Earlier this month the art world was shaken by news that a banana duct-taped to a wall sold for $150,000 at Art Basel Miami. Maurizio Cattelan’s installation called Comedian, that included, yes!, a real banana taped to a wall, has become some kind of a sensation with some calling it conceptual art and others calling it a prank (read the background story here). The fact that someone would pay $150,000 for a banana taped to a wall calls into question the value of art and complicates an appraisal’s work even further.
Cattelan’s created three editions of his installation, two of whom sold for $120,000 to collectors identified by Artsy as Billy and Beatrice Cox of Miami, and Sarah Andelman, founder of Colette concept store in Paris, and part-time Catskills resident. Andelman’s vacation home in the Catskills was subject to a feature in Architectural Digest in the summer of 2018.
But is it art? The perishability of a mere banana contrasts significantly with what artists have traditionally sought in art – immortality. And how about artistic skills? Is it really any artistry involved in taping a banana to a wall?
Brands have capitalized on this commotion by creating their own duct-taped “art,” anything from a sandwich to a bottle of water, and more. All there is needed is a random object and duct tape, plus of course access to a wall. Read full story in Ad Age magazine.
Artnet has covered the topic and made it easy for readers to access the coverage all in one place: “To document for posterity how this humble piece of produce became a global phenomenon, we have pulled together all of our coverage in one place.”
Defining art has always been both challenging and disputed. In the 18th century, philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, grandfather of composer Felix Mendelssohn, argued that art is the carrying forward of the beautiful, obscurely recognized by feeling, until it becomes true and good; the aim of art is moral perfection, he claimed.
In What is Art? published in 1896, Leo Tolstoy argued that art is the transmission of an emotion felt by the artist (joy, exaltation, anger, sadness, etc.) – not all beauty, but all infectious emotion that the common man can experience. Tolstoy’s argument was an attack on formalism and the doctrine of art for art’s sake, an attack on unintelligibility and exclusiveness. He did not believe in professional artists, who, he thought, perverted art; instead he argued that all men can and should make art, thus proclaiming the universality of art.
In the 20th century, Roy Lichtenstein defiantly declared that organized perception is what art is all about. For Wassily Kandinsky, making art was an internal necessity that impelled the artist to create as a spiritual impulse and the audience to admire art as a spiritual hunger. It was that simple.
Tolstoy didn’t think that taste was the final arbiter of what was good and bad art; he defined taste as the capacity of an individual to be aesthetically pleased by certain works and displeased by others. He conceded however that taste can be educated, and artistic activities can be made accessible to all.
The Hyde Collection Art Museum in Glens Falls, Warren County, includes a wide array of artworks and antiques – paintings, sculptures, pottery, books and furniture – spanning from the early Renaissance to modern and contemporary era. The collection was established by Charlotte Pruyn Hyde and her husband Louis Fiske Hyde, who acquired art from the Renaissance to the 19th century. Later on, the collection expanded to include 20th century modern and contemporary works.
Housed in the Hydes’ 1912 American Renaissance mansion, the collection includes works by Italian Renaissance masters Domenico Tintoretto, Raphael, and Sandro Botticelli; Spanish Renaissance painter, sculptor and architect El Greco; Baroque painters Peter Paul Rubens and Rembrandt van Rijn; French Neo-Classical painter Ingres; French Impressionists Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir; Post-Impressionist painters like Paul Cézanne and Vincent Van Gogh, as well as modern painters such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. American masters including Winslow Homer are also represented in the collection. In addition to its permanent holdings, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions and other educational programs.
Because of its growing collection, in the 1980s the Museum expanded with a large Education Wing, comprised of three galleries, an auditorium, an art studio as well a storage and visitor amenities area, complementing the adjacent historic Hyde House.
In 2015 we interviewed Erin Coe, then executive director at The Hyde Collection – Coe is currently director of the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State. In 2013, while at The Hyde Collection, Coe organized the acclaimed O’Keeffe and Lake George exhibition in association with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which brought together 58 paintings from public and private collections, created between 1918 and 1934, when O’Keeffe summered at Lake George in the company of Alfred Stieglitz and his family. In fact, Coe co-authored the book Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George, which presented groundbreaking scholarship that shed new light on O’Keeffe’s work.
Painters affiliated with the Hudson River School of Painting, founded by Thomas Cole in 1825 and considered the first authentic American art movement, had painted at Lake George, including Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, John F. Kensett, Sanford Gifford, and others. The Hyde Collection’s most significant Hudson River School painting in its permanent collection is a painting by Albert Bierstadt, who did not paint at Lake George, however. His Yosemite Valley oil on canvas, painted in 1865, is on display at The Hyde Collection in the Downstairs Guest Room. Because of his interest in the West, Bierstadt is often grouped with the Rocky Mountain School as well. In the 1850s, he studied in Düsseldorf, under the influence of the prestigious Düsseldorf Academy, characterized by detailed, plein air paintings in muted colors. Düsseldorf School exercised influence over the Hudson River School.
In the summer of 2015, The Hyde Collection hosted the exhibition The Late Drawings of Andy Warhol: 1973 – 1987, organized in partnership with The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburg. Drawing was critical to Warhol’s development as an artist from his early years as an art student to the last few days of his life in 1987. The show included fifty large drawings from the artist’s late period. It was a prolific time in Warhol’s life, when the artist used as inspiration celebrities, flowers, and ads, as seen in his most iconic works. Some of these drawings were shown for the first time at The Hyde Collection. The show drew visitors from all over the world and across the United States.
Currently on view is a modern art exhibition dedicated to Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Fernand Léger, which explores exclusively the three artists’ work as printmakers. Organized by Contemporary and Modern Print Exhibitions, the show includes Picasso’s print series Suite des Saltimbanques (1904-1905) and Le Cocu Magnifique (1968), Braque’s L’Ordre des Oiseaux (1962), and Léger’s Les Illuminations (1950). The exhibition will remain on view through January 5, 2020.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 12 noon to 5 p.m.
“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.”
The Zadock Pratt Museum’s 2019 History Award Recipients are: Janelle Conine Maurer, Donald B. Teator, Kevin Berner and Ginny Scheer, all recognized for their outstanding work in the local and regional history of the Tri-County area of Delaware, Greene and Schoharie Counties.
The Award Ceremony took place on September 28 at Villa Vosilla in Tannersville, New York.
This year marks the Zadock Pratt Museum’s sixtieth anniversary. Located in Zadock Pratt’s Greek Revival home built in 1828, the museum opened to the public in 1959 as a research and historic preservation center. The founders, which included Hilda Moseman and Brayton Thompkins, envisioned the place as an edifice to honor Pratt’s legacy, recognized by then as a national leader and the founder of Prattsville, one of America’s earliest planned communities. Severely damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011, the museum recovered remarkably with great support from the community and generous benefactors, which included The A. Lindsay and Olive B. O’Connor Foundation and Nicholas J. Juried Foundation.
Today is the last day to see Ellen Wong’s show “Living in Nature” on view at Longyear Gallery. The show includes thirty oil paintings and works on paper grouped by season (winter, spring, summer and fall) as well as wild life – at prominent display being trout and deer drawings.
“As I found myself painting through the seasons – quiet snowy fields, radiant autumn roads, rushing waterfalls cascading with thunderous torrents of spring rain, there was no formula to keep the paintings alive, to catch the quickly changing light, the clouds moving overhead, and so each painting has been a process of discovery and in many cases, I have returned to the same places multiple times to keep on trying to capture something of my experience there,” says Wong.
Longyear Gallery is located at 785 Main Street, Margaretville, NY. The gallery is open Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays from 11 am to 4 pm, and Saturdays from 10 am to 5 pm (winter hours may vary). For more information, call (845) 586-3270 or visit https://longyeargallery.org.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?”
Wong’s studio, which will be open during the AMR Open Art Studios Tour, is located at 121 Shephard Lane in Roxbury.
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.
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).
Look for Catskill Tri-County Historical Views’ latest issue (June 2019) to read about Art in the Catskills and other cultural projects as well as the history of the region.
Learn about “How Art Is Made: In The Catskills,” reviewed by Leslie T. Sharpe, “Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art,” reviewed by Elizabeth B. Jacks, “Mohonk and the Smileys: A National Historic Landmark and the Family That Created It,” reviewed by Chris Pryslopski, and other topics of interest.
You may find the magazine at Roxbury General Store, Delaware County Historical Association, Thomas Cole National Historic Site, and other places.