Situated on the east bank of the Hudson River in Hyde Park, Dutchess County, Vanderbilt Mansion is a classic example of the Gilded Age country estate in America. The Gilded Age spanned from 1870 to 1900, and was an era characterized by rapid economic growth and wealth accumulation.
Frederick William and Louise Vanderbilt bought the estate in 1895, and expanded and re-modeled the property in the Beaux-Arts architectural style. The interiors are lavishly decorated with European antiques and period reproductions. The estate also includes gardens, designed in the Italian style, and overlooks the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains. Guided tours are offered every day, year round.
119 Vanderbilt Park Road, Hyde Park, NY 12538
For more information and current hours of operation, visit
The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, Steuben County, has on display some of the world’s most exquisite glass collections, spanning over thousands of years of history. Glass objects and glassmaking techniques from various parts of the world are showcased in several different galleries. A gallery dedicated to Glass in America includes early and rare artistic and decorative pieces. Glassmaking is considered to be the country’s first industry: it started with a glass workshop in Virginia in 1608.
A new wing, dedicated to Contemporary Art and Design, opened at the Corning Museum in 2015 in a newly designed 26,000 square foot modern building shaped like a large white box. A GlassApp, including videos, photographs, and artists’ bios, also launched in 2015 to enhance visitor experience. Demonstrations and workshops as well as lectures and other events are offered from time to time.
Earlier this summer I spoke with Dr. Marvin Bolt, Curator of Science and Technology at the Corning Museum of Glass. Dr. Bolt’s job is to enhance the museum’s science and technology-based collections and exhibits, and to interpret the information for diverse audiences, from schoolchildren to working scientists. Dr. Bolt holds a PhD in the history and philosophy of science, and is a specialist in telescopes.
Founded in 1996, Franklin Stage Company (FSC) celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer. FSC produces both classic and contemporary plays, and prides itself in having a free admission policy. Over the years, it has produced plays by William Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov, Molière, Henrik Ibsen, Eugène Ionesco, and many others. Located at Chapel Hall, a landmark building erected in 1855 in the Greek Revival style, the company is an iconic cultural institution in the region.
I interviewed Carmela Marner, the executive and artistic director of Franklin Stage Company, and talked about theater as an artistic form, its origin and history, as well as the beginnings and evolution of Franklin Stage Company. A graduate of Brown University, Marner is an accomplished stage and screen actress (she appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut). She is also a stage director. Carmela teaches in the Theater Department at SUNY Oneonta.
Performances this summer include We 3, a reinterpretation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, and Shakespeare’s King Lear, among others.
Saturday and Sunday, July 30 – 31, over twenty artists in Andes, Margaretville and Roxbury area (AMR, for short) 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. Launched in 2012, AMR has been a great success, attracting a large number of visitors summer after summer. Similar tours take place all over the country, as open studios have become quite popular in recent years.
This year AMR features artists such as: painter and printmaker Amy Masters; architect, printmaker and photographer Ted Sheridan; urban landscape painter Lisbeth Firmin; ceramicists and printmakers Peter Yamaoka and Gerda Van Leeuwen; landscape painter Ellen Wong; weaver Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes; and poet and furniture designer Gary Mead, among others.
Amy Masters has been an artist all her life. Formally trained as painter and printmaker, she pursued a degree in Interior Design at the Parsons School of Design, and worked as a draftsman for an engineering firm in New York City, before dedicating herself exclusively to painting and drawing. For over two decades, she taught in the New York City’s public school system, and spent her summers painting and drawing the world around. Moving to the Catskills in 2006, she was suddenly given far more space and limitless opportunities for inspiration. Amy likes to think about her work as being inspired by the natural world and the actual objects and vistas around her studio. But she likes to re-arrange and re-envision the landscape in the abstract. What is important to an abstract painter, says Amy, is the relationship between colors, lines and shapes, and the complexities of pattern and texture that emerge at the end of the process.
Her color palette changes periodically. Last summer, for instance, she was working extensively in blue, green, and red. This summer she enjoys exploring the possibilities of various shades of white, beige, and grey. But she always likes to add an unexpected dot of red somewhere on the canvas to surprise and intrigue the viewer.
A couple of years ago Amy re-discovered her passion for prints, and after taking an etching class in the City and working in a printmaking studio, she began producing prints using a variety of techniques. She currently works on a series of prints inspired by feathers. “When I was doing these prints, I was thinking how unique and individual these feathers were, and that resonated with the process too. Because each time you make one of these monotypes, they’re completely different.”
Amy will be showing her prints during the open studios tour later this month, and will be talking about various printmaking techniques. Her studio is located at 222 Chris Long Road in Arkville.
Ted Sheridan is an architect, printmaker, and photographer. He has taught courses on architectural acoustics and the acoustics of musical instruments at the Parsons School of Design, and has lectured at the University of Virginia, Ryerson University, and the University of Toronto.
Six years ago, Ted began experimenting with metallic compounds, corrosion, and magnetic fields to create original patterns of rust on paper. For his very first project he used old, rusty car parts, and after leaving them out in the rain on a piece of paper, he discovered an immense array of shapes and shades that he did not expect. Coming from the world of architecture where everything is controlled and precise, Ted sat to explore the randomness of the oxidation process, and began working on more and more elaborate projects.
About a dozen prints are hanging in his studio at this time. Each one of them was produced by a different method and stylistic approach; some are concentric circles reminiscent of nebulas in space, others are rectangular stripes imposing in their own right. All these will be shown during the open studios tour on Saturday and Sunday, July 30 – 31.
Ted’s studio is located at 222 Chris Long Road in Arkville.
Lisbeth Firmin is a contemporary American realist known for her urban landscapes. For over four decades her work has been in hundreds of solo and group shows across the country and internationally. She was 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. Awards include a 2007 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship for printmaking (Lily Auchincloss Fellow) and a Merit Award at the 2007 Roberson Regional Art Exhibition, Binghamton, NY, juried by Philip Pearlstein. Lisbeth was awarded a Community Arts Funding Grant, New York State Council on the Arts in 2007. Other awards include a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, the New York Print Club Emerging Artist Award, the CCVA Award at the Chautauqua Center for the Visual Arts, first prize in the LANA International Arts Competition; along with full fellowships to the MacDowell Colony, National Seashore Residency, the Vermont Studio Center and Saltonstall Arts Colony.
Asked about her artistic process, Lisbeth responded: “I can’t explain that. It’s a visceral thing. I could be walking around, and doing grocery shopping or some other mundane stuff like that. And I see something, and I say I want to paint that. I don’t even verbalize it. It’s more like I could paint that, I want to paint that. Now I always have my little iPhone with me. And what’s happening these days is that I see something about the light on a figure, and this is what interests me. And it just comes naturally to me: I know exactly where to put the paint, and how to capture the light. I’m moving away from buildings and streetscapes.” Lisbeth says that her work is not about the colors, but about the light and shadow in the composition, apparent in works such as Fifth Avenue (1995), and Woman on a Train (2014).
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. Both artists have exhibited extensively in New York City and throughout the Catskills.
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.
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.
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.
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. Peter and Gerda’s studios are located at 777 Carroll Hinkley Road in Roxbury.
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.
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.
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.”
Poet and furniture designer Gary Mead grew up on a farm in New Kingston, and fell in love with wood as a teenager, when he began working in a sawmill. In 1979 he opened his own company Fruitful Furnishings, and for many years designed and built custom furniture for clients all over the country. “The woodworking passion would not leave me alone, so as I was running the mill and raising my three sons, I was working on my home in Arkville composing pantries, kitchen cabinets, furniture, floors, walls and ceilings from wood, practically turning my home into a museum of woods,” he says.
Gary’s artistic eye and his understanding of the wood led him in recent years to creating compositions from curved and more unusual wood. In 2011 he opened his art gallery, dedicated exclusively to wood. While some pieces are both functional and aesthetic, others are purely decorative. The floor in his gallery is representative of all the trees growing in the Catskill Mountains from walnut, beechnut, butternut, maple, cherry, and birch trees to various kinds of pine. All these have been used to designing durable tables, cabinets, and pantries. Gary proudly proclaims that all the compositions in his gallery are actually from woods within a fifty-mile radius from his galley. “I am excited to teach people about the wealth of wood we have right here in our back yard,” he says. He will be showing his gallery during the open studios tour on Saturday and Sunday, July 30 – 31. His studio is located at 1289 South Side Road in Margaretville.
The AMR Open Studios Tour takes place Saturday and Sunday, July 30 – 31, from 11 am to 5 pm both days. For maps and more information, visit http://www.amropenstudios.org/.
The AMR Open Studio Tour 2016 is funded by 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, and with fiscal support from The MARK Project and participating artists.
Fenimore Art Museum is located in a monumental Neo-Georgian (also known as Neo-Colonial) mansion built in the 1930s on the shores of the Otsego Lake in Cooperstown. It was built on the site of James Fenimore Cooper’s 19th century farmhouse. The town itself was founded by Cooper’s father, Judge William Cooper. Cooper is best known for the Leatherstocking series, which includes novels such as The Pioneers (1823) and The Last of the Mohicans (1826).
Fenimore Art Museum, operated by the New York State Historical Association, hosts permanent American fine and folk art collections, and includes works by Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, and other American artists. The building and some of its most important collections were donated by Stephen C. Clark, a collector and benefactor, who also founded the Baseball Hall of Fame.
On May 23 this year I spoke with curator Christine Rossi, and talked about two temporary exhibitions on view at Fenimore Art Museum this summer: The Perfection of Harmony: The Art of James Abbott McNeill Whistler (on view through October 2) and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in Bohemian Paris (on view through September 5). Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in Bohemian Paris is from the collection of Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece, and includes an array of sketches, drawings, books, albums, and original posters made by Toulouse-Lautrec in the late 1800s. The exhibition also includes costumes from The Metropolitan Opera in New York City, used in various productions of La Bohème, a story representative of La Belle Époque
Click link below to listen to my conversation with Christine Rossi:
When Adams’ Antiquarian Books opened its doors in Hobart in 2002, who would have thought that this tiny Catskills village would become an international destination in such a short span of time? Featured in prestigious publications like The New York Times, New York Magazine, TheGuardian in the UK, and just recently mentioned in a USA Today travel article, Hobart has increasingly become a brand name for travelers from all over the world. Earlier this year it was awarded the Tourism of the Year Award by The Delaware County Chamber of Commerce.
In 2005 pianist, furniture restorer, and entrepreneur Don Dales bought several buildings in town, and after acquiring entire book collections from bookstores that ran out of business, he opened two independent bookstores on Main Street. The Adams’ Antiquarian was already in business for about three years, and Dales thought that perhaps Hobart would one day become a “book village,” similar to Hay-on-Wye, the world’s first book town, established in Wales in 1961.
Owned by William Adams, a retired physician, and his wife, Diana, a retired lawyer, The Adams’ Antiquarian Books has an impressive collection ranging from ancient Greece and Rome, to the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Art, Architecture, Religion, Judaica, Poetry, Biography, and Fiction. Not all the Adams’ books are antiquarian, but most of them were either printed before 1850, or are about events that happened prior to 1850.
In August 2007, Elda Stifani, a retired diplomat who worked for the European Union in New York City, moved to Hobart and opened Hobart International Bookport, which specialized in foreign language books, and books by authors from all over the world, in English or in the original language as well as aviation books. In 2014 Hobart International Bookport, under new ownership, became Butternut Valley Books.
Across the street, Liberty Rock Books offers a wide range of rare books spanning three hundred years of history. The store, which also has an art gallery, hosts numerous events throughout the year, including lectures and jazz concerts.
Right next door, Barbara Balliet, a cultural historian, and her partner poet Cheryl Clarke, own and operate Blenheim Hill Bookstore since 2009. They carry history books, poetry, women’s studies, nature and gardening, cookbooks, children’s books, and other illustrated books.
Don Dales continues to operate Mysteries & More, and as its name states, the bookstore specializes in mystery and science fiction titles. Located in a classic Greek Revival building erected in the 1830s, and recently restored, the store transposes its visitors into another era: an original Loring & Blake Palace organ, made in the late 1800s, a reproduction of a harpsichord, and a typewriter from the 1950s add to the mystic. This house was once owned by A. Lindsey O’Connor.
On May 7 this year yet another bookstore opened its doors in Hobart: Creative Corner Books. Owned and operated by Kathy Duyer, a lawyer, and her husband, George, Creative Corner specializes in cookbooks, craft books, gardening, and do-it-yourself books. The store will also be hosting workshops and other community events. At Creative Corner you won’t just buy books – say on weaving, you’ll also learn how to weave from master artisans.
Memorial Day weekend is a busy weekend in Hobart. All six bookstores will be offering major discounts. Art shows will be hosted at MURAL Art Gallery and Liberty Rock. And a new restaurant just opened in town. In July an English pub is scheduled to open.
Jen Dragon is the director of Cross Contemporary Art in Saugerties, a gallery dedicated to showing mid-career artists with a connection to New York City, the Catskills and Hudson Valley regions. Dragon has background in online marketing, but she’s also had an extensive career in the arts – over the years she has curated numerous exhibits for non-profit spaces, and organized various community-wide art projects. Dragon holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Purchase College.
Simona David: Please, talk a little bit about your background, your education, and interest in art.
Jen Dragon: I studied at Purchase College in the early 1980s. And there I was trained as a printmaker and painter. I also had a scholarship to study fine arts in Italy for a year. I was trained there as a restaurateur of antique maps and prints. Afterwards, like many artists, I was drawn to the Catskills. Together with my ex-husband I bought a tavern to use as a studio – we fixed it ourselves; this was near the Phoenicia area. I lived there until about a year and a half ago.
SD: Talk about your curatorial experience, and your vision when it comes to putting together a new art show.
JD: I got into curating with non-profit spaces like the Kleinert / James Center for the Arts in Woodstock, and under-utilized spaces like this place at the Emerson Resort that at the time was not being used. It was a challenge, because I was interested in showing large abstract art, and in the country, like where we live, it’s very difficult to find houses that have really big high-ceilings. I was always on the look-out for a loft, a good space to show big paintings. A year ago I had the opportunity to take over a lease on a gallery in Saugerties. It’s tiny – it’s only 650 sq ft, but it has high ceilings, and it has a lot of wall space. And I am now able to show the kind of art that I have always been passionate about. I much prefer to be in the gallery and act as a docent introducing people to art rather than trying to rally everybody behind a large community arts project.
SD: Talk about the curatorial process: where do you start, what is your vision, and how do you get where you want to be with a project?
JD: It’s interesting, because I get to live with an art show for about a month – each show is four week long. And I really get immersed in the artist’s work. At the end of each show I can probably write a dissertation on it. A lot of my choices are governed by the location of my gallery. Given the fact that I’m in Saugerties, which has extraordinary landscapes, I don’t feel like it’s appropriate to show urban art. The artists I tend to choose have an obsession with nature, and I also look for human drama. In sum, the criteria for choosing art have to do with where I am, but I also consider myself as some sort of an educator. It’s more about creating a beautiful show than being a salesman. I encourage the artists to really own the space, and create an installation.
SD: How do you look for artists, or is it the artists who approach you?
JD: I’m always looking at art. It’s important for artists to have their art seen. Because of my limitations, I can only show as many artists. But I keep a file, and I also refer artists to other places. A lot of time artists that I show are referred to me by other artists. The artists that I have been generally showing are in museum collections, or have shown in museums, and to show with me is a certain investment on their part. And they take very seriously who they want to be seen with. And they also refer people to me that they think that I would like. Sometimes I come up with something that I discover on my own. I have shown over eighteen artists so far. I’ve only done one group show.
SD: I like what you said before, that artists like to be seen in the company of other artists, and that’s why art communities are so important. We often judge people by their associations or affiliations, or by the company they keep. Are there any commonalities of themes or styles amongst the artists that you’ve shown? You did mention before that you looked at art centered on nature or human drama.
JD: Yes. I also have a sweet spot for printmaking. I was trained as a printmaker when I was in college in the 1980s, and what was trending back then were these Neo-Impressionist like prints. There were these intense, dynamic painters like Julien Schnabel, Gregory Amenoff, Richard Bosman – these guys were powerhouses. In retaliation to the abstract art, they were going back to figurative painting. And just like the German expressionists, they were also into printmaking. What I learned from artists like these is that the power of the wood cut supports the power of the painting. I knew I was doing something right with my gallery when I approached Gregory Amenoff and Richard Bosman, who were like my rock stars when I was a student, and they agreed to show their work with me.
SD: And I should add that when people think nature, they shouldn’t necessarily think representational art or landscape painting. It could be non-objective art as well. Take for instance Heather Hutchison, who you’ve shown in your gallery.
JD: Yes. What’s fascinating about Heather Hutchison is that her subject matter is light, so she is probably more of a landscape painter than anyone else that I’ve shown. Even though it doesn’t look like landscape, and it looks like a box that is constantly changing colors because of the way the light is coming through it, Heather’s literal subject matter is the changing light itself.
SD: Her work has been shown in many prestigious locations like The Smithsonian in Washington D.C., and she’s also received numerous awards including The Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award.
JD: Yes. She’s also very active locally. She’s in the James / Kleinert Center for the Arts in Woodstock. Her husband Mark Kanter teaches at Columbia University. All the artists that I show are actually very active in the community. In addition to being educators and making art in their studios, these artists are also great art communicators.
SD: What kind of experience do you want your visitors to have when they visit your gallery?
JD: What’s really interesting about showing all these artists is that they work so well together – I can easily have a group show with any of them. Even though they have different styles, they all seem to have the same sort of fascination, the same sort of obsession with art. The common denominator is that they all create amazing spatial environments that the viewer can occupy. That’s my criterion for what I consider art. The mark making is also terribly important. A gestural mark is a brush work with intention, and a certain kind of velocity to it, and these kinds of creations need to form a space that you can inhabit. If art doesn’t have gesture, and it doesn’t have space, it becomes illustration, which is a fine thing, but it’s not deep enough for me. What I look for in art is the space, the intent, and the passion. What I find beautiful is the thing that changes me by looking at it, and changes my relationship to where I am.
SD: You hosted recently a show by Iain Machell. Let’s talk about that.
JD: Iain Machell is the head of the Visual Arts Department at SUNY Ulster. Last summer he got a grant to study at Platte Clove arts residency near Saugerties. And created all these drawings, and paintings, and even some photographs enameled in metal, that were inspired by Platte Clove – he did it in a very short period of time as well. The show at Cross Contemporary Art Gallery included close to thirty pieces of art that Iain created at Platte Clove this past summer. It was an installation – some sort of meditation of ground and water and rocks and crevasses.
SD: I do want to mention that Platte Clove played such an important role in the formation of the Hudson River School of Painting in the 1820s. What is your next show?
JD: My December show is Shira Toren, an Israeli-American artist, who works in New York City, but also has a place in Great Barrington, MA. She does abstract paintings, and also makes prints. Her show is called “Eternal Return.” It opened December 5, and will remain on view through December 27.
SD: What are your plans for the holiday season?
JD: I have been invited to participate in The Decorator’s Holiday Show at the Senate House in Kingston. The Senate House Museum owns a large Victorian house that is being made available to interior designers to decorate it for the holidays. I am the only gallery that was invited to participate. The grand opening was December 4 as part of The Snowflake Festival. I am featuring artists that I have shown over the past year.
SD: What are the gallery’s hours?
JD: The gallery is open from Thursday to Monday from 12 noon to 5 pm. And also by appointment.
For more information about Cross Contemporary Art Gallery, visit