Pajama Factory Guided Open Studio Tour

Today I attended the first guided open studio tour at the Pajama Factory. I always keep my eye out for any opportunity to check out the Pajama Factory. So far I have seen a couple of plays there and I still remember a burlesque extravaganza which was really cool. But otherwise I have neglected to attend many of their public events. This open studio tour appears to be an attempt to get the community more involved in the arts community at the Pajama Factory. Unfortunately, less than ten people showed up for the tour so there does not seem to be much interest. But that did make for a reasonably sized tour group.

The Pajama Factory is a massive complex of brick buildings in a residential area which used to be involved in the manufacture of clothing like pajamas and underwear. The shop floors have been converted into various artist studios which have a creepy industrial aesthetic. The staircases in particular still seem haunted with their industrial decrepitude. This is a space that has been put to new uses and that complements the artwork which is also made of materials put to new uses.

Brian Spies did not show up to conduct the tour so we were shown around by artist Joanne Landis instead. First we saw her artwork hanging on various hallway walls which served as her gallery. Then we saw her studio which had a view of the back alley. I especially liked her large, elaborate paintings based on The Odyssey. Three of her larger canvases were in a new gallery space, a darkened room we looked into through some hallway windows. This made an interestingly creepy impression because the vibrant images were sealed away in another room. Peering into an unfinished space to view art is like peering into the creative mind which hasn’t put its imagery out into the world yet.

I don’t remember if we visited the Factory Works Gallery first or after Joanne Landis’s studio, but this seems to be the place where the Pajama Factory has its exhibitions. The exhibits change every month and are open to the public so this might be my best opportunity to see art at the Pajama Factory more often. The current exhibition was collages by Ana Vizcarra Rankin, an artist based in Philadelphia. I picked up a catalog and a pamphlet entitled Williamsport PA Gallery Guide. I didn’t think Williamsport had enough art galleries to need a guide but there was one, Gallery 425, which I had never heard of and I guess I should finally visit the Gallery at Penn College some day.

Next we saw the Factory Works Clay Studio. This studio provides kilns, clay, and glazes for anyone wishing to work with clay or make pottery. I have not seen clay since kindergarten. This reminds me that we are often introduced to many forms of creativity during our education only to lose all sight of them after graduation. It is sad how your world narrows to encompass nothing besides your career and a few interests. One of the reasons I love travel is that is restores novelty to life but you also have to actively seek out novelty to avoid a stagnation of your imagination.

After that we visited the Bicycle Recycle studio where old bikes are restored and sold to the public at a discount. This was not particularly arts related but I suppose it represented creative re-use of old materials, but without transformation. There is an excellent bike path behind my house but I have not used it all summer.

Then there was a break for refreshments but there was nothing on offer except coffee at Way Cool Beans. I went back to my car to leave the catalog and brochure I was carrying there and then used the restroom before heading into Way Cool Beans. Way Cool Beans is a coffee shop located in the Pajama Factory. They did not seem to have anything except coffee and tea, no pastries or baked goods, but otherwise it looked like a nice place to chill. Way Cool Beans looks like a cool community space, like a lounge area, but not a full-fledged coffee shop.

When the tour resumed we visited the Factory Works Photo Lab which offers a public dark room. Photography is one of my major creative pursuits but I am exclusively into digital photography. Technically I don’t take photos as art, but to document my world as I explore it. I’ve been taking a lot of photos of small towns in Pennsylvania. Since I photograph many buildings and establishments which nobody else notices or bothers to photograph you could say it is an expression of my capacity to find aesthetic pleasure in forlorn scenes. For example, I recently took some photos of the Station Gallery in Lock Haven, a former railroad station being used as an art gallery. I heard it mentioned many times during the tour. But has anyone ever bothered to take a photo of this refurbished railroad station? Apparently not because I could not find a single decent photo of the place online.

Next we went to the studio of Chris Hayward. Chris does freelance writing, tarot readings, Reiki healing, and fortune telling with runes. I was a bit surprised that she could afford to maintain a studio for her freelance writing since that does not strike me as being very lucrative, but she also does tarot readings. I recently bought a pack of tarot cards and a book for learning how to read the cards. I don’t take tarot reading too seriously but it does tie into my interest in symbolism and Jungian psychology. She showed us some runes used for rune casting as a form of divination. I don’t know much about these runes but I did recently buy some Wardruna CDs, a shamanic Norwegian music group dedicated to creating musical renditions of Norse cultural and esoteric traditions. Their albums are based on the runes of Norse mythology. Chris Hayward also mentioned having written a play which was performed at the Pajama Factory. This was news to me but I have missed many performances of plays at the Pajama Factory which are poorly advertised. It must have been Alice, an Immersive Wonderland produced by Studio 570, a new theater company based in the Pajama Factory. The fact that this theater company could escape my attention is a sign of how mysterious the Pajama Factory can be to the surrounding community. We just don’t know what is going on there.

The next artist we saw was Todd Rice. I really liked Todd Rice’s work which includes references to horror and science fiction movies. I saw his many paintings based on Mexican folk art, aka┬áDay of the Dead, which included the silhouette of Godzilla on the horizon. I love Low-Brow Art and Pop Surrealism.

The final studio I saw was the Rita and Steve Bower studio. Rita Bower is a retired art teacher who still gives a few classes at the Pajama Factory and Steve Bower is a professional watercolor artist although much of his work seemed to be detailed drawings of trees. Apparently they like to travel and have done many paintings of Italian scenes which look very traditional.

In conclusion, the guided open studio tour was a fascinating glimpse of an art world which is hidden from me even though it exists right in my neighborhood. Unfortunately I was totally uncommunicative during the tour which is something I should work on. I didn’t reveal anything about myself. Recently I have been making some effort to combine my interest in art with my professional skills by learning how to make generative art using Processing. Processing is the main software tool in the creative coding community, artists using technology to create art. There are now art galleries devoted to technology based art like Bitforms Gallery on the Lower East Side and research groups like the School for Poetic Computation. I like Processing because it can run right in your browser using the JavaScript library version. Most modern browsers support WebGL and can perform sophisticated 2D and 3D graphics rendering.

Next week I am going on a two day Susquehanna Trailways bus trip to see Fallingwaters, the famous house designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

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