NORTH ADAMS -- Artist Ven Voisey originally came to the city in 2003 with the intention of staying for the duration of a three-month stint as the manager of the former Contemporary Artist Center's artist residency program.
"I ended up staying and becoming interim co-director of the CAC with Heather "Hezzie" (Philips) Johanson. We ended up really liking this area," he said Friday. "We came out initially with a car full of stuff and three months later finagled our way into getting stuff sent out to us on a half-empty truck coming out here."
Over the last nine years, he's worked and lived in the Berkshires in some fashion, but in August he'll bow out for the last time, as he packs up and heads home to California prior to starting a year-long residency at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence program in Roswell, N.M.
But before he leaves, Voisey will treat area residents to a final solo show, "VS.," opening at MCLA Gallery 51 on Thursday, from 6 to 9 p.m., as part of DownStreet Art.
It's an exhibition he believes shows the evolution of his work and time in the Berkshires -- from a sound installation artist to visual artist towards a mix of installation and visual works.
"In some sense, I'm going back towards installation work," Voisey said. "I'm dealing with the gallery as an installation space. I've always been interested in applying and shaping a space through sound. Over the past couple of years, I've been trying to
He said the show has "a lot to do with the battles between an individual's internal and external worlds and the battles that occur."
The centerpiece of the show is "ritual object/item #01203001," a 5-foot-tall, illuminated photograph of a young woman displaying the skin of a coyote draped over her forearm that Voisey found on eBay.com.
"I often go to eBay to look at the section on animal parts, not because I want to buy them, but because I often enjoy the imagery. It's an endeavor at real honest absurdity -- there's this whole realm of aesthetics to the picture -- often females presenting some animal part for sale," he said.
Another major part of the exhibition is "Five Year Plan," a 70-foot long dog/bear shaped into an oroboros (traditionally a snake that eats itself), that is lying on a diamond-shaped bench.
The creature breathes slowly, as it consumes itself, listening to a tape player emitting sounds of humans making dog barks and growls.
"Certainly it speaks to the idea of creating our own cycles and manufactured destinies," Voisey said. "Working for an educational institution, there's this continual questioning and speaking about it. It's a bizarre way to think about life [in five-year cycles]. Theshow really has a lot to do with archetypal struggles and how we are metaphors for our own existence."
The show, he said, shows off the evolution of his work while living here, a process that goes back to his decision to stay in the city after concluding his initial three-month position at the CAC.
"I was attracted to the area because it was and still is an amazing place to develop art," he said. "When I came here, I wasn't much of a visual artist. I was working primarily with sound and installation art. There were these big, open, empty spaces that not a lot of people were doing anything with. All the energy and potential of experimenting with that realm is what I found really exciting."
In addition to working for the CAC, he's also held positions at Mass MoCA, the Clark Art, and Images Cinema.
For seven years, he lived in the city part-time and spent the winters at home with his family in California. In 2007, Voisey actually packed up and left the Berkshires, but after about six months away, returned to work on a project for Greylock Arts and later received a commission for an installation from the City of Pittsfield.
"All these opportunities were lining up for me," he said. "I had been involved with MCLA Gallery 51 since its inception, participating in shows and sitting in the gallery, but then I had an opportunity to become the gallery manager, which I've been doing for the last 3 1 2 years. Once I got the job, it kept me a lot more local."
But Voisey said he's felt the need to transition into the next phase of his career for the last year or so.
"I've been searching for a while, looking at graduate schools and wanting to move back west," he said. "A few things happened that drew the line for me: my desire to move back west and then I landed this residency. I've applied for it twice. It's a residency that provides a monthly stipend, a studio and a place to live. I'll be able to just work on my art for a year."
"VS." runs through July 22. For more information about the show, visit www.mcla. edu/gallery51. For more on Voisey's work, visit http://v
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email