As art historian George Philip LeBourdais eloquently articulated in a piece for Artsy magazine in August 2016 “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.”
Olana, home of 19th century landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church in Hudson, is hosting Artist on Art Tour, a series of guided tours through Olana under the tutelage of contemporary artists working in various disciplines. Artistic storytelling is a compelling part of Olana’s ongoing narrative. Participating artists offer a unique lens with which to “read” Olana, and experiment and invent with “poetic license” as they explore through their own artistic practice Church’s home and studio as well as this season’s exhibition.
This Friday, October 6 at 4:30 pm musician Carrie Bradley tours Olana, calling attention to the transitionary and the “in betweens,” with an element of live music inside Olana. Bradley combines text; music of which there is record that the Church family enjoyed by composers they hosted at Olana; and her own original songs to invoke specifically the evenings of music the Churches hosted at Olana and to refer in general to the sensual spirit of music and sound at the house. Bradley speculates that, “The house during those events became a place where the felt power of music resonated within a container for so much powerful visual art and artifact, and also was during those times, for a stolen moment, a public place when it was usually his private sanctuary. In a similar way, the songs seek to capture the interplay between the public and the private that I feel in the views from the upper reaches of the house—an intimate and personal seat from which to view the awe-inspiring reach of the river and the sky.”
Carrie Bradley is a fiction and creative nonfiction writer as well as a guitarist, violinist, and vocalist. She was a founding member of the alternative folk band Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, has played with the Breeders since 1989, has since had her own bands 100 Watt Smile and the Great Auk, and has performed and/or recorded with Tanya Donelly, Jonathan Richman, John Wesley Harding, Love & Rockets, the Red House Painters, the Buckets, and many others. She lives, gardens, cavorts, and mulls deep in the Catskill Mountains.
This program expands on the ideas found on site in Teresita Fernandez’s installation “OVERLOOK: Teresita Fernández Confronts Frederic Church at Olana” throughout Olana State Historic Site (May 13 – November 1). The Olana Partnership’s Director of Education, Amy Hufnagel, describes the public program this way: “Artists and cultural workers can teach us about Olana in ways we might not have even imagined; they are, in so many ways, logical “guides” to understanding and unpacking Olana to the contemporary era. The Olana Partnership wants to expand the narrative of Olana, and to express a multiplicity of stories here. Teresita Fernandez’s installation and the exhibition – paired with local artist tours – allows for a whole new set of conversations to emerge.” This innovative tour program privileges the voices of contemporary women artists and cultural workers whose own creative pursuits often find voice in the sphere of the “overlooked.” In specific, Olana’s team works to elevating the voices of these contemporary women artists with the end goal to expand and enlarge the interpretation at Olana.
Olana is the greatest masterpiece of Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), the preeminent American artist of the mid-19th century. Church had a sustained interest in the Americas, resulting from his trips to Ecuador, Columbia, Mexico, and the Caribbean. In his own artwork depicting these landscapes and in the objects he collected throughout his life, Church’s passion for Latin America remains evident today. Church designed Olana as a holistic environment integrating his advanced ideas about art, architecture, landscape design, and environmental conservation. Olana’s 250-acre artist-designed landscape with a Persian-inspired house at its summit embraces unrivaled 360-degree views of the Hudson River Valley and beyond. Today Olana State Historic Site welcomes more than 170,000 visitors annually.
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.
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.
Fenimore Art Museum is located in a monumental Neo-Georgian (also known as Neo-Colonial) mansion built in the 1930s on the shores of the Otsego Lake in Cooperstown. It was built on the site of James Fenimore Cooper’s 19th century farmhouse. The town itself was founded by Cooper’s father, Judge William Cooper. Cooper is best known for the Leatherstocking series, which includes novels such as The Pioneers (1823) and The Last of the Mohicans (1826).
Fenimore Art Museum, operated by the New York State Historical Association, hosts permanent American fine and folk art collections, and includes works by Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, and other American artists. The building and some of its most important collections were donated by Stephen C. Clark, a collector and benefactor, who also founded the Baseball Hall of Fame.
On May 23 this year I spoke with curator Christine Rossi, and talked about two temporary exhibitions on view at Fenimore Art Museum this summer: The Perfection of Harmony: The Art of James Abbott McNeill Whistler (on view through October 2) and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in Bohemian Paris (on view through September 5). Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in Bohemian Paris is from the collection of Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece, and includes an array of sketches, drawings, books, albums, and original posters made by Toulouse-Lautrec in the late 1800s. The exhibition also includes costumes from The Metropolitan Opera in New York City, used in various productions of La Bohème, a story representative of La Belle Époque
Click link below to listen to my conversation with Christine Rossi: