Roxbury, an international destination in recent years given its wildly popular attractions The Roxbury Motel and Plattekill Mountain, is now home to a Writers’ Residency, newly opened by writer Annie DeWitt and photographer Jerome Jakubiec. The three-day residency program includes accommodations, meals, workshops and manuscript review by DeWitt, who teaches writing at Columbia University and is the author of White Nights in Split Town City, greatly reviewed by The New York Times.
The residency, which opened on July 11, hosted an inaugural Editors’ Panel on July 13, featuring Jonny Diamond, editor in chief of LitHub, and Tracy O’Neill, author of the acclaimed novel The Hopeful and editor of the literary journal Epiphany. Diamond and O’Neill talked about the submission process to literary journals.
Asked about her aspirations with the residency, DeWitt said: “We couldn’t be more delighted with the outcome of this summer’s inaugural residency. It has fueled our creative energies to put so much of ourselves into a project and community that we love. We see Roxbury Writers’ Residency as an ambitious project with a dual focus: providing writers at all stages of their careers with a supportive vibrant atmosphere within which to create, think and question as well as to provide Delaware County with a wellspring into New York City’s creative excellence by offering free programming such as our Editors’ Panel to all Delaware County residents which furthers artistic dialogue. We want to help put Delaware County on the map as the thriving artistic community and rural paradise that it is.”
Roxbury, the birthplace of financier Jay Gould, has long had a literary tradition going back to the days of naturalist writer John Burroughs, Gould’s contemporary, and Walter R. Brooks, who wrote Freddy the Pig series in Roxbury. Writers in the Mountains, a literary non-profit organization serving the Catskills and Hudson Valley area for over a quarter-century, is also headquartered in Roxbury. Writers in the Mountains offers creative writing workshops year-round and hosts a series of literary events throughout the region.
Roxbury Writers’ Residency program, founded by DeWitt and Jakubiec, gives participants the opportunity to work in a secluded location on a 27-acre farm, and receive feedback from top-notch professionals. Writers can enroll in the three-day standard program, or book a room and design their own schedule. Jakubiec, who is the author of I Actually Wore This: Clothes We Can’t Believe We Bought published by Rizzoli, offers author portrait sessions on sight, thus immortalizing the experience.
“Our hopes for the future are many,” explains DeWitt. “Short term, we are looking into funding through the MARK Project to be able to build additional artist cabins as well as provide scholarship assistance to residents. Long term, we have our eye on building a barn and studio space. Fashioning it from the existing blue prints for the original dairy barn which was torn down and filling it with artist studios ~ a metal workshop, a digital photography room, a dark room, and a performance space with the hope of expanding the residency to attract artists across various media and disciplines. We’re also horse enthusiasts and we would like to eventually bring that unique angle to our residents,” she adds.
Roxbury’s charming appeal and bucolic scenery have in fact attracted a wide range of creatives for years – artists, writers, an Oscar winning filmmaker, fashion and theater professionals, and other creatives have made Roxbury their home. How Art Is Made: In the Catskills by this author features some of these creatives, including sculptor Brian Tolle, and painters Adam Cohen and Ellen Wong, whose studios are located in Roxbury. This burgeoning artistic community can only benefit from the newly opened writers’ retreat with the potential expansion into a full arts colony similar perhaps to Byrdcliffe in Woodstock or Sugar Maples in Maplecrest. In recent years Mount Tremper Arts opened to offer performing artists a space to rehearse and explore new ideas.
The Irish Hunger Memorial, a public art project designed by sculptor Brian Tolle in Battery Park City, re-opened to the public late last summer after undergoing major renovations to address damage caused by water infiltration in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Originally built in the early 2000s, the monument opened for the first time on July 16, 2002. Roberta Smith from The New York Times described the monument as a “typically postmodern blend of existing art styles — Realism, Conceptual Art and Earth Art — bound together by historical fact and physical accuracy.”
A methodical thinker, Tolle had spent plenty of time in Ireland doing research for this project which occupies half of acre overlooking the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. The centerpiece is an 1820s stone cottage brought from Ireland. Also, stones from Ireland’s 32 counties and Irish flora were incorporating into the project, a reminder of the Great Irish Famine of 1845-52.
Tolle had installed two miles of historical references on the base of the Memorial, in the form of a lightning shadow. The text, lit from behind with the shadow cast on glass, is changed and updated periodically, so visitors approaching the Memorial on one day might happen to read a Quaker soup recipe that was used to help starving people in Ireland in 1847, and on another day statistics about the amount of dog food consumed in the United States. The artist believes that this textural engagement with the Memorial ultimately shapes visitors’ visceral experience as they move through the monument itself.
Tolle, who teaches a course on public art at Parsons, is alert to the fact that art shown in a museum or a gallery space is dedicated to a captive audience, an audience of interested gallery or museum goers. When it comes to public art, the artist explains: “There is no way of controlling, nor would you want to control the audience in a public space, so you never know who is going to come across a project, and how they might respond to it.” With that in mind, the artist envisioned a memorial that trusts the intelligence of the audience in interpreting the event of the famine and its historic significance.
By its very nature, public art is free and accessible to anyone. When it blends well with its surroundings, it gives meaning and shapes the identity of the space. Public art is also a reminder of the shared community values and aspirational goals.
Tolle will lead a special tour of the Irish Hunger Memorial this Saturday, October 28 from 2 to 3 pm, and discuss the history of the Memorial, as well as its recent renovation. A staff horticulturalist will be on hand to discuss the Memorial’s native Irish plantings as well.
Launched in 2012, AMR Open Studios Tour has grown into a major art destination, forging new and unexpected connections between artists, and their patrons from near and far. Given its success in previous years, in 2017 AMR – Artists Making aRt ™ – Open Studios Tours 2017 expanded to include some 40 artists from Margaretville, Roxbury, Stamford, Delhi, and surrounding areas. The tours took place on two different weekends in July: Saturday and Sunday, July 8 – 9 in Stamford-Delhiart community, and Saturday and Sunday, July 29-30 in Margaretville-Roxburyart community. Both weekends attracted a myriad of visitors, many artists as well as collectors from the Catskills, New York City, and abroad.
On the first weekend, watercolorist June Lanigan who, at 91, continues to paint and make collages, showed recent works and discussed what moves her these days. Although Lanigan works in other media as well (i.e., oil, and acrylic), she is most fond of watercolors; and everywhere she goes she brings along a sketchbook to take in the environment. The portrait of a flapper draws my attention in Lanigan’s immense home that she shares with her family while painting in the Catskills. Lanigan is the founder of MURAL Gallery in Hobart, and has had a long connection with the area.
Both Lanigan’s daughters Tracy Jacknow and Toni Layden-Rodgers as well as her grandson Jess Zimmerman are painters; each has a distinctive style, and is attracted to different subject matters. Jacknow, for instance, paints abstract and impressionistic like landscapes, while Layden-Rodgers is interested in domestic scenes, still lifes, and portraits, whereas Zimmerman paints bold, urban scenes.
Jacknow is married to stained glass artist Barry Jacknow, whose work is inspired by the Art Deco movement, and the work of architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright. Stained glass has had a long tradition in New York going back to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Art Nouveau lamps and decorative objects that became synonym with sophistication. Jacknow sources his stained glass locally in Stamford, and works meticulously to create patterns and contrast colors for most effect.
My next stop was at Robert Schneider and Susan Goetz’s mansion in Stamford. Husband and wife, Schneider and Goetz had studied at the Art Students League of New York, and also privately with accomplished painters. While Schneider specializes in landscape, Goetz dedicates most of her time to still life and portrait. Her studio is filled with family portraits and domestic scenes signifying opulence and good taste. Goetz was commissioned by West Point’s class of 1931 to paint a series of portraits which included Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and Bush, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Goetz comes from a family of artists – her father Richard Goetz, who passed away in 1991, was an accomplished painter as well. A portrait of her mother by famous painter Nelson Shanks illuminates the hallway.
Both Goetz and her husband Schneider were featured in American Artist in November 2007.
Schneider, who is very much fascinated by the Hudson River School of Painting, captures through his plein airs spectacular views of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson Valley as well as the Leatherstocking region where the family has spent a lot of time. Schneider was featured at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown in 2016 in a one man show called “A New York View.”
My last stop that weekend was at Solveig Comer’s ceramics studio in South Kortright. Located in the basement of a former church, the studio has three electric kilns, and lots of fine porcelain for many bowls and cups to come. The artist patiently explains the difference between using an electric kiln versus a gas one, and the differences in output each creates. It is a laborious process, but Comer doesn’t seem to mind.
The second weekend was a marathon of exhibits, demonstrations, conversations, and parties centered around Roxbury which had a stellar participation this year with the likes of Adam Cohen and Brian Tolle opening their studios as part of the AMR Tour for the first time.
Brian Tolle showed several of his works at Roxbury Abbey including three Levittown style houses made of platinum silicone rubber. Also, visible in his studio was a head sculpture of Benjamin Franklin, as seen by Brian Tolle. In 2016 Tolle exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia as part of “Commander in Chief” art show dedicated to American presidents.
In addition to works by Tolle, Roxbury Abbey also hosted that weekend a group show curated by Ace Ehrlich who brought several artists from the city just for the event, including German artist Thorsten Brinkmann.
The youngest participant in the tour was Sophia Maduri, who showed her work at the Grange in Halcottsville, and sold her first drawing right there – the beginning of a career. My book “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills” was also for sale at the Grange, and provided more context for some of the artworks shown during the tour, a symbiotic relationship.
Also in Roxbury painters Esther De Jong and Michael Guilmet opened their studio for the first time. De Jong showed some of her oil paintings and pencil drawings, while Guilmet displayed two dozen oil paintings in various styles, and depicting various subject matters – winter landscapes, abstract compositions, and lots of portraits, many of those on commission. Recently De Jong and Guilmet curated an exhibition at Orphic Gallery in Roxbury that included some of the best artworks produced in the region from painters like Adam Cohen, Ann Lee Fuller, and Christopher Durham.
Lisbeth Firmin was one of several artists participating in Margaretville area – her studio is located in the Commons Building. This year Firmin showed some of her urban landscape paintings as well as monotypes produced while studying at Scuola Internationale di Grafica in Venice this past spring. Later this month Firmin will lead a one-week drawing workshop at MURAL Gallery in Hobart, designed as an intensive combination of lectures, demonstrations, and studio exercises.
AMR Open Studio Tour 2018 will include even more artists and activities to showcase the abundance of artistic endeavors our region is known for.
This weekend, Saturday and Sunday, July 29 – 30, from 11 am to 5 pm over twenty artists in Roxbury, Halcottsville, Margaretville, Fleischmanns, Halcott Center, and Arkville will open their studios to the public, and show their working spaces as part of the AMR – Artists Making aRt ™ – Open Studios Tours 2017.
A good place to start the tour is the Wawaka Grange in Halcottsville, which is true to its original function as a Grange and General Store. Refreshments, bathrooms, and handicap access are available at this location. Several artists will be showing at the Grange, including painters Sophia Maduri and Oneida Hammond.
For the first time this year Art in the Catskills will participate, and present and sell books at the Grange. “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills” will be offered at a discounted price. The book pays homage to the Catskills’ vibrant artistic life, and its long tradition as a magnet for artists and writers from all over the world. The region is known as the place where American art was born, through the works of landscape painters Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church, affiliated with the Hudson River School of Painting, and writers Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper, who wrote specifically about American realities.
Alix Travis, one of the founding members of the tour, will once again open her studio located at 103 Bragg Hollow Road in Halcottsville. An established plein air painter, Alix has received several awards and recognitions, including signature status in the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society and the New York Plein Air Painters. In 2014 she published The Catskill Coloring Book, which includes twenty-six plein air watercolor paintings. This weekend, during the open studios tour, Alix will paint en plein air, and demonstrate some of her techniques. Alix’s website is https://alixhtravis.com/.
Urban realist painter Lisbeth Firmin will be showing oil paintings and monotype prints at her studio in the Commons Building in Margaretville. Lisbeth is known for works such as Fifth Avenue (1995), and Woman on a Train (2014). This past spring Lisbeth traveled to Venice, and enrolled in Scuola Internationale di Grafica where she perfected her monotype printing technique. Lisbeth explains that her work is really not about the colors, but about the light and shadow in the composition which she captures masterfully. Lisbeth is featured in “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills.” Her website is http://lisbethfirmin.com/.
New this year, internationally renowned sculptor Brian Tolle will open his studio located in a repurposed Catholic church in Roxbury. Brian is known for The Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City (2002), and more recently for Miss Brooklyn and Miss Manhattan, two replicas of Daniel Chester French originals that sit on the façade of the Brooklyn Museum – Brian’s replicas were installed on Flatbush Avenue by the Manhattan Bridge in December 2016. In 2015 The University at Albany’s Art Museum hosted a retrospective show titled Bordering Utopia: Sculptures by Brian Tolle, exploring the artist’s evolution over time. Brian’s studio is located at 53266 State Hwy 30 in Roxbury. He is one of the artists featured in “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills.” Brian’s website is http://briantollestudio.com/.
Abstract painter Adam Cohen will also open his studio for the first time this year. Adam is known for works such as Intuition (2015), a finalist in the Art Olympia International Competition in Tokyo, Japan, and Mystic Marsh (2014), shown at the Morren Galleries in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Adam is an intuitive painter whose style has been defined as Gestural Abstraction; his paintings are very much sculptural, and have a visceral look and the kind of inexhaustibility that the artist strives to achieve in his work. Adam’s studio is located at 53856 State Hwy 30 in Roxbury. He is also featured in “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills.” Adam’s website is http://www.adamcohenstudio.com/.
Poet and painter Esther De Jong, a former fashion model, will be showing her watercolors, oil paintings, and charcoal and pencil drawings at her studio located at 50 Maple Lane in Roxbury. Esther, who is formally trained at the National Academy of Art and Design, co-founded by Thomas Cole in 1825, refers to her paintings as “lyrical images” of her poetry: she often creates haikus accompanied by images that reflect her daily life experiences in the Catskills, a mood, or a feeling that is thus being immortalized on paper or canvas. Although Esther loves figural painting, she is also very much attracted to botanical themes, and finds inspiration in the Catskills’ changing seasons, particularly in the spring. Esther’s website is http://www.estherdejongpoetics.com.
Although not formally trained as a painter, Michael Guilmet has been painting still lifes, landscapes, and portraits pretty much his entire life, growing up with family and friends interested in art. Trained as a magician, Michael had lived in Beverly Hills, Dallas, and New Mexico before moving to the Catskills in 2014. His interests in art theory, history, and philosophy are ubiquitous in his paintings which he says must “evoke an unexpected emotion.” Michael does not think as having a style of his own – he can do works on commission in any style, and can approach any subject; but design is always the idea behind all his drawings and paintings. “A strong design is the driving force behind my work,” he explains. Michael shares his studio at 50 Maple Lane in Roxbury with Esther De Jong. His website is http://www.mcguilmet.com.
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. Both artists are featured in “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills.” Their studios are located at 777 Carroll Hinkley Road in Roxbury.
Also in Roxbury, painter Ellen Wong is 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. She studied in the Art Department at Brooklyn College with Philip Pearlstein, known for reviving realist figurative painting in the 1960s. Initially trained as an abstract painter, in time Ellen discovered that what she really wanted to do in life 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. And it was a good way for me to get to know a place.” Ellen’s studio is located at 121 Shephard Lane in Roxbury. This year she will be showing some studio drawings and still life watercolors as well as plein air work. Ellen currently has a show at Longyear Gallery in Margaretville which will remain on view through August 7. Ellen’s website is https://ellenwongfinearts.com/.
Studio visits trigger questions that aren’t often asked in formal settings such as galleries and museums, and provide access to an intimate space that the artist doesn’t often share with anyone else.
The AMR – Artists Making aRt ™ – Open Studios Tour 2017, sponsored by MURAL Gallery in Stamford and participating artists, is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) Decentralization Grant Program, with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, administered in Delaware County by the Roxbury Arts Group (RAG), and additional funding from The A. Lindsay & Olive B. O’Connor Foundation.
The University at Albany’s Art Museum celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The Museum opened in October 1967 with an exhibition titled Painting and Sculpture from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection, which featured over fifty works by some of the most prominent artists of the 20th century: Picasso, Miro, Braque, Klee, de Kooning, and Calder, among others.
In 2015 the Museum hosted a retrospective show titled Bordering Utopia: Sculptures by Brian Tolle, dedicated to alumnus Brian Tolle, an internationally acclaimed sculptor known for The Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City (2002), and more recently for Miss Brooklyn and Miss Manhattan, two replicas of Daniel Chester French originals that sit on the façade of the Brooklyn Museum – Tolle’s replicas were installed on Flatbush Avenue by the Manhattan Bridge in December last year. He is one of the artists featured in our book How Art Is Made: In the Catskills.
To learn more about the University at Albany’s Art Museum, visit www.albany.edu.
How Art Is Made: In the Catskills is a collection of interviews with some of the world’s most accomplished artists who live and work in the Catskill Mountains, New York. Five painters and illustrators, two ceramicists and printmakers, one sculptor, one weaver, and one writer discuss what inspires and moves them, what draws them to their medium of choice, what materials they use, how they approach a new artistic project, how they deal with setbacks, and how they celebrate success. Nine are formally trained at prestigious art schools; one is self-taught. What they all have in common is a rigorous studio practice, discipline, and the desire and curiosity to learn new things, and share them with the world.