Category: crafts

Pandemic Art – Heartfelt Stories from The Catskills

by Simona David

“I have a feeling that in art the need to understand and the need to communicate are one,” remarked Hedda Sterne, revered Surrealist painter. 

Coming out of a 14-month once in a century pandemic, we take a moment to reflect on this monumental experience and make sense of the changes we have witnessed around us thus far.

Artists have extraordinary perceptual abilities, an attribute that Marshall McLuhan referred to as “integral awareness,” something that will guide us through the process of re-gaining meaning in a post-pandemic world. Societal forces play their role as well in influencing the artistic product from idea to execution and reception of the artwork in the field as the artist and his or her social surroundings are interdependent.

The pandemic took a year out of our otherwise normal life – everything was turned upside down. The unexpected circumstance changed our mindset, and forced us to adapt like never before. It also provided the sudden opportunity to slow down and re-think priorities. The post-pandemic world will look a lot different than the pre-pandemic one.

But how exactly does the art world respond to this colossal transformation in our life? In her seminal book “Meaning and Expression: Toward a Sociology of Art,” first published in Germany in 1967, Hanna Levy Deinhard exemplarily illustrated how humans are able to distinguish in a work of art its visual expression from its meaning. While visual expression however remains relatively constant over time, its meaning is subject to change. Deinhard strived to reconcile the everlasting contradiction in art between the artwork as a timeless object and the artwork as an expression of its time. 

With that in mind, we spoke with prominent Catskills artists to learn about their experience during the pandemic and how that might have impacted their creative life.


Brian Tolle (sculptor)

The pandemic and all the chaos that it created gave rise to a different mindset for many of us. On the one hand we were intensively connected to the world, unified in the global effort to control and contain the virus. On the other hand, were in lockdown, limited to our immediate cohabitants guarding ourselves from our families, friends, colleagues and neighbors. My time was spent obsessing over the news and worrying about my loved ones. That said there was little or no time for thinking about art. For the first time in my twenty-five-year career the mere thought of making ART felt gratuitous. However, I greatly respect and appreciate the work that so many artist friends produced during this most difficult time. I alas, did not, could not. What I did do was to reflect on what it meant to be an artist and art educator. My resolve for both pursuits is stronger than ever. Creative thinking is essential for the health and survival of humanity.    

Recently I have begun to focus my energies locally, inspired by the communities that I live among. My work has always been engaged with history and my sights are currently on the history of the Catskills; the place my partner and I call home. More specifically I am studying the history of Roxbury, where I have a studio. Of particular interest are the lives and careers of John Burroughs and Jay Gould, two men who grew up in this place at the same time but pursued very different careers. Burroughs the great naturalist and Gould the capitalist represent very different world views that continue to shape the nation and the world that we inhabit.


Amy Masters (painter)

In a Field, 24”x 24” oil on canvas, 2020

My most recent body of work centers around the idea of home and shelter. I had been exploring the iconic ‘house’ shape for many months, experimenting with its form and how accessible and recognizable it can be. When the pandemic forced so many of us inside and often isolated us, the house paintings took on a new and deeper meaning for me and pushed the work even further. The house became a symbol of safety; a shelter that protects but also isolates.


Gail Freund (painter, illustrator, and embroiderer)  

Catskill Beauty page from fabric Verso-Recto book, fabric paint and embroidery floss on linen, 8″ x 18″, 2020

It has been an unchartered time. Terribly sad, isolating, yet interesting. I was fortunate to have moved to the Catskills from New York City in 2016 and had already been familiar with leading a remote life in this beautiful region. Over the past year I had been missing social interaction and community, however. Pre-pandemic, I was working on a fabric book project called Verso-Recto at The Pine Hill Community Center. A few artists including Hedi Kyle and myself were meeting there regularly to work on our books. The pandemic put a stop to those meetings, but I continued to work independently at home. Because the book is heavily embroidered, I used to jokingly call it my “security blanket”. On the bright side, this was a rare occasion to literally have more time on my hands. Working on the book was meditative and handily portable. For three months last summer I had to take care of my 93-year-old mother in Long Island. It felt great to be able to bring this project with me.  


Lisbeth Firmin (painter)

Waiting, 16″ x 20″ oil on wood panel, 2020

When the pandemic first hit, when we shut down in March 2020, I was stunned and afraid like everybody else. We did not know anything about Covid, and the panic about that combined with the isolation bred fear and anxiety. I was working on a few paintings for my gallery on the Cape, and for a while I continued to do that. But after those paintings were finished, I just did not do that much. I would go to the studio – I was very lucky that I was able to do that. My building was empty, and I was the only one there. So, I would just go there and read the news, and sit and worry. All my workshops and exhibitions were cancelled. My art income was gone. Then in the fall, I started a new series of oils. I have painted through so many tough times. I will continue to do so.  


Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes (textile artist)

Verso-Recto Tapestry, Book Project with Catskilled Crafters, 2019 – 2020

2020-2021 has been a time of great challenge for me. My husband fell critically ill last fall and winter, and I had very little time to spend in the studio and create new work. In the midst of such upheaval, I have been blessed however to be visited by producer Jan Albert and filmmaker Kent Garrett who interviewed me for “Catskilled Crafters” as part of a series hosted by The Pine Hill Community Center called “Getting to Know Your Neighbors.” The presentation is posted on my website at VIDEO: Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes Studio Visit | Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes Studio where people can learn more about my work as a weaver.


Alan Powell (media artist)

Mutation, 3″ x 3″, video graphic 2020

In May of 2020 I was asked by a colleague from Buffalo, NY, Dorothea Braemer, to take part in a global project to document our dream during the Covid pandemic. Many of us were having intense dreams due to the stress of the pandemic and the isolation that we were feeling. There were about twenty initial participants from as far away as Bulgaria and Arizona. These dreams were to be produced as video projects. I put together a team of ten former and current students to work on a 30-minute narrative called “A vacation in Covidville”. The narrative centered on two young women taking a road trip during the Pandemic. One woman was a rock and roller looking for her next gig. The other woman was a revolutionary looking for a home for her revolution. They would stop at homes along the way. Each home housed a dream. In the fall of 2020, I made collages from the dreams and showed them in a popup exhibition that was hung in the store windows in the town of Stamford, NY. The ad-hoc collective included artists such as Nat Thomas, Elaine Mayes, Amy Masters, and others. One such dream is what I titled Corona Diary #15, posted on Vimeo along with other videos that I created in the past year.


Nursing Home Pantoum  
By Sharon Israel 

I call to hear my mother’s voice  
She eats so little, drinks Ensure    
So sorry I can’t visit now 
We say I love you at the end    

She eats so little, drinks Ensure
I keep disaster from my voice
We say I love you at the end
She worries that I’m not all right 

I keep disaster from my voice
I hear fear in every word
She worries that I’m not all right 
Everyone’s so strange here  

I hear fear in every word
I’m in a hospital, she thinks
Everyone’s so strange here
Nursing staff wear bunny suits. 

I’m in a hospital, she thinks
Friends disappear from the dining room 
Nursing staff wear bunny suits
The dead visit her in dreams 

Friends disappear from the dining room
I call to hear my mother’s voice
The dead visit her in dreams 
So sorry I can’t visit now 

This poem first appeared in the May 2020 issue of Chronogram magazine. The pantoum, a form from 15th century Malaysia, consists of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and third lines of the next stanza.  The last line is the same as the first.  Poet Sharon Israel used it in her poem for its repetitive and incantatory qualities. Her mother died on June 28th, 2021 at the age of 99 and a half.  

BOOK RELEASE: The Zadock Pratt Museum Coloring Book

The Zadock Pratt Museum has just released a coloring book for adults, essentially a collection of historical quilts accompanied by text and drawings that provide a unique perspective of the region’s settlement history. Inspired by the 2018 exhibition titled “Undercover Stories,” the book was funded by The A. Lindsay and Olive B. O’Connor Foundation and The Nicholas J. Juried Family Foundation. The exhibition, the brainchild of Carolyn Bennett, the Museum’s Executive Director, included thirteen quilts, all of which are also included in the book along with an additional thirteen from the Museum’s historical textile collection. All text and drawings are by Suzanne M. Walsh, who curated the 2018 exhibition. The Iroquois Indian Museum in Howes Cave assisted with fact checking. The book is endorsed by Dr. Michelle Delaney, Assistant Director for History and Culture at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, among other notable endorsements. 

After the 2018 exhibition closed, there was a spontaneous desire to keep the quilt stories alive, which is how the coloring book idea came about in 2020. The preservation work to keep the quilts intact is a tedious process that requires re-folding in acid free paper every three to six months. Volunteers at the Museum help keep the tradition alive. There is a vibrant community of quilters in the area that met regularly before the pandemic. They often helped at the Museum with the preservation efforts.  

Quilting has been described by scholars as “the art of necessity.” When textiles were scarce, women patched old blankets, coverlets, and table runners with cloth they had available and ready to use. European settlers brought this practice to the New World, and it flourished here and took on a new life. A utilitarian activity at first, quilting did eventually become an American folk art. American Folk Art Museum in New York City has an impressive textile collection, and has begun the New York Quilt Project to locate, document, preserve, and create an archive for New York State quilts. Dr. Jacqueline M. Atkins, a curator who worked at the Folk Art Museum, wrote the introduction for the The Zadock Pratt Museum Coloring Book, and shared “the thrill of the hunt, as one is never sure just what new and exciting quilts, patterns, and designs will turn up in addition to renewing acquaintances with many old favorites.”     

As part of her research, Walsh was able to date the quilts and also found fascinating details about their making. During the Civil War, the region stopped using cotton from the South and that is when imported cotton was largely introduced to the Catskill Mountains. After studying the quilts, Walsh felt inspired to draw them in a way that best reflects their personality. “The art dictated itself,” she explains. She followed the thread and each quilt led to a different approach and style whether whimsical, serious, or as a cartoon. For each quilt Walsh had to make the decision whether to use pen or ink, or what other approach the style might have required. They are all different and carry fascinating stories.


© Zadock Pratt Museum

For instance, the Lost Ships quilt cover was made in 1893 by Frankie Drum, a thirteen-year-old girl who learned the art of quilting from her grandmother. Quilting was a required skill for girls in the Catskills around that time. The project took two years to complete and includes 8,460 individual little pieces of fabric. If you look closely, you will see a horseman depicted in one of the patterns, suggesting Frankie’s love for horses.

© Zadock Pratt Museum

The Crazy Quilt bedcover resembles a Surrealist painting by Marc Chagall, who incidentally had a studio in the Catskills in the 1940s. The “crazy quilt” pattern reached the height of its popularity in the 1890s, the Gilded Age in America, when the industry provided an immense variety of fabric choices in color, prints, and textures. Dr. Atkins, a quilt expert, explains that American women’s fascination with the crazy quilt was inspired by the Japanese kimono which was introduced to the American public at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia. 

© Zadock Pratt Museum

Another popular pattern throughout the 1800s was the octagon. The Octagon quilt included in the book is made of 352 individual octagonal pieces in different colors and patterns. As Walsh explains, the octagon has held a spiritual significance for centuries signifying “the infinity of eternal rebirth.” The octagonal shaped houses also gained in popularity around the same time, and there is still one in existence not too far from the Pratt Museum.

From 2013 until 2020 Walsh had been tour guide, exhibition designer, curator, and archivist at the Zadock Pratt Museum. Undergraduate work in the arts and post-graduate work in early childhood education, including American Montessori certification, became her background credits for the many years in the professional theatre world that followed, working both on stage and behind the scenes in costuming, scene building, playwriting and children’s puppet theatre production. Walsh’s life-long love for fabrics, their history and women’s fashion has coalesced in her serendipitous collaboration with all the people who had an impact on the Pratt Museum’s Historical Quilting Designs Coloring Book. She sums up her experience in one attitude-altering sentence: “Every single one of these wonderful quilts really deserves a history book unto itself.” Walsh is currently working as an independent artist, author and art history consultant.

The book is available at the following retailers: Blooms & Fabrics in Margaretville; Roxbury General in Roxbury; Carrot Barn–Schoharie Valley Farms in Schoharie; The Conglomerate in Middleburgh; Catskill Mountain Country Store in Windham; Windham Pharmacy in Windham; Taconic Orchards in Hudson; Mahalo Gift Shop in Catskill; Plaid Palette in Cherry Valley; The Iroquois Indian Museum in Howes Cave; The Jefferson Historical Society in Jefferson; The Gilboa Museum and Nicholas J. Juried History Center in Gilboa; What The Soap & Company in Prattsville; Young’s Ace Hardware in Prattsville; Prattsville Diner, and the Zadock Pratt Museum.

The book can be ordered by phone at (518) 299-3395, email at prattmuseum@hotmail.com, or mail at Pratt Museum, PO Box 333, Prattsville, NY 12468. To learn more, visit zadockprattmuseum.org.

“How Art Is Made” Reviewed in A Time and A Place Magazine

“David creates a seamless rapport with each artist, drawing out their individual personalities with meticulously researched questions. Her interviewing style is so natural and unobtrusive that the reader feels like “a fly on the wall” privy to the authentic, unrehearsed lives of the artists. They divulge their thought processes, creative developments, media, materials and muses, but David evokes them into sharing a glimpse of their souls.”

A Time and A Place Dec. 2019

CLICK TO READ THE MAGAZINE ONLINE

AMR Open Studios Tour Celebrates Its Eighth Anniversary This Summer

Art is at home in the Catskill Mountains. A tradition started by Thomas Cole and his disciples in the early 1800s has transformed the area into a place for pilgrimage where artists from all over the world come to create and be inspired. An influx of creatives moving out of Brooklyn in recent years has infused the area with energy and spearheaded the emergence of new projects and initiatives to create and show new works by artists at various levels in their careers and working in all disciplines.

AMR Artists, a newly formed artist coalition affiliated with the AMR (Andes-Margaretville-Roxbury) Open Art Studios Tour, which takes place every year the last weekend in July, has stepped up to the plate to offer new opportunities for artists. According to its mission statement, “The AMR Artists Coalition supports a vibrant cultural life for our community by promoting and advocating on behalf of the area’s artists and cultural institutions. The Coalition recognizes that a creative environment is an essential component of energetic civic life and sustained economic growth in the community.” The group’s motto is a quote by Albert Einstein: “Creativity is contagious, pass it on.”

Launched in 2012, AMR Open Art Studios Tour has grown into a major cultural attraction, as art tours have become more and more common all over the country. Studio visits trigger questions that aren’t often asked in formal settings such as galleries and museums, and allow for a more intimate interaction with the art work. As art historian George Philip LeBourdais eloquently articulated in a piece for Artsy magazine, “The studio is where strange magic happens, as much for the artist’s imagination as for the public’s. It’s the conjuring place of new concepts, styles, or forms. Sometimes it even comes to be seen as sacred, a place where visitors become pilgrims to the altar of art.”

Helene Manzo's Easel
Painter Helene Manzo’s Studio in Roxbury’s Historic District. © Simona David

AMR (Andes – Margaretville – Roxbury) Open Studios Tour 2019 will take place Saturday and Sunday, July 27 – 28 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with close to thirty participating artists and artisans working in all disciplines – painters, sculptors, photographers, printmakers, ceramicists, furniture designers and textile artists. Located in a bucolic scenery, all studios will provide unique experiences for visitors to explore the area and learn directly from the artists.

Participating artists this year include: Lisbeth Firmin, Ellen Wong, Gail Freund, Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes, Gerda Van Leeuwen, Peter Yamaoka, Margaret Leveson, Helene Manzo, Frank Manzo, Gary Mayer, Gary Mead, Rosamond Welchman, and others.

Gail Freund, a new artist affiliated with the group, moved to the area in 2016 after having worked in New York City for over forty years in the fields of illustration, theater and jewelry. Formally trained at the Parsons School of Design, Freund has always drawn and painted. However, after moving to the Catskills, she became fully immersed into studying and depicting trees the likes of which she hadn’t quite seen while living in Manhattan. Her life in the Catskills allows far more time for studying and drawing nature scenes, she explains. Her approach is simple and direct.

Gail Freund Shows During the AMR Art Tour in 2018. Photo Credit Simona David
Gail Freund during AMR Open Studios Tour in 2018. © Simona David

The artist works in three disciplines: ink on paper, embroidery, and book art. Asked about her drawings, Freund explains: “I had to start somewhere, and ink on paper seemed simple and an easy way to get back into drawing.” The landscapes, all in black and white, are an invitation for the viewer to imagine a larger context than the one strictly depicted by the artist. Some of these are currently part of a show at the Catskill Watershed Corporation in Margaretville paradoxically called “Local Color: In Black and White.” The show will remain on view through July 5.

The Big Daddy
Big Daddy at the American Visionary Museum in Baltimore. Source: Facebook

In 2017 Freund joined a group called Catskilled Crafters led by Wendy Brackman to create a project called The Ties That Bind, cutting and sewing together pieces of old ties donated by the community. The group created a piece called Big Daddy, currently on display at the American Visionary Museum in Baltimore in the Father Room as part of an exhibit called Parenting: An Art without a Manual, which will remain on view through September 1. NPR recently did a story on this, which ran on Father’s Day. The group sewed 1,462 hexagons into a nine-foot striped tie made out of hundreds of men’s ties and one wool suit. Brackman, who spearheaded the project, explains: “My dad was a bit of a dandy. He shaved every day, he looked good, he put himself together with his collar and wide ties.” Brackman is known as a performance artist (“Wacky Wendy”), as well as paper milliner (“Wacky Hat”).

Freund’s embroidery has gained attention due to its quirkiness and bold colors, but also extreme precision. Fascinated by road signs, the artist managed to capture some of the more vivid ones in a series shown recently at various locations throughout the area. One of these embroideries has received an award at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum (WAAM) Spring Show, marking WAAM’s centennial. Asked about her interest in embroidery, the artist explains that she was looking for the perfect excuse to slow down and meditate, and that came in the form of making embroidery.

Gail Freund Award-Winning Embroidery at WAAM Small Works Show. Contributed Photo
Embroidery by Gail Freund, awarded at the WAAM’s Spring Show. Contributed Photo.

This year Freund is also working with a group of book artists led by Hedi Kyle to create fabric books, a multi-disciplinary project that will be shown in 2020. All artists are being given the same theme and size of the project, but each approach will be different. Kyle, who is coordinating the project, is a book conservator and educator, and co-founder of the Book Preservation Center at the New York Botanical Garden. As head conservator at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, and as an adjunct professor in the Graduate Program for Book Arts and Printmaking at the University of the Arts, Kyle had trained and mentored a generation of conservators and book artists. The oldest artist in this group is Polly Vos, who is 94.

bowie.4x6_.embroidery and fabric paint on linen.April.2019
Postcard Embroidery by Gail Freund. Contributed Photo.

Freund will be showing her works during the AMR (Andes-Margaretville-Roxbury) Open Art Studios Tour, sharing studio space with painter Deborah Ruggerio. Ruggerio’s studio is located at 54096 State Highway 30 in Roxbury.

Landscape painter Ellen Wong has participated in the AMR (Andes-Margaretville-Roxbury) Open Art Studios Tour every year since it launched in 2012; she describes the experience as a positive one, and a great opportunity to show and talk about the setting where her art comes to life. Wong has been painting the Catskills since the 1970s, when she opened her studio in Roxbury. Initially trained as an abstract painter, she discovered that what she really wanted to do was landscape: “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 explains. “Does the world need another landscape?” she muses, but then she adds: “I can’t help it.”

image1
Esopus After the Rain, 12″ x 16″, oil on canvas, 2019 by Ellen Wong. Contributed Photo.

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, Wong 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 Wong had learned from Pearlstein.

Capturing the beauty of the environment but also the ordinary and the banal turns her experiences into markers for posterity. “I want to have a signature,” Wong explains. I want people to say “Oh, that’s Ellen Wong,” whenever they see my paintings. I like to ask deep questions, not necessarily seeking answers, but just asking questions that lead me to a path of my own. “I’d like to go deeper. Does painting the environment, water, for instance, which is life in my paintings, lead one to think of Flint, Michigan, for instance?”

openstudiostour
Wong’s Studio in Roxbury. Contributed Photo.

Wong follows a dictum by Lois Dodd: “paint where you are.” That leads the artist to creating a space uniquely hers. She now reads Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art, a book by Mary Gabriel that chronicles the lives of these women not as muses but as artists themselves. Ninth Street is a block away from where Wong herself lives in New York City. She reflects on how abstract expressionism was a revolt against portraiture and landscape. But changes in society always call for a different language.

Wong’s studio, which will be open during the AMR Open Art Studios Tour, is located at 121 Shephard Lane in Roxbury.

Print
Studio 190. Contributed Photo.

New this year, the AMR Art Tour is partnering with Studio 190 in Walton to show works by artists affiliated with this group as part of the two-day event. Studio 190 is a collaborative art program within The Arc of Delaware County, encouraging self-expression, exploration, creativity and teamwork, and providing support for artists to work in a professional studio, equipped with all the necessary tools and guidance from visiting artists.

Leah Schmidt, the program coordinator, explains that up to 35 artists have been taking part in this program so far. They work in different disciplines, although painting is the predominant activity. Some of the artists attend the program every day, while others participate in only one block per week, depending on their skills and dedication, although the most important achievement is to maintain a level of enjoyment so that all the participants have a meaningful experience.

Since 2017 the program has continued to grow under the guidance of art consultants and accomplished artists and educators such as Alan Powell, who have been working with Studio 190 to help branch out more into the community and ensure recognition for the art created in the studio. Under Powell’s guidance the group created the “Selfie” project inviting each participant’s creativity into portraying their own vision of how they see themselves and making personalized works that then can be shared with the community. The project is documented through the group’s Instagram feed as well as its website.

The “Selfie” project as well as other works will be shown during the AMR (Andes-Margaretville-Roxbury) Open Art Studios Tour on Saturday and Sunday, July 27 – 28 at the Community Church located at 904 Main Street in Fleischmanns.

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

The AMR – Andes, Margaretville, Roxbury – Open Studios Tour 2019 is funded by the Delaware County Department of Economic Development – Tourism Advisory Board, and the A. Lindsay and Olive B. O’Connor Foundation, and by 28 participating artists and 44 community business sponsors. Additional community support comes from the Longyear Gallery (Margaretville) and the MARK Project (Arkville).

SPONSORED STORY

© 2019 Simona David

AMR Spring Art Show at the Commons

The Commons Building has become an important art hub for the communities in and around Middletown in Delaware County. Founded in 2007 as an artist-run cooperative, Longyear Gallery has hosted numerous solo and group shows in a 1,275 sq ft space located on the second floor. In the summer of 2016, the gallery took over a larger and better illuminated 1,425 sq ft space located on the first floor, divided into two separate rooms. Close to a hundred pieces by eighty artists were recently shown in a multi-media art exhibition titled “Artists Choose Artists,” which included works by landscape painters Ellen Wong and Kevin David Palfreyman, both influenced by the Hudson River School of Painting, poet and abstract painter Andrew Tully, ceramicist Peter Yamaoka, and photographers Frank Manzo and Helene Levine-Keating.

In the space left vacant by Longyear Gallery on the second floor, another gallery opened in recent months simply called Upstairs at the Commons. The space is available for rent to individual artists and groups in search of new possibilities to show their works. The space is currently rented by AMR Artists, an artist coalition affiliated with the AMR (Andes-Margaretville-Roxbury) Open Art Studio Tour, which takes place every year the last weekend in July. The group uses as its motto a quote by Albert Einstein: “Creativity is contagious, pass it on.”

The Spring Show hosted by the AMR Artists, which opens on April 19 and remains on view through May 13, will include works by twenty participants working in different disciplines: painting, monotypes, photography, tapestry, installation, and even jewelry.

Lisbeth Firmin's Studio. Photo © 2017 Simona David
Lisbeth Firmin’s Studio. Photo © 2017 Simona David

Urban realist painter and printmaker Lisbeth Firmin, an artist whose studio is in fact located in the Commons Building, will be showing new monotypes produced under the influence of Scuola Internationale di Grafica in Venice where Firmin was a resident in 2017. For over four decades Firmin’s work has been in hundreds of solo and group shows across the country and internationally, and finds itself in numerous private art collections. “My urban landscapes follow in the tradition of earlier realists such as John Sloan and Edward Hopper, depicting today’s modern life in the streets, while reflecting modern themes of isolation and disconnection,” she explains. Firmin, who was the cover artist for the 2008 spring issue of Epoch, Cornell University’s literary magazine, and was the featured artist in the 2008 summer issue of the Gettysburg Review, often shows her work throughout New York State and North Carolina, as well as at Rice Polak Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Hedi Kyle is a book conservator and educator, and co-founder of the Book Preservation Center at the New York Botanical Garden. She is also co-author of Library Materials Preservation Manual, one of the first books on library preservation techniques. As head conservator at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, and as an adjunct professor in the Graduate Program for Book Arts and Printmaking at the University of the Arts, Kyle had trained and mentored a generation of conservators and book artists. Since moving to the Catskill Mountains, she continued to experiment with materials and seek beauty in the form of book installations. “My work is usually based on paper which I transform by folding it into book structures and three-dimensional objects. Since my retirement as a book conservator and teacher my move to the Catskills has overwhelmed me with new impressions and motivated me to experiment with other materials such as clay and fabrics,” she says. During the AMR Spring Show, Kyle will be showing a ceramic piece called Fragilo I, as part of a series that she is working on under the guidance of Michael Boyer at the Pine Hill Community Center. She continues to work on drawings and prints as well – these will be exhibited during the monthly member shows at Longyear Gallery.

Rock Bridge on Lower Meeker
Rock Bridge on Lower Meeker by Deborah Ruggerio (oil on canvas, 18” x 24”, 2018). Contributed Photo.

Deborah Ruggerio, a new artist affiliated with the group, has been in the area for about three years. In 2018 she built her studio in Roxbury’s Historic District, and opened it to the public for the first time as part of the AMR Open Art Studio Tour last summer. Ruggerio, who also serves on the Planning Committee for the tour and had taught art in New Jersey for decades, has painted all her life, but has been particularly moved by the Catskill Mountains’ scenery and the ephemerality of all things in nature ever since she moved to the area. As a landscape painter, she often sketches in nature, but finishes the work in the studio. “Color creates emotions,” Ruggerio says, as she always tries to select a color palette that she believes captures the essence of the environment in the moment, whether be a fall or a winter scenery. In the Spring Show, Ruggerio will exhibit two recent pieces: “Rock Bridge on Lower Meeker” (oil on canvas, 18” x 24”, 2018), and “View from the Johansson’s Bridge” (watercolor, 9” x 12”, 2018); the second one was part of the Greene County Council on the Arts Holiday Show this past winter.

Another new artist affiliated with the group, Charlene McLaughlin, has moved to the area full-time four years ago, after being a second homeowner for decades. McLaughlin is an accomplished still life and nature photographer and designer who has exhibited in numerous group shows and has done event photography. Her favorite subject matter are tulips, which she says are extremely evocative. She likes to capture them either in nature or in compositions re-created in the studio.

curtain call copy
Curtain Call (12” x 18”) by Charlene McLaughlin. © 2016 Charlene McLaughlin. Contributed Photo.

McLaughlin bought her first camera, a Nikon EM, when she was 18-year-old, and never stopped photographing. She first learned to work on film, mastering the exposure and the demands of high-quality printing. Later on, she transitioned to digital, which she says offers instant gratification but can also lead to overshooting, conducive to spending more time to discern what is worth keeping. Although for the most part she is self-taught, McLaughlin did take classes at the International Center of Photography in New York City. Her favorite photographers are Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson; Adams is known for his spectacular nature photographs, particularly taken at the Yosemite National Park, while Cartier-Bresson is known for pioneering street photography, and has been labeled a humanist photographer.

road to windham
Road to Windham (13” x 19”) by Charlene McLaughlin. © 2016 Charlene McLaughlin. Contributed Photo.

In the Spring Show, McLaughlin will be showing two landscape photographs: “Road to Windham” and “Spring Snow”, both 13” x 19”, taken with a Nikon D700 camera.

Textile artist and artisan Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes is a founding member of the AMR Art Tour, and has served as a tour coordinator until recently. Trained at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and the Center for Tapestry Arts in New York City, Gilmore-Barnes 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.” In the Spring Show, she will exhibit four pieces which include “Maple Tree & Stone Wall” (a/k/a The Catskills), a woodblock print done at SUNY New Platz’s Printmaking Design Class, and “Snow Scene,” a tapestry that won the Fence Art Show Award from the Brooklyn Museum in 1980.

SnowScene (C)1980 Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes
Snow Scene (tapestry) by Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes. © 1980 Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes. Contributed Photo. 

An opening reception will be hosted on April 27 from 3 to 6 pm. The Commons Building is located at 785 Main Street, Margaretville, NY.

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Impressions from the AMR Open Studios Tour 2018

© 2018 Simona David

 

Open Art Studio Tours This Summer in the Catskills and Hudson Valley

Adam Cohen
War Paint, acrylic on canvas by Adam Cohen. Photo © 2017 Simona David.

Open art studio tours have become more and more common all over the country as studio visits trigger questions that aren’t often asked in formal settings such as galleries and museums, and allow for a more intimate interaction with the artwork.

This summer alone, four major open art studio tours take place throughout the region featuring a total of 160 artists from Saugerties to Treadwell and points in between. Building on a century-long tradition that started with the Hudson River School, contemporary artists continue to be inspired by the region once known as America’s First Wilderness, and what we refer to today as the place where American art was born.

Read my article in Chronogram to learn about Stagecoach Run Art Festival (July 7 – 8), Shandaken Art Studio Tour (July 20 – 22), AMR Open Studios Tour (July 28 – 29), and Saugerties Artists’ Studio Tour (August 10 – 12). During the tour you will meet artists working in all artistic disciplines and styles, ask questions, and purchase directly from the artists. Participants include abstract painters Adam Cohen and Tara Bach, landscape painters Ellen Wong and Richard Kathmann, still life painter Judith Lamb, and urban realist painter Lisbeth Firmin.

Not to Miss This Weekend: AMR Open Studios Tour Stamford-Delhi 2017

Launched in 2012, AMR Open Studios Tour has grown into a major art destination, forging new and unexpected connections between artists, and their patrons from near and far. Given its success in previous years, in 2017 AMR – Artists Making aRt ™ – Open Studios Tours is expanding to include some 41 artists on a map that spreads from Margaretville and Roxbury to Stamford and Delhi. The tours take place on two different weekends: Saturday and Sunday, July 8 – 9 in Stamford-Delhi art community, and Saturday and Sunday, July 29-30 in Margaretville-Roxbury art community.

This weekend, Saturday and Sunday, July 8–9, from 11 am to 5 pm 18 artists in Stamford, Hobart, South Kortright, and Delhi will open their studios to the public, and show their working spaces, as well as demonstrate some of their techniques. Located in a bucolic scenery, all these studios provide a unique experience for visitors to witness the creation of new works of art, and ask questions that only an intimate space like an artist studio would allow for.

Participating artists include ceramicist Solveig Comer, painters Susan Goetz, Robert Schneider, and Tracy Jacknow, stained glass artist Barry Jacknow, woodwork artist John Virga, as well as Tim Touhey, owner of The Gallery on Main Street in Stamford.

Ceramic Bowls by Solveig Comer. Contributed Photo.

Ceramicist Solveig Comer took art as a minor in college while majoring in mathematics. Her first pieces were more cerebral, and experimental objects rather than functional, but that changed over time. Asked about how mathematics might have influenced her work as a ceramicist, Solveig explained that mathematics does help her think things through and solve visual problems, and also figure out proportions when mixing glaze, and making choices on new decorative pieces. But overall mathematics plays a role more on the business rather than the creative side of her profession. Although Solveig has made all sorts of ceramics throughout her career, in recent years she has chosen to gravitate towards mugs, hence utilitarian art, which sells well. Every year the artist introduces new patterns, and explores new color palettes that enrich her collection.

Solveig’s studio is located at 10986 County Route 18 in South Kortright. This weekend she will be showing side by side earlier, less functional pieces, some of which have never been seen before, and more recent pieces which illustrate the transition towards utilitarian art. It will be interesting to see the artist’s evolution over time, and how her style and interests as a ceramicist have changed. Also at Solveig’s studio visitors will be seeing works by multi-media artist John Virga; John works in woodwork and graphic design, and in his own words “provides classic form and functional goods for the 21st century.” To learn more about Solveig’s studio, visit https://www.mostpreciouspottery.com.

Painter Tracy Jacknow was born in Brooklyn, and raised in Long Island in an artistic family. Growing up in a community of artists, actors, and retired vaudeville performers, she took art at an early age: “It was a childhood of inspiration and creativity,” she remembers. “My early experiences gave me exposure to a world of creative minds and alternative lifestyles.” In college Tracy spent some time in Siena, Italy, and later in life she and her husband Barry Jacknow, who is a stained glass artist, lived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Their time in Mexico left a strong mark on both their artistic careers. Tracy works in various media: watercolor, oil, acrylic, and collage. But in all of them nature is a constant presence – her travels around the world with her family, the colors of the Catskill Mountains, and her own moods have all influenced her work. Although Tracy is in essence an abstract painter, her brushstroke and the use of light are reminiscent of Impressionism. Her website is http://www.tracy-art.com/.

Summer in Sweden by Tracy Jacknow. Contributed Photo.

Painter June Lanigan, Tracy’s mother, founded MURAL Gallery in Stamford in the 1980s; the family has had a long connection with the area – June went to school in Stamford, and later on moved to Long Island. Primarily a landscape painter, June continues to produce works at the age of 91. This weekend she will be showing alongside her daughter Tracy.

Watercolor by June Lanigan. Contributed Photo.

Barry Jacknow, Tracy’s husband, has been working in stained glass since the 1960s. His inspiration comes from the Art Deco movement, and the works of architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright. In fact, this year marks the 150th anniversary of Wright’s birth – events are scheduled throughout the year to honor Wright’s legacy. Barry learned the stained glass art technique in New York City, but refined his style while living in Mexico. He has come to master the technique, but sometimes struggles with his design choices; that’s when his wife Tracy gets involved and helps with the process. Barry will be demonstrating some of his techniques this weekend during the open studios tour. He sums up humorously “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like,” as the saying goes.

Art Deco Inspired Stained Glass by Barry Jacknow. Contributed Photo.

Tracy and Barry’s studios are located at 138 Layden Lane in Stamford.

For maps and more information, visit http://www.amropenstudios.org or www.facebook.com/amropenstudios/. As you drive around this weekend, look for the “OPEN STUDIO” signs and brochures with maps available for pick up at various business sponsors and community supporters.

 

The AMR – Artists Making aRt ™ – Open Studios Tour 2017, sponsored by MURAL Gallery in Stamford and participating artists, is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) Decentralization Grant Program, with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, administered in Delaware County by the Roxbury Arts Group (RAG), and additional funding from The A. Lindsay & Olive B. O’Connor Foundation.

 

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The Arts Converge at the Catskill Interpretive Center

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Catskill Interpretive Center