GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Around the property of the Glens Falls Shirt Factory – a hub for local artists and craftspeople – things are even more artsy than usual. This week, six artists have been bringing new color and fresh ideas to a set of shipping containers. One sits by Rock Hill Bakehouse & Cafe, and two more on the other side of Curran Lane.
It’s all part of Muralthon, part 1 of the Shirt Factory’s Muralgarten project. Building owner Eric Unkauf is still in talks with the Glens Falls Planning Board over the full breadth of the project, which he and co-organizer Hannah Williams hope to one day involve 30 or more murals, as well as walking paths and development to better showcase them between Curran Lane and the Cooper Street parking lot. Some artists are new to public art, others not – but for all of them, the space offers something special.
“It’s so rare to be able to do what you want to do in a public space like this,” said artist Lexi Hannah, holding a brush and pallette in front of a vision of lush jungle and wildlife. “I tried to think about what I love. I love nature, I love animals, and I love water. All of these guys could, theoretically, be in a jungle together.”
The “guys” in question are a parrot, leopard and snake, the lattermost of which Hannah was touching up as she spoke. Her square of shipping container comes to life with vibrant greens, mixing hand-painted leaves and ferns with stenciled patterns – making order into part of the chaos. Hannah has done murals for many businesses from Albany up to Clifton Park, but has rarely been given this much free reign.
A close look at the teeming wildlife shows some running splatters of paint trickling down the side of the surface. That’s not a result of temperatures in the 80s. The Albany-based artist is a fan of the life that a free-flung splatter of paint can give to her work – even if it comes with consequences.
“I was having too much fun flicking the paint,” she said – gesturing with a wrist covered in a brace. “I lost feeling in my hand for a bit. It’s coming back now.”
Across the way, Rodney Allen Bentley was at an earlier phase – adding to the chalk outline of a bird he plans to paint in bright colors. Bentley has been painting since a traumatic brain injury about 9 years ago. The incident left him with speech and cognitive issues, and he took to working on art at Spot Coffee on Glen Street. It wasn’t long before he attracted an audience.
“Every day I would sit there and draw pictures – and then I realized people wanted to buy them,” Bentley recalled. “Children would come in with their parents, and the children would watch what I was doing, and it evolved.”
Today, Bentley’s work can be found in homes around the country, as well as in France and England. Spot Coffee has featured his art on its own walls, making him a true resident downtown artist.
Despite all of that growth, an outdoor surface on metal is new territory for the Glens Falls native. He plans to call this work “Orb” – in reference to a white orb in the upper right corner, hanging just over the head of his bird-in-progress. Bentley says the orb’s purpose is to give viewers something to derive their own meaning from.
Next to Bentley along the same crate, Jenny Hutchinson is also in new territory – but she’s made it familiar. The abstract painter has been combining blues, oranges, yellows and soft purples with guidance from her own work. She’s recreating a peice she first painted – and parted with – 7 years ago.
“This one was sold almost immediately out of a gallery show,” said the artist. “I only had possession of it for about two weeks. That’s part of why I chose this image for this mural. It seemed appropriate, since it will be around for a while.”
Hutchinson’s work is inspired by the experience of kayaking, observing the blending of sunlight and natural color on still water at the right time of day. It’s particularly inspired by a view on Spier Falls, located along the Hudson River, just west of Moreau Lake State Park.
The mural project has a deadline of Aug. 10, and all three artists said they plan to work until the bitter end. Artists Anthony Richichi, Rachel Henrich, and Jade Warrick. Nearby, artist and Muralgarten co-organizer Hannah Williams is working on a new mural of her own, on the backside of 182 Maple St.