Didier Cremieux is a New York City based painter and illustrator. Born and raised in Clermont l’Herault in southern France, Didier moved to the United States in 1977. He majored in literature and art history at the Université Paul Valery in Montpellier, France. Upon his arrival to the U.S., Didier furthered his studies in photography in Oklahoma City, and etching and lithography at Antioch College in Ohio, along with apprenticeships and jobs in printmaking and graphic design. Along his career, Didier experimented with various printing techniques from silk screening to etching and Xerox or letterpress printing. His artwork has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. Didier also designs book illustrations, posters for various events, and promotional materials for the music industry. As a painter, he is mostly interested in City scapes and still lifes.
Didier had an exhibit at the Orphic Gallery in Roxbury this past fall, called “Postal Mix Tapes.” The exhibit included hand-made stamp sheets and posters celebrating music and music history.
Simona David: Didier, talk a little bit about your training as a painter and illustrator.
Didier Cremieux: When I came to the U.S. my formal training was in literature and art history, and I was also a painter. Then slowly I moved into the graphic arts, as a source of employment, to supplement the fine arts.
SD: Do you still paint?
DC: I still paint quite a bit. I’ve always painted. It’s like I have two outputs that I have. The graphic art is a tradition that goes back to the history of the posters; that is something that I’ve always been fond of, and that I’ve designed for a long time. A lot of my work, for example, has to do with music. So I did music packaging, and posters for bands, and stuff like that. It’s just a tradition from the posters of Toulouse-Lautrec to the psychedelic posters of the West Coast, then the punk posters, and the Xerox machine. This is a tradition that I think I belong to.
SD: The golden age of illustration was roughly considered to be from the 1880s to the 1920s. And you mentioned Toulouse-Lautrec. How is your work today as an illustrator different than that of an illustrator’s from the early 1900s, both from a technical and artistic standpoint?
DC: With the arrival of the digital age we moved away from the traditional printing on paper and ink, and switched to digital files. From what I’ve seen in editorial illustrations for magazines, the artist may very well start with pen and paper, but then he would finish the layout on the computer. Throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s I used to deliver illustrations on paper. And then towards the end of the 1990s every single magazine I worked with switched to digital production. One thing that really changed is the way you work as illustrator. It used to be like the editorial team would meet and discuss the project. The illustrator would meet with the creative director and get the outline of the project, he would read the article or the draft of the article that was going to appear, and then would deliver pencil sketches via the fax machine. Now it’s all done by email using digital files. You don’t sit in an office anymore, and talk about how everything is done. There is no more human contact involved. It changed the human relationship that the illustrator has with the production team.
SD: There is A National Museum of American Illustration in Rhode Island; on their website at americanillustration.org they say that illustration is “the most American of American art.” There is a tradition of illustration in this country going back to Norman Rockwell. People value illustrations, they collect magazine covers, or clippings, or something like that. I hope this beautiful tradition will be continued in some manner. You seem to have adapted to digital technology.
DC: Yes. A lot of artists went from working with the brush to working with the computer, and replaced ink with pixels. But I think, in a positive way, that brought all kinds of new styles, with all kinds of possibilities. Again, illustration is part fine art, and part commercial art. And, there are a lot of parameters that have to be followed in commercial art. Personally, I really like doing this sort of thing on the computer, and making changes, and offering all kinds of versions with colors or anything else.
SD: You work both on fine art projects as well as commercial art. How is your work different when you work on a fine art project compared to a commercial one?
DC: I did less illustration work in the past few years; the market has gotten quite a bit smaller, because of the crisis in the paper publishing. When a magazine goes digital, they sometimes do use illustrations, but again, it’s different. Also, trade publications are using more and more in-house designers as opposed to hiring outside illustrators.
SD: Let’s talk specifically, when you work on a project, where do you start, how do you decide on a style or an approach?
DC: It really depends on the project. My approach is completely different for a fine art project than a commercial one. The illustration work is more the work of a collaboration, of your skills being used for a bigger project. If I create a piece of art that’s going to illustrate a story, I need to create a visual that supports the story and makes quick associations with the concept of that article, but it’s also a visual that appeals to people so they read the story. That’s for magazine illustration. For book illustration is a bit different. The book illustrator and the writer are kind on the same level; on one side you have the text, on the other side you have the illustration, and maybe sometimes the two combined; but the two of them are almost like equal. What you’re doing with the illustration is offering one possible visual to the world that is in the story that the visual supports. That’s how I work: this is the story, and this is my narrative, my view of the story. What I mostly like about illustration is this collaborative effort.
SD: Who influences you, who do you admire, and how do you go about improving what you do?
DC: I started designing posters when I was 14, growing up in southern France, in a small village. I started a print studio with friends, we really had to come up with something to entertain ourselves. We were driven, interested in the creative things. We would do posters for events, or just ideas that we had. And we started showing them to people, we started doing shows. When I paint or do prints for myself, personal aspects come first. When I work on illustrations for various projects, it’s the collaborative process that matters most.
SD: How do you decide what to work on?
DC: The show that I did at Orphic Gallery in Roxbury, called “Postal Mix Tapes,” is a project that goes back to the 1980s. Around that time in San Francisco I met a lot of artists that were involved in the mail art movement, if you can call such a thing a movement. It was all about mail art, it was about exchanging pieces of mail with art on the envelope; it was also about experimenting with new machines, like the Xerox machine, at first black and white, and then color. Artists were experimenting. But again, there was this whole idea of the mail art. Stamps have always exerted a fascination for me since childhood. It was a very popular, democratic process for people to just look at pictures. And these pictures were always commemorating something. When I was a child I was very fond of stamps from around the world commemorating space. It was very great art, but in a small format. In the 1960s I also liked a series of stamps commemorating castles and monuments in France. They were really beautiful, with really beautiful engravings. I really loved collecting those.
SD: Let’s talk specifically about your show at Orphic Gallery.
DC: When I got in touch with Philip Lenihan, and decided to do a show about postage stamps, about music, I went back to some of the work that I had already done, and started adding quite a bit more. The main idea was to really follow the concept of stamps, which is a commemoration. It’s like we put out this stamp to celebrate this or that event. What I wanted to celebrate with this show was my very personal interaction with music throughout my life. So I did different sheets of stamps for various styles of music that I’ve enjoyed throughout my life.
SD: I also collected stamps as a child. Going back to your profession of designing stamps, does anyone else today either collects or designs stamps? How common is this?
DC: I’m not really sure. Collecting stamps is still very traditional. But, as you noticed, in the last 10 – 15 years stamps have changed quite a bit – now they look more like stickers. You can also go online and print your own personalized stamps, even with your own images. Traditionally stamps have always been linked to history. When I was a child I had all these stamps from my father, who had stamps from his father, so it was just an album that just kept growing for three generations.
SD: Looking back at your career as a printmaker and illustrator, and you’re also a painter, how has your style changed over time?
DC: The style for me has always been about experimenting with paint, paper, cardboard, different materials that I use. And in the fine arts the evolution of the digital world just added another dimension to that. A lot of my work combines the analog and the digital method, like working on a computer print, then paint on top of that, or add elements of color that the printer could not do, such as for example gold bleach, or special varnishes in different areas.
SD: Is there any project you’re working on right now that you would like to talk about?
DC: I would like to talk a bit more about the show at Orphic Gallery in Roxbury. One thing about this show was the music, and the way my generation experienced music. In the late 1960s and 1970s music played such a big part in our lives; for one thing you bought an LP or a record, and the artwork was absolutely beautiful. One of my first experiences with art was looking at record covers, and really falling in love with that form of art – photography, illustration, painting. And then there was so much more in those albums than just music. It could change your life, and the way you looked at the world. That music may have had messages and aspirations that went way beyond just a commercial product. The show at Orphic Gallery was really about that. I really enjoyed the show because it gave me the opportunity to talk about this. A lot of people came to me, and shared experiences of their own.
SD: I attended the opening reception at Orphic Gallery on October 11; that was a very nice show. You showed stamps with icons like soprano Maria Callas, legendary jazz musician Thelonious Monk, a Balkan Band – I believe Goran Bregovic was on one of your stamps. I remember asking you if you had met all these musicians.
DC: It’s not that I met them. But in some ways once I discovered their music, it was something very powerful. For example, regarding the Balkan music, one day I stumbled into Central Park, and there was the Summer Stage Festival, and there was this musician and his Wedding Band Orchestra playing this music that I never heard before. I was really taken by the rhythm, by the power of the bass dominating every other sound. That was something extremely appealing, almost like a trance. I had never heard any kind of sound like that. I went to a record store, and asked about that kind of music. I had to hear more of that; it was truly fascinating.
SD: And you also paint. What subjects are you drawn into?
DC: I like to paint New York City scapes, this is my idea of landscape. I never work from an image, I always work from memory. The colors and the geometric shapes show New York City landscape, but a bit in a more abstract way. I also like to paint images that immediately bring you to the southern France, for example hills or this tree that I’ve always had a fascination for – cypress; it’s a tree that is found in Europe, especially in southern lands. And third, I like to paint still lifes – vases or pots with flowers. I do not work with any specific flowers, but it’s my own take on those shapes.
SD: So, it’s all about the visual appeal of a painting.
DC: Yes, and also it’s comfort. Looking at an abstract painting, but still seeing an image in that painting. It touches people, because this is how maybe they interpreted something – they didn’t see a landscape, they saw geometrical shapes. I am trying to tell people that this is my interpretation of my own experience with the landscape.
You can find more about Didier Cremieux at didiercremieux.com.
© 2014 Simona David
Stellar programs in the Catskills this weekend: the Woodstock Film Festival celebrates its 15th anniversary, Orphic Gallery is hosting an evening of poetry, Thomas Cole National Historic Site is hosting an art book reception, thirty of the nation’s best plein air painters will be working and exhibiting at Olana, and Bard College Conservatory of Music will perform Mozart’s Requiem, preceded by a panel discussion moderated by Bard’s president Leon Botstein.
The Woodstock Film Festival
Launched in 2000, as an independent film festival in the Catskill Mountains, the Woodstock Film Festival is now considered one of the best events of this nature. Its 15th edition was inaugurated Thursday evening with screenings scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday at several locations in and around Woodstock: Bearsville Theater, Woodstock Playhouse, Kleinert James Art Center, Mountain View Studio, and Upstate Films in Woodstock and Rhinebeck, as well as Orpheum Theater in Saugerties, and Rosendale Theater in Rosendale. To view full schedule click here. Saturday, October 18 at 7 pm there will be a cocktail party at Backstage Studio Productions in Kingston, followed by the 15th Maverick Awards Ceremony at 9 pm. The ceremony will be co-presented by Academy-Award winning actresses Natalie Portman and Jennifer Connelly. For more information, go to http://www.woodstockfilmfestival.com
Orphic Gallery in Roxbury, Delaware County presents an evening of poetry tonight at 7 pm called “Orphic Verses.” From Orphic Gallery: “In ancient Greek mythology Orpheus was the son of Oeagrus, the king of Thrace, and Kalliope, the muse of epic poetry. He was born and lived in Pimpleia near Mount Olympus, and he met Apollo when the god was courting Thalia, the muse of comedy. Apollo presented the young Orpheus with a golden lyre and instructed him how to play the instrument while his mother imparted to him to create verses. So expertly did Orpheus learn to sing and play the lyre that he became the most famous poet and musician in all of Greece. With his poetry Orpheus was able to inspire the rocks of the mountains and the trees of the forest to dance, and to enchant all the animals of the sea, the air and the land, and even to change the flow of rivers and streams.”
Orphic Verses features the works of local poets Rebecca Andre, Esther De Jong, Sharon Israel, Dave Kearney, and Gary Mead. The poets will read and engage in a spirited dialogue with the audience discussing their works and the poetic process. For more information, go to http://orphicgallery.com/.
Thomas Cole National Historic Site
On Sunday, October 19 at 2 pm Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, Greene County will host “Arcadia on the Hudson,” a lecture and book signing event with Dr. Aaron Sachs, author of “Arcadian America: The Death and Life of an Environmental Tradition,” published in 2013, and a professor of History and American Studies at Cornell University. The event will take place at Temple Israel next to Thomas Cole Historic Site on Spring Street. For more information, go to http://www.thomascole.org/current-events.
Olana State Historic Site
Olana State Historic Site in Hudson, Greene County is hosting its third annual plein air event “Creating Landscapes within the Landscape,” as part of the Hudson Arts Walk festival. This weekend thirty of the nation’s best plein air painters work on Olana’s 250-acre landscape that includes an orchard, a farm, a man-made lake, and views of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River. All the artworks produced over the weekend will be auctioned at the Wagon House Education Center at Olana on Saturday, October 18 from 4 to 6 pm. For more information, go to http://olana.org/.
Bard College Conservatory of Music is hosting a special event this evening at 6:30 pm: “Remembering the Genocide of European Roma during World War II.” The Conservatory will perform Mozart’s Requiem conducted by Hungarian conductor Adam Fischer. A panel discussion moderated by Bard’s president Leon Botstein will precede the performance – the panel discussion begins at 4 pm. The event will take place at the Sosnoff Theater at Fisher Center. Admission is free. For more information, go to http://fishercenter.bard.edu/calendar/event.php?eid=126894.
Writers in the Mountains in partnership with Longyear Gallery in Margaretville will present an Artist – Writer Talk “Nature as Muse” Saturday, October 11 at 1 pm. Artists Ellen Wong and friends will be talking about their artistic process as informed by nature. Participating artists include Helene and Frank Manzo, and Elaine Mayes. Participating writers include Lynn Domina, Leslie Sharpe, Anique Taylor, Sharon Israel and Lillian Browne – all writers whose work has been informed by nature. For more details, visit writersinthemounatins.org.
Also on Saturday, October 11 Plattekill Mountain will host its fifth annual Plattepalooza Fall Festival, an event for the entire family; activities include pumpkin painting, face painting, kids bounce house, ski and bike swap sale, bike races, and foliage chairlift rides. There will be live music, barbecues, and microbrews on tap. For more information, visit plattekill.com.
Orphic Gallery, a fixture in Roxbury’s artistic life, will be hosting an artist reception Saturday, October 11 from 5 to 7 pm: “Postal Mix Tapes” featuring works by New York City based artist Didier Cremieux. Cremieux designs musical postage stamps and posters inspired by a variety of artists from Maria Callas to Woodstock celebrities. For more information about this event, visit orphicgallery.com.
In Sullivan County, Catskill Art Society will host an opening reception Saturday, October 11 at 2 pm: “River and Biota,” a group show featuring 18 artists whose work has a rapport with “the river”. The show, curated by Naomi Teppich, includes artwork by artists Dave Channon, Carla Goldberg, Nancy Wells, and others. For more information, visit catskillartsociety.org.
Also as part of the Hudson ArtsWalk program, there will be an opening reception at the Pocketbook Factory in Hudson on Saturday, October 11 from 6 to 8 pm. More than 250 artworks by artists affiliated with the Columbia County Council on the Arts will be on display – paintings, photographs, sculpture, multi-media installations, and other artworks will be shown. The reception on Saturday evening will celebrate artists Arlene Boehm and Maria Kolodziej-Zincio. Both Saturday, October 11 and Sunday, October 12 Hudson Opera House will host a series of readings by Hudson Valley poets and writers – the readings will take place from 12 noon to 5 pm. For more information about this event, visit cccaartswalk.webs.com.
The Schoharie County Historical Society presents the 125th anniversary of its History Fair this Saturday, October 11 and Sunday, October 12 at the Old Stone Fort Museum in Schoharie. There will be live music and dance performances; artists and artisans will showcase a variety of works inspired by local history, and local authors will autograph their books. For more information about the fair, go to theoldstonefort.org.
Roxbury Arts Group will celebrate the 21st anniversary of FIDDLERS!, one of its most popular events, Sunday, October 12 from noon to 7 pm. FIDDLERS!, an event dedicated to the Catskills’ traditional fiddle music, will feature performances by Tim Eriksen & The Trio de Pumpkintown, The Tremperskill Boys, Ryan McGiver with Cleek Schrey & Stephanie Coleman. Square dance and a chili cook-off are also part of the good cheer. For more information, go to roxburyartsgroup.org.
Historic train rides through the Catskills have always been popular, but they’re particularly sought after this time of year, when the foliage is at its peak. I Love NY put together a list of rides through the region at http://www.iloveny.com/things-to-do/tours-excursions/scenic-train-rides/#.VDWA6fldU0R
(c) 2014 artinthecatskills.com
This Saturday, September 20 at 7 pm the Open Eye Theater is hosting its annual magic show with Art Martello, member of the Society of American Magicians and a program host on WIOX Roxbury. The show, titled this year “Seeing Is Believing,” is designed in the traditional parlor style, and benefits the Open Eye Theater. For more information, go to http://www.theopeneyetheater.org.
The Woodstock Comedy Festival begins its fourth edition tonight at the Woodstock Playhouse located on Mill Hill Road; performances will begin at 7 pm. At 9:30 there will be a VIP party held at Cucina restaurant. Tomorrow evening at 7:30 Colin Quinn will perform at the Bearsville Theater on Tinker Street. For full program go to http://woodstockcomedyfestival.org/.
Fisher Center at Bard College will host “The Ten Thousand Things” – a performance of musical pieces by John Cage, including: 59 1/2” for a String Player (1953), 45’ for Speaker (1954), 31’ 57.9864” for a Pianist (1954), 26’ 1.1499” for a String Player (1955), and 27’ 10.554” for a Percussionist (1956). Affiliated with the avant-garde movement of the 20th century, Cage was known for his original take on music, and his influence on modern dance. “The Ten Thousand Things” performance will take place Saturday, September 20 at 8 pm. For more information, go to http://fishercenter.bard.edu.
Also, Orphic Gallery in Roxbury will host a blues performance with Zonder Kennedy and his band this Saturday, September 20 at 4 pm. The performance, open to public of all ages, will last until 8 pm. For more information go to http://www.watershedpost.com/sponsored/2014/zonder-kennedy-perform-orphic-gallery.
Roxbury Arts Group has an opening reception this Saturday, September 20 at 4 pm: a group exhibit inspired by quilts. Participating artists include Margaret Leveson, Helene and Frank Manzo, Nat Thomas, Ros Welchman and others. For more information go to http://roxburyartsgroup.org/2013/04/14/september-20-november-8-inspired-by-quilts/.
Also, Millbrook Vineyards & Winery is having an “Art in the Loft” artist reception in Millbrook this Saturday at 5 pm (more information at artsmidhudson.org), the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston announces this is the last weekend of the season when both Rondout and Esopus Meadows Lighthouses can be visited, and Hudson Valley Harvest Festival kicks off at the Ulster County Fairgrounds this Saturday at 10 am (more information at hvharvestfest.com).
Labor Day weekend in the Catskills: it’s filled with art!
Tonight at 5 pm Orphic Gallery in Roxbury opens a new show: “Rock Seen,” featuring the musical photography of Bob Gruen, an artist known internationally for his work documenting the Rock and Roll music world. From Orphic Gallery: “Rock Seen contains photographs from all stages of Bob’s extraordinary career from Bob Dylan’s groundbreaking electric performance at the Newport Folk Festival to Green Day in New York City in 2002. Included in the exhibit are concert photos ranging from Elton John at Carnegie Hall to Sid Vicious at The Longhorn Ballroom, and behind the scenes images of John & Yoko, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Tina Turner, Keith Richards and Alice Cooper with Salvador Dali, all in highly candid moments.” The gallery will also have for sale three books by Gruen – John Lennon: The New York Years, New York Dolls (with a pink spandex cover), and Rock Seen. The artist will be onsite tonight, and will autograph his books. For more information, go to orphicgallery.com.
Longyear Gallery in Margaretville also has an opening reception this weekend: “Storytellers,” a show featuring thirty-eight works of mixed media on panel by artist Ann Lee Fuller. “I am not an abstract painter, so I let the paint tell me where to go, often combining traditional brushwork and paint glazing with unique crumpled paper brushes and paint dripping. The pieces are not as much about the subject as they are studies of color and form, and surprise,” says Fuller. The show opens tomorrow, Saturday, August 30 at 3 pm, and runs through September 22. For more information, go to longyeargallery.org. For more information about Ann Lee Fuller, go to http://annleefuller.blogspot.com/.
Every year over the Labor Day weekend, West Kortright Center (WKC), which is located in a Greek Revival church in East Meredith, organizes an art fair that brings together the community: a silent auction, baked goods, and folk music are among the most popular attractions. This year, which marks the fair’s ninth anniversary, music will be provided by Mike + Ruthy, Blues Maneuver, and Tumbleweed Highway. For more information about the fair, go to http://westkc.org/event/2014-west-kortright-fair/.
Since 1982 the Woodstock – New Paltz Arts & Crafts Fair has been taking place at the Ulster County Fairgrounds in New Paltz twice a year: Memorial Day weekend in May, and Labor Day weekend, in late August, early September. This year the Labor Day fair takes place Saturday, August 30, Sunday, August 31, and Monday, September 1 with over 250 participating artists and crafters from all over the country. Catskill Mountain Artisan Guild exhibitors will offer a variety of products: soap, candles, jewelry, pottery, furniture and many others. For more information, go to http://quailhollow.com.
Another weekend, another art studio tour in the Catskills / Hudson Valley area. This weekend, the seventh annual Art Studio Views tour takes place in northern Dutchess County – Hyde Park, Rhinebeck, Red Hook, Tivoli and surrounding areas. Nineteen artists in all media – ceramics, sculpture, painting, photography, and mixed media – will open their studios Saturday, August 30, and Sunday, August 31 from 11 am to 5 pm. For information about participating artists, maps, brochures, and a virtual tour visit http://artstudioviews.com/.
And, there is a lot more going on in the Catskills this weekend: The Iroquois Indian Museum in Schoharie County celebrates its 33rd Annual Iroquois Indian Festival this weekend, Belleayre Music Festival presents Brooklyn @ Belleayre show Saturday, August 30 at 6 pm, and the town of Roxbury in Delaware County is having a blast Sunday, August 31 from 4 to 9 pm: fireworks are scheduled at 8:30 pm in Kirkside Park (see info here).
Have a great weekend in the Catskills!