added that the last salon, held in November at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, went smoothly as well.
Chancellor Holub said the salons “are always at a very high level.” He added that it is “a good thing for community relations” and has “been very well received by everyone.” The chancellor had no problem opening his home to the public. He explained “part of the function of this house is to welcome [the community and University for] academic and artistic endeavors”.
UMass Amherst professor of electrical and computer engineering, Baird Soules, having previously attended a salon, described this particular event as “very inspiring,” and gravitated towards Schutz’s graphic design.
Hunt said the event was a “very different combination” of artists and styles, and noted the many “diverse approaches” to the presentations. She admired the community, saying that she enjoyed being part of a big presentation. “Really, very satisfying,” she said.
Sabine Holub crafted the idea of the Hillside salon with the University Gallery’s director, Loretta Yarlow, Education Curator, Eva Fierst, and one of the Fine Arts Center’s board of directors, Kevin Chrobak. The event was based off of the ‘salons’ held by well-regarded wives in their living rooms intended to entertain the local community, starting in the 18th Century. The idea originated in 1780s Berlin, and spread throughout Western Europe during the Enlightenment. Sabine Holub explained that these gatherings were basically “networking events.”
Sabine Holub noted that she met many “cool artists” a year and a half ago when she was welcomed to the Pioneer Valley. She specified the creator of “Rhymes with Orange” comics, as well as a Tiffany Lamp maker. Ms. Holub said it was a good way for “a nobody like me, not knowing anybody” to meet people of common interests. She wanted to apply the mix of interest and networking to “this house that lends itself to entertaining.”
The salons are free to guests. Sabine Holub added, “We like to keep it fresh. We invite artists of all sorts of genres” from all over the Pioneer Valley. She noted that the artists at Tuesday’s event are “quite renowned” and “have won numerous awards.”
Hillside salons are held every month on the third Tuesday at 150 Chancellor’s Drive in Amherst. Space is limited, and guests can reserve a seat online at www.hillsidesalon.org. It is a first-come, first-serve basis.
The campus’ hotel management catered the event. They served free wine, hors d’oeuvres, sushi and pastries. Soft piano accompanied the sociable atmosphere. Various still-life, cubism, and abstract paintings, as well as funky vases and assorted books, adorned the Holub’s home, a look that Dufault described as Sabine’s “clean, modern” style.
Angela Hilsman can be reached at email@example.com.