Featured Destination: John Burroughs Estates

Slabsides, West Park 

Naturalist John Burroughs built his log cabin in West Park, Ulster County in 1895, in the Adirondack style. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968, the cabin retains most of its original furnishings, and is open to the public year round. Slabsides is one mile east of Riverby, Burroughs’ main residence. The naturalist wrote some of his most celebrated essays while at Slabsides. He also wrote extensively at Riverby, as well as the Woodchuck Lodge in Roxbury, Delaware County, in the Western Catskill Mountains.

Since 1993 John Burroughs Association has honored authors, illustrators and publishers of nature writing by awarding three annual awards: John Burroughs Medal, John Burroughs Nature Essay Award, and Riverby Awards. The Awards Ceremony takes place every year in April at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Burroughs Drive, West Park, NY 12493

(845) 384-6320

For more information, visit


Woodchuck Lodge. © Simona David

Woodchuck Lodge, Roxbury 

Woodchuck Lodge, also known as John Burroughs Memorial State Historic Site, was built in the 1860s in the rustic farmhouse style, in Roxbury, Delaware County. It was Burroughs’ summer residence from 1910 to 1921. Burroughs is best known for his collections of nature essay such Wake Robin (1871), and Signs and Seasons (1886). The naturalist writer was friends with many luminaries including President Theodore Roosevelt, industrialist Henry Ford, inventor Thomas Edison, and poet Walt Whitman. Burroughs went to school with financier Jay Gould.

Born in Roxbury on April 3, 1837, he died in 1921, five days before his 84th birthday. He is buried at Boyhood Rock, where he used to play as a child, right next to the Woodchuck Lodge.

Guided tours are offered the first weekend of the month from May to October. Special events and talks are organized the first Saturday of the month, as part of the Wild Saturday series.

1633 Burroughs Memorial Road, Roxbury, NY 12474

For more information and current hours of operation, visit


John Burroughs’ Signs & Seasons. © Simona David

Bird Note dedicated an entire program to Burroughs this Sunday, January 21, 2018. Listen to the transcript at:



Books We Love: Peggy Guggenheim, The Shock of the Modern by Francine Prose

Peggy Guggenheim: The Shock of the Modern (2015)

By Francine Prose, Yale University Press, 211 pp.


Best-selling author Francine Prose, known for nonfiction titles like Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and Reading Like a Writer, wrote a heartfelt biography of Peggy Guggenheim, influential art collector, and early promoter of Modernism in America. Well-ahead of her time, Peggy developed a taste for the avant-garde and unconventional that followed her throughout the entire life. She altered the course of art history in an unprecedented manner by meticulously pursuing new styles and supporting emerging artists.

Born in New York City in August 1898 to a wealthy family, Peggy Guggenheim developed an interest in art at an early age. Her father, Benjamin Guggenheim, perished on the Titanic in 1912, leaving Peggy with a comfortable inheritance. Her mother Florette Seligman, who came from a prominent banking family, also left Peggy with a considerable inheritance, allowing for a sophisticated, privileged lifestyle.

“A Guggenheim, or a Strauss, or a Seligman was expected to be meticulously well mannered and to avoid anything that might be considered ostentatious or vulgar,” explains Francine Prose in her biography of Peggy Guggenheim (p. 37).

As a child, Peggy traveled frequently to Europe with her mother Florette where they stayed at stylish hotels, and learned about art, French history, British literature, and German opera, explains Prose.

In 1920 Peggy moved back to Europe, “in a frenzy to see great art.” “She knew where every important painting was located and insisted on seeing them all” (p. 60).

From 1922 to 1928 Peggy was married to Laurence Vail, a French-born American playwright, novelist, and painter who belonged to the Dada movement. Peggy’s life, relates Prose, had “periods of intense travel interrupted by interludes during which she established and oversaw large bohemian households in Paris, in London, and in rural beauty spots in England and France” (p. 17).

After her failed marriage with Vail, Peggy engaged in notorious affairs with playwright Samuel Beckett, sculptor Constantin Brancusi, and Surrealist painter Max Ernst, whom she married in 1941 – the marriage would end in divorce five years later.

Peggy’s uncle Solomon Guggenheim, who also was an avid collector of modern art, might have been an inspiration to Peggy: Solomon and his mistress, artist and art advisor Baroness Hilla von Rebay opened The Museum of Non-Objective Painting in New York in 1937 to display Solomon’s growing collection which included works by Kandinsky, Chagall, Picasso, and many others. As the collection kept growing, the effort eventually led to the opening of Guggenheim Museum in 1959 at its current location on Fifth Avenue in a building designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

While in Europe, Peggy opened Guggenheim Jeune gallery in London in 1938, an unfortunate time, as WWII was about to break out the following year. Peggy had traveled to Paris the year before to secure art for the opening show. She had hoped to open the gallery with an exhibition dedicated to Constantin Brancusi, but the Romanian sculptor was out of town at the time, and Peggy turned her attention to Jean Cocteau. Guggenheim Jeune opened in January 1938 with a show dedicated to Cocteau – the gallery would close in August 1939 due to the war outbreak. In fact, Peggy had plans to open an art museum in London in the fall of 1939, when the war broke, and she had to return to New York.

In June 1941 Peggy and her family sailed from Marseille to New York, bringing with them Peggy’s significant collection of modern art which included 150 works by artists such as Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, Braque, Miro, Dali, Magritte, Giacometti, Brancusi, and Max Ernst, works that could have not safely remained in Europe. At first, Peggy had hoped that the Louvre Museum in Paris might have sheltered some of the works, but the museum directors considered the art “too modern to merit saving,” as Prose relates.

Back in New York, Peggy opened Art of This Century gallery, which shortly became the city’s cultural center. The gallery functioned from 1942 to 1947, when Peggy returned to Europe. Alexander Calder, Georgia O’Keefe, and Jackson Pollock frequented the space which was at once “a cultural landmark and a tourist attraction” (p. 137). Peggy helped launch Pollock’s career at Art of this Century – the artist showed four times at the gallery during its existence, and drew the attention of art critics such as Robert Coates at the New Yorker, and Clement Greenberg at The Nation.

In 1943 the gallery hosted the first exhibition of collages in the United States. Also, “among the most remarkable aspects of Art of This Century,” writes Prose, “was the unusual amount of attention paid to women artists” (p. 140). She goes on to say: “equally striking is how few of these women – Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, and Leonora Carrington – went on to develop careers and reputations remotely approaching those of their male contemporaries” (p. 141).

In addition to promoting emergent artists, as Prose relates, the gallery “was used as a background for fashion shoots in Vogue and Glamour, and was the subject of a photo feature in the New York Times Magazine” (p. 138).

In 1946, when Peggy was 48 years old, she published her memoir Out of This Century, which Prose calls “a remarkable document.” “It is hard to think of an important visual artist from the first half of the twentieth century who does not appear in its pages, in the company of an impressive number of celebrated novelists, memoirists, and poets” (p. 11). Several pages are dedicated to Peggy’s “battle to acquire Brancusi’s Bird in Space.”

In 1947 Peggy returned to Europe, and bought Palazzo Vernier dei Leoni in Venice. Her collection was swiftly included in the 24th Venice Biennale in 1948, one of the most prestigious art shows in the world. Afterwards, the collection traveled to Florence, Milan, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Zurich, before returning to Venice in 1951, and being permanently housed at Palazzo Vernier dei Leoni. Among luminaries spending time with Peggy while in Venice, Prose mentions Surrealist painter Marc Chagall, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, and experimental composer John Cage.

In 1969 Guggenheim Museum in New York showed a large part of Peggy’s collection, which remains one of the most important in the world. To learn more about Peggy Guggenheim Collection, visit https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/site/peggy-guggenheim-collection.

Book Reading Event at Roxbury General

Novelist Annie DeWitt and photographer Jerome Jakubiec spoke about their widely praised books “White Nights in Split Town City” and “I Actually Wore This: Clothes We Can’t Believe We Bought” at Roxbury General on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 25 this year.

© 2017 Simona David

The Los Angeles Review of Books depicts “White Nights in Split Town City” as “the story of what it means to feel desired and plugged into what surrounds us, and how this informs our identities from a very young age.” The book was released by Tyrant Books in August 2016.

The New Yorker describes “I Actually Wore This” as “Funny and surprisingly touching, revealing much about our moments of bold, optimistic self-assertion and their aftermath.” The book was released by Rizzoli in March 2017.

Both books are available at Roxbury General along with a vast array of merchandise from clothing and ceramics to sweets and holiday decorations.

© 2017 Simona David
© 2017 Simona David
© 2017 Simona David
© 2017 Simona David
© 2017 Simona David
© 2017 Simona David

DeWitt and Jakubiec live and work in Roxbury.


The Irish Hunger Memorial Re-Opens to the Public

The Irish Hunger Memorial. Contributed Photo.

The Irish Hunger Memorial, a public art project designed by sculptor Brian Tolle in Battery Park City, re-opened to the public late last summer after undergoing major renovations to address damage caused by water infiltration in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Originally built in the early 2000s, the monument opened for the first time on July 16, 2002. Roberta Smith from The New York Times described the monument as a “typically postmodern blend of existing art styles — Realism, Conceptual Art and Earth Art — bound together by historical fact and physical accuracy.”

A methodical thinker, Tolle had spent plenty of time in Ireland doing research for this project which occupies half of acre overlooking the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. The centerpiece is an 1820s stone cottage brought from Ireland. Also, stones from Ireland’s 32 counties and Irish flora were incorporating into the project, a reminder of the Great Irish Famine of 1845-52.

Tolle had installed two miles of historical references on the base of the Memorial, in the form of a lightning shadow. The text, lit from behind with the shadow cast on glass, is changed and updated periodically, so visitors approaching the Memorial on one day might happen to read a Quaker soup recipe that was used to help starving people in Ireland in 1847, and on another day statistics about the amount of dog food consumed in the United States. The artist believes that this textural engagement with the Memorial ultimately shapes visitors’ visceral experience as they move through the monument itself.

With sculptor Brian Tolle in his studio in Roxbury, New York. © Simona David

Tolle, who teaches a course on public art at Parsons, is alert to the fact that art shown in a museum or a gallery space is dedicated to a captive audience, an audience of interested gallery or museum goers. When it comes to public art, the artist explains: “There is no way of controlling, nor would you want to control the audience in a public space, so you never know who is going to come across a project, and how they might respond to it.” With that in mind, the artist envisioned a memorial that trusts the intelligence of the audience in interpreting the event of the famine and its historic significance.

By its very nature, public art is free and accessible to anyone. When it blends well with its surroundings, it gives meaning and shapes the identity of the space. Public art is also a reminder of the shared community values and aspirational goals.

Tolle will lead a special tour of the Irish Hunger Memorial this Saturday, October 28 from 2 to 3 pm, and discuss the history of the Memorial, as well as its recent renovation. A staff horticulturalist will be on hand to discuss the Memorial’s native Irish plantings as well.

To learn more about this event, visit Facebook.

© artinthecatskills.com

Pressing Cider at Hubbell Family Farm

Pressing cider has been a cherished tradition at Hubbell Family Farm since 1870 when the family acquired a custom-made press manufactured in Syracuse. For the first 40 years, the press was powered by a steam engine, replaced in 1917 with a gasoline engine that still runs today, a hundred years later.

© Simona David
© Simona David
© Simona David
© Simona David
© Simona David
© Simona David

A popular fall activity and tourist attraction in the Catskills, the Hubbell press turns 1 bushel of apples into 3 gallons a cider in what seems to be a venerated ceremony for enthusiast spectators.

© Simona David
© Simona David
© Simona David
© Simona David
© Simona David
© Simona David
© Simona David
© Simona David
© Simona David

Custom pressing, by appointment only, takes place every Saturday throughout the month of October. To make an appointment, call Burr Hubbell at (845) 586-2707, ext. 3 during regular business hours Monday through Friday.

The mill is located at 46124 State Hwy 30, Margaretville, New York.

For more information, follow Hubbell Family Farm on Facebook.


Artists on Art Tour at Olana

Olana, home of 19th century landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church in Hudson, is hosting Artist on Art Tour, a series of guided tours through Olana under the tutelage of contemporary artists working in various disciplines. Artistic storytelling is a compelling part of Olana’s ongoing narrative. Participating artists offer a unique lens with which to “read” Olana, and experiment and invent with “poetic license” as they explore through their own artistic practice Church’s home and studio as well as this season’s exhibition.

Olana Estate. Contributed Photo.

This Friday, October 6 at 4:30 pm musician Carrie Bradley tours Olana, calling attention to the transitionary and the “in betweens,” with an element of live music inside Olana. Bradley combines text; music of which there is record that the Church family enjoyed by composers they hosted at Olana; and her own original songs to invoke specifically the evenings of music the Churches hosted at Olana and to refer in general to the sensual spirit of music and sound at the house. Bradley speculates that, “The house during those events became a place where the felt power of music resonated within a container for so much powerful visual art and artifact, and also was during those times, for a stolen moment, a public place when it was usually his private sanctuary. In a similar way, the songs seek to capture the interplay between the public and the private that I feel in the views from the upper reaches of the house—an intimate and personal seat from which to view the awe-inspiring reach of the river and the sky.”

Carrie Bradley is a fiction and creative nonfiction writer as well as a guitarist, violinist, and vocalist. She was a founding member of the alternative folk band Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, has played with the Breeders since 1989, has since had her own bands 100 Watt Smile and the Great Auk, and has performed and/or recorded with Tanya Donelly, Jonathan Richman, John Wesley Harding, Love & Rockets, the Red House Painters, the Buckets, and many others. She lives, gardens, cavorts, and mulls deep in the Catskill Mountains.

Carrie Bradley. Photo Credit: Dave Rubin.

This program expands on the ideas found on site in Teresita Fernandez’s installation “OVERLOOK: Teresita Fernández Confronts Frederic Church at Olana” throughout Olana State Historic Site (May 13 – November 1). The Olana Partnership’s Director of Education, Amy Hufnagel, describes the public program this way: “Artists and cultural workers can teach us about Olana in ways we might not have even imagined; they are, in so many ways, logical “guides” to understanding and unpacking Olana to the contemporary era. The Olana Partnership wants to expand the narrative of Olana, and to express a multiplicity of stories here. Teresita Fernandez’s installation and the exhibition – paired with local artist tours – allows for a whole new set of conversations to emerge.” This innovative tour program privileges the voices of contemporary women artists and cultural workers whose own creative pursuits often find voice in the sphere of the “overlooked.” In specific, Olana’s team works to elevating the voices of these contemporary women artists with the end goal to expand and enlarge the interpretation at Olana.

Olana is the greatest masterpiece of Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), the preeminent American artist of the mid-19th century. Church had a sustained interest in the Americas, resulting from his trips to Ecuador, Columbia, Mexico, and the Caribbean. In his own artwork depicting these landscapes and in the objects he collected throughout his life, Church’s passion for Latin America remains evident today. Church designed Olana as a holistic environment integrating his advanced ideas about art, architecture, landscape design, and environmental conservation. Olana’s 250-acre artist-designed landscape with a Persian-inspired house at its summit embraces unrivaled 360-degree views of the Hudson River Valley and beyond. Today Olana State Historic Site welcomes more than 170,000 visitors annually.

To learn more about Artist on Art Tour event, visit http://www.olana.org/calendar/.