Featured Destination: AMR Open Studios Tour 2015

Saturday and Sunday, July 25 – 26, 11 am to 5 pm, over twenty artists in Roxbury, Halcottsville, Margaretville, Arkville, and Pine Hill area will open their studios to the public, and show their working spaces. During the tour, artists working in all media will talk about their styles and techniques, and the process of making art. AMR (ArtTour Margaretville-Roxbury) Open Studios Tour, which launched in 2012, has been a great success, attracting a wide range of visitors summer after summer. Similar tours take place all over the country, as open studio tours have become quite popular among art lovers.

Peter Yamaoka and Gerda Van Leeuwen

Artists Peter Yamaoka and Gerda Van Leeuwen met in a Boston airport in the early 1980s as they were both traveling to and from Provincetown. They married three years later. Peter studied at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, while Gerda received a degree in art from the University of Utrecht in her native Netherlands. In college both Peter and Gerda studied painting. Later in their artistic careers, they specialized in printmaking: Peter chose lithographs, while Gerda directed her attention to etchings. Since moving to the Catskills in the early 1990s both artists switched to ceramics: Peter prefers voluminous mythology-inspired vases, while Gerda makes small porcelains inspired by animal life. In Tribeca Peter and Gerda operated a printmaking shop. In the Catskills, they opened a fully equipped ceramics studio, where they both work and teach classes. Gerda is also the executive director of the Longyear Gallery in Margaretville. Both artists have exhibited extensively in New York City and throughout the Catskills.

Artist Peter Yamaoka in his studio
Artist Peter Yamaoka in his studio. © Simona David

Peter’s vases are inspired by ancient Chinese motifs, Greek mythology, Mexican folklore, and the Catskills scenery. All his vases are both functional and decorative at the same time: “they’re sculptures,” Peter tells me. They withhold on top whimsical cities or mythological figures, an invitation to imagining and exploring. He also makes dioramas, fully employing the narrative feature of this form of art. All his vases and bowls are hand-made out of clay, then fired on an electrical kiln, and glazed in expressive, telling ways.

Yamaoka showing a vase inspired by Greek mythology
Yamaoka showing a vase inspired by Greek mythology. © Simona David

Gerda makes small porcelains inspired by animal life – primarily dogs and coyotes that we ordinarily see in the Catskills. Her anthropomorphic approach often leads to scenes of dancing dogs in a very human-like posture – portrayals that remind me of Matisse’s Dance. Victorian era practice of combining human heads and animal bodies or vice versa to awing effect in art also pops into my head. Gerda makes monotype prints on rice paper and canvas, similarly inspired by highly anthropomorphic pursuits. A large printing press occupies the central space of one of the studios.

Van Leeuwen showing animal inspired porcelains
Van Leeuwen showing animal inspired porcelains. © Simona David

On occasion Gerda makes woodblock prints. She currently works on a large scale wall piece using water based ink on paper and wood panel. A metal template is used to create a specific pattern that recurs throughout the composition. This particular work is done primarily in blue and gold hues. It will soon hang in a New York City apartment.

Woodblock prints by Van Leeuwen
Woodblock prints by Van Leeuwen. © Simona David

Both Peter and Gerda are proud of their garden: the artists craft copious outdoor pieces that blend organically with the landscape. The tree of life reappears sporadically throughout the garden. Peter and Gerda have participated in the AMR Open Studios Tour ever since the tour first launched in 2012. Every summer they open both their studios and the garden, and demonstrate ceramics and printmaking techniques.

Garden ceramics at Yamaoka and Van Leeuwen's studios
Garden ceramics at Yamaoka and Van Leeuwen’s studios. © Simona David

Peter and Gerda’s studio is located at 777 Carroll Hinkley Road in Roxbury.

Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes

Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes is a professional weaver residing in Delaware County. She studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), and the Center for Tapestry Arts in New York City. She designs both functional and aesthetic products using traditional American patterns. Her work can be seen in museums and gallery exhibits, and at various arts and crafts fairs throughout the region.

“Weaving is one of the oldest forms of a blend of art and function. The techniques of twisting fibers to make them stronger and durable started out probably in the earliest times of mankind history. From those twisted fibers men and women learned to do basketry, learned to create fabric, and also to use it for decoration. For instance, in a lot of the Native American pottery from the South-Western U.S. and Central and South America you will see that twisted fibers have been pressed up against the clay to create a pattern on that clay. It’s been made as an impression on the clay to make it look as it was woven. In reality, it is a three-dimensional structure that was never plated or twisted in itself,” explains Tabitha.

Tabitha says she loves the fact that weaving isn’t a forgotten art. She particularly enjoys the mathematical structure of setting up the loom, and is excited about what it takes to create fabric. Her favorite part is mixing the colors, and the texture of the yarns together. “To me that’s magical – how I get a piece of fabric: something out of nothing.”

Tabitha’s studio is located at 424 Carr George Road in Denver.

To learn more about Tabitha, read our extensive interview with her at https://artinthecatskills.com/2015/01/31/featured-artist-tabitha-gilmore-barnes/.

Ellen Wong

The recipient of many grants and fellowships, including the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Grant Program, as well as a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Ellen Wong is an accomplished painter and educator whose works have been exhibited both in New York City and the Catskills, going back to the 1970s. Ellen studied in the Art Department at Brooklyn College with Philip Pearlstein, known for reviving realist figurative painting in the 1960s. Pearlstein’s departure from Abstract Expressionism back then made him a renegade in the art world. It’s that kind of artistic sensibility and daring attitude that Ellen learned from Pearlstein.

Landscape by Wong
Catskills Landscape by Ellen Wong. Contributed photo.

Ellen herself was initially trained as an abstract painter, but in time she discovered that what she really wanted to do in life was landscape painting: “I noticed that every time I went somewhere I always brought with me my watercolors, and I always sketched where I was; somehow that’s how I got to understand, absorb or take in a new environment – I felt very sensitive to place,” she says. “And it was a good way for me to get to know a place. And I discovered that I had this desire to work outside, to work from life, and to work in watercolors, and that became in a way my primary medium,” she added.

Ellen’s studio is located at 121 Shephard Lane in Roxbury.

To learn more about Ellen, read our extensive interview with her at https://artinthecatskills.com/2014/10/18/featured-artist-ellen-wong/.

Other participating artists include: Lisbeth Firmin, Hedi Kyle, Ken Hiratsuka, Midori Kato, Patrice Lorenz, Frank and Helene Manzo, Anthony Margiotta, Amy Masters, Gary Mead, John Sanders, Ted Sheridan, Alix Travis, and Rosamond Welchman.

Poppies by Alix Hallman Travis
Poppies by Alix Travis. Contributed photo.

The AMR Open Studios Tour takes place Saturday and Sunday, July 25 – 26, from 11 am to 5 pm both days.

Halcottsville Grange will be a HUB for several artists who will demonstrate their craft to the public:  Alix Travis – coloring books, Rosamond Welchman – clay, Catskill Mountain Quilters Guild members – quilting, Katherine Somelofski – stained glass, Kathleen Green – painting and portraiture, and Oneida Hammond – painting.  The Grange HUB will be open 11 am to 5 pm on both days, and Margaretville High School Art Students Katlynn Shamro and Sage Finkle will serve as interns.

For maps and more information, visit http://www.amropenstudios.org/.

The AMR Open Studio Tour 2015 is made possible with funds from the O’Connor Foundation and with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Grant Program, with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the NYS Legislature, and is administered in Delaware County by The Roxbury Arts Group.

© 2015 Simona David