Category: wood-block prints

Featured Destination: Cross Contemporary Art Gallery

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.

Winter IV by Katherine Bowling. Contributed photo.
Winter IV by Katherine Bowling. Contributed photo.

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.

Reverse Painting with Silver by Catherine Howe. Contributed photo.
Reverse Painting with Silver by Catherine Howe. Contributed photo.

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.

Labrador Sea by Gregory Amenoff. Contributed photo.
Labrador Sea by Gregory Amenoff. Contributed photo.

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.

Sleepy Golden by Heather Hutchinson. Contributed photo.
Sleepy Golden by Heather Hutchison. Contributed photo.
More Like the Weather by Heather Hutchinson. Contributed photo.
More Like the Weather by Heather Hutchison. Contributed photo.

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.

Platte Clove Lens Installation by Iain Machell. Contributed photo.
Platte Clove Lens Installation by Iain Machell. Contributed photo.

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.

Nebula 2 by Shira Toren. Contributed photo.
Nebula 2 by Shira Toren. Contributed photo.

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

http://www.crosscontemporaryart.com

81 Partition Street, Saugerties, NY 12477

(845) 399-9751

 

© 2015 Simona David

Featured Artist: Lisbeth Firmin

Lisbeth Firmin. Contributed photo.
© Lisbeth Firmin. Contributed Photo.

Lisbeth Firmin was born in Paducah, Kentucky in 1949. She 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. There was a retrospective exhibition at the Taft School in Watertown, CT in 2011, featuring painting and prints from 1994-2010. In 2010, Firmin’s monoprint, “Heading to Work, Varick Street” won ‘Best in Show’ in WSKG’s annual Art in Motion Competition in Binghamton, NY. Her paintings were included in the 2009 Winter Issue, Stone Canoe Review, Syracuse University. 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. Her urban landscape paintings were included in “Five Women Artists in New York,” curated by Ken Ratner, Flushing Town Hall, 2008. 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. Firmin 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. She was a guest artist (printmaking) at the Vermont Studio Center from 2001 to 2004, working with master printer Sarah Amos.

Selected publications include: Provincetown Arts, American Artist, American Art Collector, McDougal Littell/LITERATURE, The Boston Globe, Art and Auction, Art of Our Town, The New York Times, Arts Magazine, The Banner (Provincetown), The Albuquerque Journal, and The Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

I spoke with Lisbeth Firmin in her studio in Margaretville, New York.

Simona David: How did you become an artist?

Lisbeth Firmin: This is a picture of me at three. I’m left-handed, and seriously trying to stay in the lines. I started my brilliant career right there.

Lisbeth Firmin as a three-year old. © Lisbeth Firmin. Contributed Photo.

SD: One could say that you were born with an innate talent.

LF: What I can say is that I could draw since I could remember. I could always draw something that looked like something. Kids love to draw, and they all draw the same way when they’re young. But when they get older, they want to draw something that looks like something, and can’t – and that’s the difference: I could always do it. So I kept on doing it.

SD: Did your parents notice immediately that you had this amazing talent?

LF: Not immediately, but I started winning scholarships when I was 10 or 11 years old. I was sent to an art institute where we lived. I was sent there with these teenagers and 20 year old artists, and I was only 12. That was an eye-opener.

SD: Were you a mature child, or everybody knew you were just a 12 year old?

LF: Everybody knew, but I was accepted because I could draw, and my drawing had this vigor in it. I was full of energy, and even at that age I had a style of my own.

SD: You already had your own style when you were 12. After forty years of artistic career, do you think you still maintain something of that style?

LF: Yes. I think so.

SD: Do you have formal training as an artist?

LF: No. I won these scholarships to art institutes – one in Indianapolis and one in Los Angeles. I wanted to go to art school, but my father wasn’t going to pay for it – he didn’t think I was serious about it. It was also the late 1960s, and everything was falling apart. I went to the University of California at Santa Barbara for a year in a liberal arts program, and took as much art as I could. I took just exactly what I wanted to take, and got really good grades. The second year I didn’t go back.

SD: So you continued to be self-taught, and continued to draw and paint.

LF: Yes, constantly. It just poured out of me. I was doing all kinds of things: I was doing prints, and drawings, and collages. I didn’t have my subject matter down. What draws me is painting what I see – translating what I see into a painting or a drawing.

Reading Beckett
Reading Beckett, 22″ x 30″ monoprint, 2015, printed by the artist at Hudson Press, Roxbury, NY. © Lisbeth Firmin. Contributed Photo.

SD: During your formative period were you working with other artists to develop your skills? Or perhaps you had someone in mind you wanted to emulate?

LF: Artists have this kind of creative bent. And I’ve always been curious, and always had a ton of energy. When I was in Provincetown I studied with Philip Malicoat. He was good friends with Edwin Dickinson, a very good painter, who is in a lot of big collections. I spent a winter working with Malicoat in his studio. He taught me how to paint, and how to lay out the palette. That was in the 1970s.

SD: You spent the 1970s in Provincetown, in a bohemian artistic community. Talk about that period in your life and career.

LF: I believe the hayday of that artistic community was a bit earlier when Hans Hofmann was around, and everybody from New York City came up, Pollock, everybody. I lived in Provincetown for a decade. I worked in the theater there. I was also painting a lot, and selling: my friends were buying my work. I was also a street artist for a time: I was doing portraits for tourists. It was an amazing period.

SD: In the early 1980s you moved to New York City. Let’s talk about your artistic trajectory in the Big Apple.

LF: It’s funny. I was visiting friends in New York City, and had my trunk full of collages I was bringing as gifts to my friends. I was stopped in front of a gallery, and the gallery owner saw the collages, and offered me a show. I thought if that was that easy to get a show in New York City, I’d stay. It was a great show, it got great reviews.

SD: That was in 1978 at Marie Pelliconi Gallery in New York City, a show called Souvenir Collages.

LF: Yes. I had twenty collages in that show. It got Holly Solomon interested in my work, which is a pretty big deal, but I wasn’t ready.

Garbage Truck/Snowstorm
Garbage Truck/Snowstorm, 5″ x 5″, gouache, 1996 by Lisbeth Firmin, owned by Dympna Burkhart. Contributed Photo.
Fifth Avenue (gouache)
Fifth Avenue, 7″ x 15″, gouache, 1995. © Lisbeth Firmin. Contributed Photo.

SD: What happened next?

LF: I guess there is a big gap in my resume. From 1979 to mid 1980s I was just trying to survive and bring up my daughter. I got a job as a graphic designer that was paying a decent salary. I would paint at night after my daughter went to bed. At one point I did a whole series on cockroaches, because we had so many of them. I was also doing some landscape, some subway stuff. I was doing all work on paper. I didn’t start painting in oil until the late 1980s. Back then I was doing gouaches or collages, all kinds of images.

SD: And in the late 1980s you started to paint in oil.

LF: Yes. What happened was that I was trying to decide what I was going to do, and I walked out of my apartment on Sullivan Street, and I said that’s it: I’m going to paint what I see. I did thirty gouaches – small 10 x 10 gouaches. I had an open studio party, and I sold every single one of my paintings. I knew I was into something, and I had so much fun doing it. I was painting things I didn’t know I could paint: police horses, cabs, people – people started to appear in my paintings. My career just started to take off, right after that.

SD: Taking off, like showing in galleries?

LF: Yes. I started working in oil paint, and showing urban landscapes in galleries. And people started buying them. I began to do one new show every year. I was producing a ton of work at this point, and had some big names interested in me like Allan Stone.

"Couple With Child, 7th Avenue South"
Couple With Child, 7th Avenue South, 20″ x 20″, oil on wood panel, 2003. © Lisbeth Firmin. Contributed Photo.
Three Guys, Downtown Philly
Three Guys, Downtown Philly, 20″ x 20″, oil on wood panel,  2012. © Lisbeth Firmin. Contributed Photo.

SD: Nowadays you also make monoprints. What is the process?

LF: I work on plexiplates, and apply ink, and then use rags to create a pattern; I press on paper, then pull out the print, and clean the plexiplate for future use. I learned to do this at Parsons: I took a class there in 1991. It’s an amazing medium, it’s called the painterly print.

SD: Talk about these two monoprints you have here.

LF: I made these in the early 1990s. I come from a small town in Maine called Eastport. They have an art institute there – Tides Institute. In 2013 they offered me a show – these monoprints were shown there in an exhibit called Coming Home.

SD: How do you choose what to work on? How do you decide what comes next?

LF: 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 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 is just coming naturally to me these days: I know where to put the paint, and how to capture the light. I’m moving away from buildings and streetscapes.

SD: What role do colors play in your approach?

LF: It’s a good question. But honestly it’s not about the colors. It’s more about the light and the shadow: that’s what gets me. For instance, last year I was in Barcelona and painted this woman on the street: I wanted to get her in the dark, in the shadow of those buildings, and moving towards the corner of the street where the light was blasting. It was the light – I knew I wanted to paint the light, not the color. Generally I paint with pretty muted colors.

Woman Walking,  Barcelona
Woman Walking, Barcelona, 22″ x 30″ monoprint, 2015, printed by the artist at Hudson Press, Roxbury, NY. © Lisbeth Firmin. Contributed Photo.

SD: Talk about your style. You describe yourself as a realist painter. Some have called you an expressionist realist. 

LF: It is realism – old-fashioned realism, but somehow unique. What I notice every time I’m in a group show is that my work never looks like anybody else’s.

SD: What kinds of works are usually exhibited along with yours?

LF: I enter various competitions like this show at the Bonner David Galleries in Scottsdale, Arizona called What’s Your Favorite City? Or various shows upstate New York like for instance Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region at the Hyde Collection Museum in Glens Falls, or the 63rd Exhibition of the Central New York Artists at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica. My work just never looks like anybody else’s work.

SD: Would you name any artist as being influential to your work?

LF: I have painters that I really admire. When I started painting the City I compared myself to John Sloan and George Bellows and all those guys known as The Eight. I was painting the streets of Manhattan, just like they were doing a hundred years earlier. So I thought I was carrying on that tradition. But I think my work has evolved beyond that.

SD: You’ve been represented by the same dealer for quite some time now.

LF: Yes. I’m lucky. My dealer has stayed with me for 15 years while transitioning from urban landscape to figural painting. Her name is Marla Rice. She owns Rice- Polack Gallery in Provincetown, where I sell a lot of work.

SD: How does your work make you feel?

LF: I know that when I work for about a year or so to produce new works for a show, and then they’re gone and the walls are empty, I don’t like it and feel compelled to fill up those walls again.

SD: What kind of feedback do you get from your followers?

LF: What I do is so instinctive, yet it seems to have an emotional connection with the public. I know that I’m emotionally repressed, but I think it comes out through my paintings. People tell me they get an emotional reaction to my paintings.

SD: Talk a bit about the artistic process.

LF: I’m mixing the colors to get it right, and that takes a long time, because I mix all the colors that I want to use, and then I start painting and I’m still in the real world, but then after about an hour I’m not in the real world anymore. I am somewhere else – I don’t even know what time it is. I’m just in this amazing mindset, I can’t even describe it.

SD: How has your style changed over the years?

LF: It’s hard for me to say. The medium is the same – a lot of work in gouache on paper, but the subject matter is different. And the brushstroke has gotten more confident, I guess.

SD: What are you working on now?

LF: I’m preparing a show for 2016 in Provincetown. I show there every other year. Over half of the new oils I showed last year sold.

SD: Do you have a favorite painting?

LF: Every once in a while a new painting will come out that is magical. I don’t know where it comes from. “Woman on A Train,” painted last year, was such a painting. Everyone who saw it was moved by it. It sold before the show opened: Marla told me she could have sold this painting twenty times.

Woman on a Train
Woman on a Train, 20″ x 20″, oil on wood panel, 2014. © Lisbeth Firmin. Contributed Photo.

SD: You’ve received many awards and recognitions such as the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Printmaking in 2007, the Chautauqua Center for the Visual Arts Award in 2003, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship in 2000, a Manhattan Arts International Award of Excellence in 2000, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 1999, and many others. What do these recognitions mean to you?

LF: Every time I win something I feel like I am on the right road. I feel like I have something special to give, and I just want to keep it pure, and give it. I also think all these early awards came to the right time to propel me to push myself to the next level.

SD: Your work is in many collections, including the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, New York Historical Society in New York City, Vermont Studio Center, but also corporate collections such as Thomson Reuters and Barclay Investments in New York City. That must be feeling really good.

LF: Yes. Some of these works were done on commission for corporate collections.

SD: You’ve been shown in many solo and group shows all over the country and internationally. What are some of your favorite moments?

LF: What I really like about being shown in galleries is that it pushes me to meet deadlines. I know I have to have a certain amount of work done by a certain date, and I’m enjoying the need to produce.

To learn more about Lisbeth Firmin, visit http://www.lisbethfirmin.com/.

All the photographs were contributed by the artist.

© 2015 Simona David

Weekend in the Catskills – 7/24/2015

This weekend in the Catskills:

  • Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett at Bethel Woods;
  • One Hundred Years of Maverick Concerts in Woodstock;
  • The AMR Open Studios Tour in Roxbury and Margaretville;
  • And A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.

Read article at Upstater.com.

Big Red Kill by Patrice Lorenz
Big Red Kill by Patrice Lorenz, participant in the AMR Open Studios. Contributed photo. 

Not to Miss This Weekend: AMR Open Studios Tour 2015

This weekend, Saturday and Sunday, July 25 – 26, from 11 am to 5 pm over twenty artists in Roxbury, Halcottsville, Margaretville, Fleischmanns, Halcott Center, Arkville, and Pine Hill will open their studios to the public, and show their working spaces.

A good place to start the tour is the Wawaka (Halcottsville) Grange, which is true to its original function as a Grange and General Store. Refreshments, bathrooms, and handicap access are available at this location. The Catskill Mountain Quilters Guild group show as well as Katherine Somelofski, Kathleen Green and Oneida Hammond will exhibit their works at the Wawaka Grange this year. These are first time participants.

Ceramics bowl by Ros Welchman
Ceramics bowl by Ros Welchman. Contributed photo.

Ceramicist Ros Welchman, who has participated in the tour every year since it launched in 2012, will be opening her studio at 266 Halcottsville Rd. in Halcottsville. For forty years Welchman taught mathematics and education at Brooklyn College. Since retiring and moving to the Catskills, she returned to her early love for visual design and ceramics. Her professional interests in mathematics (especially geometry) and in teaching (especially problem-solving) have had a strong impact on her work. Welchman’s ceramics are hand-built with an emphasis on surface texture, often with patterns influenced by her travels.

Painter Lisbeth Firmin will be showing her work in the Commons Building in Margaretville. Multi-media artist Anthony Margiotta will be opening his studio in Halcott Center, and sculptor Ken Hiratsuka will be showing his barn and massive stone carvings at 34325 Rt. 28 between Margaretville and Andes.

In Roxbury painters Ellen Wong and Helene Manzo, photographer Frank Manzo, and ceramicists and printmakers Peter Yamaoka and Gerda Van Leeuwen will all be opening their studios and offering an intimate view of their works. Studio visits trigger questions that aren’t often asked in formal settings such as galleries and museums; this is an exchange that benefits both the viewer and the artist.

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

Weaver Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes, whose studio is located at 424 Carr George Rd. in Denver, is passionate about what it takes to make fabric. Tabitha has in her studio a professional loom, and happily demonstrates how to work the weft and create the density that is desired for a new piece. “To me that’s magical,” she says – “how I get a piece of fabric: something out of nothing. Weaving is one of the oldest forms of a blend of art and function,” Tabitha explains. “And it’s gratifying that it isn’t forgotten.”

Other participating artists this year include: Hedi Kyle, Midori Kato, Patrice Lorenz, Amy Masters, Gary Mead, John Sanders, Ted Sheridan, and Alix Travis.

Book structure by Hedi Kyle
Book structure by Hedi Kyle. Contributed photo.

For maps and more information, visit http://www.amropenstudios.org/. Look for AMR Open Studios on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmrOpenStudios.

Look for the “OPEN STUDIO” signs and brochures with maps, available for pick up at business sponsors and community supporters in Arkville, Roxbury, and Margaretville.

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

SPONSORED STORY

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

SPONSORED STORY

Featured Artist: Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes

Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes is a professional weaver residing in Delaware County, New York. She studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), and the Center for Tapestry Arts in New York City. Tabitha 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. She has exhibited and sold her handwoven products at the following venues: Catskill Mountain Artisans Guild (Margaretville and Pakatakan Farmers Market), Erpf House-Catskill Center for Conservation and Development (Arkville), Middleburgh Artisans Cooperative, Roxbury Arts Group, Shaker Heritage Museum (Albany), Lefferts Farmhouse Historical Museum (Brooklyn), and Brooklyn Museum.

I visited Tabitha’s studio in Roxbury on January 11, 2015.

Simona David: Tabitha, please talk a little bit about the history of weaving.

Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes: 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 wove reed baskets and textiles. 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. During the Middle Ages guilds were set up in Europe that focused on the development and guidelines for designing and weaving tapestries as well as cloth for clothing and bedding. The recent tapestry exhibit of Pieter Coeke van Aelst at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City clarifies the time consuming detail process of weaving large tapestries, many of which depict stories of heroes from mythology and the Bible, and that only kings were wealthy enough to commission such works.

On the Eastern coast of the U.S. it’s the Scottish, German and French immigrants who brought with them the knowledge, equipment, and weave patterns that were used to create fabric for everyday clothes and fancy bedlinens. For instance, a lot of the patterns classified and most readily preserved and recognized as  Colonial American patterns were brought up by the Germans settling around Pennsylvania, while the Delhi Jacquard Coverlets featured at the Patterns that you may see at the Delaware County Historical Association in Delhi were designed and woven by the Scottish immigrants who settled in Delaware County or in Canada during the 1700s and early 1800s.

With the Industrial Revolution, which included the development of water or steam powered looms in mills in England, Scotland, and Massachusetts, the time consuming and manual process of weaving one’s fabric for bedding and clothing died, and books of handwritten weave patterns gathered dust and were forgitten except in very rural parts of the Eastern US states, like Rhode Island, North Carolina, Tennessee.  development of . Then in the 1930s and 1940s weaving was re-introduced to the farmers’ wives in South and North Carolina. It followed a period of renewed interest in weaving. A lot of the weaving in our area in the Catskills was done for family consumption, and was done predominantly by the women, perhaps both as a way to recapture before total loss our textile heritage and to provide income to families struggling economically during the Depression Era.

SD: When was your first encounter with weaving, and what triggered this lifelong interest?

TGB: I had a high school classmate who had left high school to go to another school – I believe in New Hampshire. And when she came back to visit, she talked about weaving. That really caught my imagination. Why? I don’t know. I come from a family that is in many ways artistically talented – painters, stained glass makers, writers, architects. I needed to craft out an artistic niche for myself, and that was weaving. Having a good color sense the textile arts have appealed to me.

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Textile Artist Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes. © Simona David

SD: And then you studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

TGB: I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology from 1974 to 1976. I was an evening student. This was part of their Textile and Service Design Department. We were working on very small looms – 7 inch wide metal frame looms. These were difficult to work with. But weaving wasn’t a forgotten art. I liked the mathematical structure of setting up the loom. I fell in love with what it takes to create fabric. And when I mix the colors, when I mix the texture of the yarns together – to me that’s magical – how I get a piece of fabric: something out of nothing.

SD: You’re also a spinner, and sometimes you buy wool, cotton, or other materials, and spin. Do you remember the first piece you ever made?

TGB: A lot of the weaving we did at the Fashion Institute of Technology involved creating small samples in various patterns. The earliest samples I made I have probably either given them away or sold them. In the 1980s I went into business creating place mates, table runners, pillows, scarves, and I was selling them.

SD: Would you like to talk about your evolution as a weaver, and discuss various guilds you belong to?

TGB: I’ve always been involved in various groups, and here in the Catskills I’m involved with the Catskill Mountains Artisan Guild. I joined the Catskill Mountains Guild in 2007. I believe I’m the only weaver in the Margaretville store. In the past I had also taken classes at the Center for Tapestry Arts in New York City – I believe that’s no longer in existence. One of the workshop leaders was Michelle Lester. She was a professional weaver – at FIT my best teacher was Nell Znamierowski, another professional in the textile industry. She was in the industry, and created samples for Pan Am Airways, for example. I was learning from professionals in the field, but a lot of the work that I do is also self-taught.

SD: Let’s take a look at the loom you have here in the studio.

TGB: The loom here in the studio is an AVL loom. It is a professional loom. It’s a 16 harness floor loom, and it’s a DOBBY loom. DOBBY refers to a particular way the threads are manipulated. The number of harnesses represents the trays on which there are heddles, and heddles are what supports the threads through a peg board system that activates the raising and lowering of harnesses. The harnesses and the DOBBY system manipulate what’s called the warp. It’s a vertical thread that goes from from the back beam on the loom through the heddles on the harnesses, then through the reed to be tied onto the front beam, which is where I sit to weave. The weft is on a shuttle, it goes to right angles to the warp, and that’s what I do as part of the weaving process. It’s a little complicated, and that’s why I enjoy when people come to my studio to get to see it. I’ve had this loom since 1990, and that’s how I do all my weaving.

SD: How about your yarns?

TGB: Cotton, wool, silk, linen. I do occasionally have non-natural fibers like acrylics. I prefer keeping it natural, because it gives me a business edge. The Jacquard Acid Dyes that I use with the wool that I do buy here in the County are environmentally friendly. I use a lot of water for a pound of wool to be dyed, less than a half of teaspoon of the dye powder, and about a ½ cup of vinegar – the vinegar being the acid. I come up with really bright colors. This past summer I got to work with plants like black walnut shells, golden rod, black-eyed-susan, indigo leaves – these are some of the colors used on wool: bright yellow, brownish-red, and also some blended colors.

SD: Where do you buy your supplies from?

TGB: All of the cotton that I have here in the studio I got through Webs – it’s a place in Northampton, Massachusetts – a factory size operation. They have tons of yarns available: wool, mohair, cottons. They have weaving supplies, they have crocheting and knitting supplies, they have books. It’s a wealth of supplies. The website is http://www.yarn.com. Also, much of the wool that I have here in the studio comes from an initial batch that I got years ago from someone who was selling out her yarns in Brooklyn. I also buy wool here in Delaware County from sheep and alpaca breeders. The Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck is also a great source – it takes place the third weekend in October. I only go there every four or five years when I have a full shopping list.

SD: You’ve been featured in many magazines: Pure Catskills, Catskill Country, Greene Door magazine. Last summer you participated in the Open Studio Tour that has taken place last Sunday in July since 2012 in Andes, Margaretville and Roxbury area. Last year you were also the recipient of a NYSCA – DEC grant to work with students at the Roxbury Central School. Let’s talk about some of the coverage in the media, and also let’s talk about things that haven’t been covered.

TGB: Pure Catskills Guide is published annually by the Watershed Agricultural Council in Walton. I’ve been a member since 2007. My products are listed under Value Added Farm Products. The next issue comes up in July. Lillian Browne wrote an article about fiber-related professions for the Catskill Country magazine fall / winter 2014 issue – that is published by Decker Publishing in Delhi. I was also featured in Greene Door magazine. In 2014 I received a grant from NYSCA – DEC program. I worked with Madalyn Warren from the Straight Out of the Ground farm, who also operates the Roxbury Central School’s garden. We worked with third grade students this past September, and we taught them how to work with botanicals to dye wool. The aim was to enhance their understanding of what Colonial American life was like. The farm families during the Colonial period were very self-sufficient.

SD: Now let’s talk specifically about your work as a weaver. Let’s get closer to your loom. You’ve been working on this loom for the past twenty-five years. Please, demonstrate the weaving process.

TGB: What I have now on the loom is a piece I’m working on – it’s a summer shawl. It’s a green mohair fiber – moss color is my dominant color. My accent colors are done in stripes: bright, clear yellow, and buttercup yellow.  On the weft I have a dark green, a dark blue, and a very dark purple, mixed with a very thin gold thread. In the weft process I separate my warp into two layers. At right angles to the warp my weft is laid in between those two layers. It creates a net. In this particular case I want my rows of weft to be really close together so it’s a dense piece of fabric. The yellow thread gives you some sparkle; the dark blue and green colors help to highlight the moss green and yellow.

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Textile Artist Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes. © Simona David

SD: What is your primary drive in the process of weaving?

TGB: The mix of colors and the textures of the yarns that I’m using.

SD: Weavers have always woven both for functional and aesthetic purposes, going back to ancient times. You’re doing the same thing today. You are making fancy tapestry for purely aesthetic reasons, and you’re also making functional objects like scarves, blankets, and pillow covers. Let’s talk about the variety of products that you make.

TGB: I came to weaving primarily to do functional things: place mates, table runners, covers for pillows. In the early 1990s I’ve also started to explore creative projects, and begun doing tapestry. I work on what I feel like, and what my inventory at the Catskill Mountains Artisan Guild needs.

SD: To a certain extent you are a multi-media artist. You also do wood-block prints. You have a composition here done both as tapestry and wood-block print. I would assume it takes two completely different sets of skills.

TGB: It does. This project started with a series of photographs taken at a stream nearby. I took a print making class at SUNY New Paltz. I carved, and mixed the colors, and achieved a three-dimensional quality by overlapping layers of colors. Wood-block printing is a very technical process. I was very pleased with how the colors came out, how the subtlety of the snow came out blueish rather than looking purple or grey. And then I translated that wood-block print into a tapestry. Again, overlapping the colors, and achieving the shadow effect which had to look realistic. That was a real challenge. It’s easy to make changes on wood-block by coloring it with crayons or ink, but it’s not so easy to make changes on tapestry. On tapestry, once you start weaving, if you need to make changes, you have to take everything out and start all over.

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Wood block print and tapestry by Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes. © Simona David

SD: Do you have any upcoming events you’d like to talk about?

TGB: I’m in the process of setting up a shop on Etsy at http://www.etsy.com/shop/TGBWEAVINGSTUDIO; I was encouraged to join Etsy by another textile artist with exceptional skills. It will be probably up by February. Soon I will be presenting again my Introduction to Weaving workshop at the Delaware County Historical Association in Delhi. I also have a weaving student who is creating a scarf. I am mentoring her. And we hope to have again the Andes-Margaretville-Roxbury Open Studio Tour this summer.

SD: Are people today still interested in weaving, and if so, what exactly attracts them to this craft?

TGB: I have the sense I may be one of the very few weavers here in Delaware County. There are some weavers in Narrowsburg and Port Jervis. There are some docents who teach students who visit the Ashokan Field Campus in Ulster County. Also, the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown has a weaver and docents who demonstrate and discuss the textile arts of the Colonial American period. I think what keeps one from being a weaver is the size of the equipment. It’s also time-consuming: it could take up to eight hours to set up everything for a new project.

SD: How does your schedule look like?

TGB: I usually work on weekends. And that includes anything from planning a new project, bookkeeping, and marketing. I also have a scrapbook and a weaving notebook that I update, and write down new ideas. When I retire from my day job, I do plan this to become a full-time operation.

SD: What do you like most about being a weaver, and what do you find most challenging?

TGB: It’s a very satisfying craft, because I am making something. It is challenging, but the rewards are strong.

SD: You are very active, and rather pragmatic for an artist. You also take care of the business side, you do social media, so forth and so on. How can people get in touch with you, and find more about what you do?

TGB: I am on Facebook at facebook.com/tgbweavingstudio, and I blog at tabithagilmore-barnesstudio.blogspot.com. I’m also on Pinterest at pinterest.com/tgbweaving. I update my blog weekly, and I showcase what inspires me. To make appointments and visit the studio, call (607) 326-7662.

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Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes. © Simona David

Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes is a weaver, spinner and educator living and working in Delaware County.

© 2015 Simona David