As its first post-pandemic program, AMR Artists Inc. presents Paint The Town, a series of five events spanning over five months (from June to October), and taking place in a different town each month: Arkville – June 26; Roxbury – July 24; Halcottsville – August 14; Fleischmanns – September 5; and Margaretville – October 9. The fee for participating artists is $25 for all five dates. The artists can also sign up the day of the event.
This Saturday, July 24 from 10 am to 1 pm, artists will be painting at the Gould Church on Main Street in Roxbury. The location will be marked with colorful balloons to make it easy for visitors to find the artists. At 1 pm there will be a gathering to discuss the artworks produced throughout the day.
The organizers feel that this is an opportunity for the community to witness the creation of new works of art en plein air, and engage with the participating artists.
Launched in 2012 as AMR Open Art Studios Tour, AMR Artists incorporated in 2020, the year of the pandemic, as a non-profit organization to better serve the community of artists active in the Arkville, Margaretville and Roxbury area of the Central Catskills, upstate New York.
This program is made possible in part with funds from the Community Foundation of South Central New York, and the Delaware County Department of Economic Development.
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.
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.
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. 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 learned from Pearlstein.
Wong 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.
Wong paints mostly outdoors, in the field, but she’s done some studio work as well. For instance, “Local Gets Personal,” a series of bluish-purple Jersey cows on Catskills’ farmland, shown at the Roxbury Arts Group two years ago, was done mostly in the studio: “When I’m outside I take in so much, and for that show I wanted a highly culled sensibility of these places, and so I did do a lot of work in the studio.”
On the other hand, her current show at Longyear Gallery in Margaretville “The Road Show,” on view till October 20, was done entirely in plein air. “The Road Show” includes twenty-five oil paintings, watercolors and drawings depicting Catskill Mountains’ scenery in various seasons, although green panoramas predominate. Most of the paintings were done over the past two years, but the show also includes a few older winter and fall pieces. The biggest painting in the show is a 24” x 36” oil on canvass called “Grazing on the Far Meadow on Rt.30 across from Lucci and Randy’s”. Lots of roads: “Autumn in Margaretville” (oil on linen), “Not Just Any Road, Hardscrabble Road” (oil on panel), “Driving Along Red Rock Road Find Farm” (oil on linen), and Wong’s favorite spot in Roxbury – “Foggy Morning, Briggs Road Along the East Branch” (watercolor). The creamery also has a special place in Wong’s collection. Included in this show are “Stormy Weather at the Creamery” (watercolor on paper), and “Rounding the Curve at the Creamery” (graphite on paper).
“Frederic Church, a student of the Hudson River School of Painting, was like a Paganini on a violin, he could do these amazing things. When I had a research grant, and saw some of his oil sketches – the view of the Catskill Mountains from Olana, those works to me are infinitely exciting, and one of the things we must do as landscape painters is to retain that excitement,” articulates Wong.
Wong started painting in oils, and admits that she never painted with acrylic, but loves the immediacy of watercolors and drawing. “What I paint dictates what medium I use. When light is a critical element, I just like watercolors because of their quickness of capturing that light. When solidity or form is important, I feel that oil really lands itself for that,” she explains. And, she continues: “I think these are the things that I struggle with, how to labor over a painting, and not having it looked like it was labored, because you don’t want to see someone’s labor, you just want to see that moment in a way.”
Wong has painted the Catskill Mountains’ scenery for the past twenty-five years, but has never gotten tired of it. “The challenge of working from life is a challenge that never ends, and that propels me in a way, and I look for different things. When I first came to the Catskills, I was most impressed by the extraordinary vistas, in the tradition of the Hudson River School of Painting, but nowadays what draws me in is mostly any road – driving on any road, and observing how the light and shadows fall on that road. Over time I think I moved from the majestic view of the Catskill Mountains to the more banal aspects of living here. And some of my paintings document things that are no longer here, like some of the buildings that I depict in my earlier paintings.”
Asked how she wants people to react to her paintings, Wong says that she wants them to be moved, but “I don’t want the work to be sentimental, and I don’t want it to look like a photograph either, although I work from life.” “I also like when people experience familiarity and recognition in the places that I depict,” she adds.
When asked how she deals with the ever changing environment when working on a specific piece, Wong says: “Sometimes the painting changes, and it’s ironic, because I’m looking to capture a particular place in a particular moment in time, but if you think about capturing a moment, there are hours and hours of work to get that moment. In a way, the painting captures the nature of the changing weather.”
The artist’s journal further edifies the process of creating new artworks: “To paint landscape is to be a poet, changing forms, states, colors, sitting by the waterfall in the morning, in the delicate shadow of a little seedling on a rock, the details, the subtle nuances of shadows, trying to deal with rushing waterfall, … how to paint, how to draw, it becomes a technical challenge, and it takes me away from the experience of nature,” Ellen Wong, landscape painter.
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.
Founding member of Blue Mountain Gallery in Manhattan and Longyear Gallery in Margaretville, NY, Margaret Leveson is primarily a plein air painter, captivated by the Catskill Mountains scenery. Margaret studied at the NYU Institute of Fine Arts, and later on earned an MFA from Brooklyn College. She’s lived in the Catskills since 1977, when she and her husband David purchased J. Francis Murphy’s house in Middletown – Murphy was a famous 19th century landscape painter, whose works are displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and other places.
I visited Margaret during the open studios tour on July 27 – she graciously opened her space to the public – a magnificent property with several different studios, and the main residence surrounded by a lavish garden.
I asked Margaret what’s her favorite artistic manifestation these days. She likes to paint plein air, mainly oil on canvas: “I love oils because you can change them so easily. I also love to work in pastels. The problem with pastels is in framing and storage of the finished product. For me watercolor doesn’t have the same flexibility as either oils or pastels,” she says. Among her artists of reference is Wolf Kahn, known for his terrific color compositions. Next to Kahn, on Margaret’s desk I see art books featuring Matisse’s fauvism, and David Hockney’s and Tom Thomson’s works.
Margaret’s plein airs have an impressionistic feel to them – the artist likes to apply color in oil sticks over the canvas or linen that is available. A new project is completed within hours, although sometimes it takes months to complete a more complex artwork. Photographs taken on site help the artist finish the project in the studio, but for the most part Margaret works from nature not from photographs – she thinks that photography doesn’t convey the light in a manner that does justice to the natural beauty.
On the opposite wall there is a series of interiors painted with oil on linen – these were part of the Reflections art show hosted by Blue Mountain Gallery in Chelsea in 2013. They are done in a realistic, detailed manner – Margaret says that some of her paintings are more detailed than others depending on the mood and the feeling she wants to convey. Beautiful shades of purple and yellow draw the viewer in, when looking at paintings like “Night Light” or “Porch with Plants,” my personal favorite.
For more information about Margaret Leveson, visit the artist’s website at margaretleveson.com.