The mask that inspired our search for Margarito Melchor Santiago
December 27, 2019:
We are walking through the small town of San Martín Tilcajete searching for the artist, Margarito Melchor Santiago. We had spotted a carved wood mask of his in the tiny museum Museo de Arte Popular Oaxaca in San Bartolo Coyotepec. We had only the name but we knew this was a small town and people should know the artist.
Asking around at the shops on the main street into town, a helpful merchant said he did know the artist and drew us a tiny map and pointed up the hill. We began walking up the hill and continued as the road went from cobblestones to hard-packed dirt. As we walked up hills we began seeing murals that had a similar theme.
We made a few wrong turns but finally found the studio and Margarito Melchor Santiago and his family warmly welcomed us inside. They were very pleased that we had sought them out after seeing their mask in the display of regional artists in the museum. They described how their family had a long tradition of mask carving beginning with his father, who stepped inside the showroom momentarily to say hello and to please excuse him for he had much work to so.
We inquired whether they had any more masks, but Margarito shook his head no. He explained they were busy making masks that had been commissioned for delivery in time for the big carnaval coming up in a few weeks. The carnaval begins in the morning when the boys and men paint their bodies with colors, some with motor oil, wear devil masks and parade throughout the village. The carnaval has been getting much attention in the past few years, attracting many from outside of this small village. Our hosts invited us to return for carnaval – someday we might.
Linda and Scott Marston-Reid pose with Margarito Melchor Santiago and family. Linda holds the Gallo, which did return home with us.
Another work day begins at home. I’ve created a place to focus and noticed this morning that greens and blues are the predominant colors in my space. The green bowl holds freshly cut sage from an overgrown side garden. Here it represents an honored place as a reminder that we are all tied to nature.
The small painting is by Penny Dell, featuring a collage of cubes created from the safety patterns seen on envelopes. Each cube is edged with gold encaustic paint, making the stacked cubes more precious.
Next to that is a jar created by Alexis Feldheim. This work has similar connections with the patterns Penny Dell uses – Alexis used her series of photographs and transferred the images onto the ceramic vessel. Having these things around me while I work reminds me how fortunate I am to be surrounded by a community of artists.
The Lockwood Gallery is known for mounting concept driven group shows featuring the work of exceptional Hudson Valley regional artists. During June, gallery proprietor and curator Alan Goolman invited artist Carol Struve to co-curate an exhibit, “Wall Flowers,” featuring six painters who are inspired by nature. The curators selected a body of work from each of the artists allowing viewers to appreciate each artists’ interpretation of the theme.
The front gallery features Carol Stuve’s lively monoprints filling the gallery with their exuberant colors and transparent layering of flower and leaf shapes. Struve commented, “While tending or walking about my gardens I witness colorful blossoms illuminated by the radiant morning light, dancing about in the gentle breeze.” Using these memories of her garden, Struve returns to her studio to capture the essence of color and light that are evident in her monoprints.
Joy Taylor also explores the natural world through her art and this exhibit includes paintings that suggest a narrative about the flowers she portrays. In one series, Taylor places the flower in a vessel; each painting describes an other-worldly flower as still-life with a curtain painted behind each vase. The work brings to mind the 70’s Hard-edge painters like Al Held and Ellsworth Kelly, however, Taylor’s style is unmistakably her own.
Kelly Schnurr exhibits 8 diminutive paintings with imagery that could also be successful on a grander scale. Schnurr is also inspired by the garden, citing that “a trail of sage highlighted in chartreuse, pops of vermilion, cornflower accents, and sprinkles of white lace ignites something inside of me.” The gouache paintings on paper exemplify the colors of the garden through gestural shapes and patterns.
Gabe Brown exhibits ten sumptuous paintings on paper. Brown’s work contains layers of water color and gouache which she embellishes with Prismacolor Pencils. The paintings are filled with references to the ordinary world that we see every day, however, Brown has teased apart each image, color, and shape and reorganized them in a way that creates meaning to her.
Don’t miss the back gallery filled with the series of what at first appears to be traditional paintings by Thomas Sarrantonio. Upon closer examination, viewers will see these luscious paintings of the grasses, flowers, and fields of spring are also a way to immerse yourself into nature’s beauty and detach for a few moments of bliss.
Sharing the back gallery are the magical ‘wall flowers’ created by Beth Humphrey, who provided this comment about her work: “I think about cycles in nature, gentle and violent forces at a moment of change and the shape of things at moments of transformation.” These whimsical paper creations are just what everyone needs dancing on their walls. Humphrey created these works by layering colors and embellishing with patterns, which the artist then cuts out into imaginative creatures. Humphrey’s wall flowers are displayed salon style on the entire wall and each creation has its own color, form and personality. Inviting one of these artworks into your space could bring the magic you’ve been seeking.
Another work day begins at home. I’ve created a place to focus and noticed this morning that greens and blues are the predominant colors in my space. The green bowl holds freshly cut sage from an overgrown side garden. Here it represents an honored place as a reminder that we are all tied to nature. … Continue reading “The art of patterns”
The Lockwood Gallery is known for mounting concept driven group shows featuring the work of exceptional Hudson Valley regional artists. During June, gallery proprietor and curator Alan Goolman invited artist Carol Struve to co-curate an exhibit, “Wall Flowers,” featuring six painters who are inspired by nature. The curators selected a body of work from each … Continue reading “The Art of Wall Flowers”
Today we can appreciate the mission of the Calvert Vaux Preservation Alliance to preserve the regional legacy of the 19th century architect, Calvert Vaux. To expand appreciation of the historical value of these places, Kitty McCullough and the Calvert Vaux Preservation Alliance invited Franc Palaia to curate a photography exhibit that featured the historic architecture and landscape design in the Hudson River Valley. Palaia commented, “In my selection process I tried to focus on well-known, as well as lesser-known architecture to give the show a sense of discovery for the viewer.” From over 100 images, he selected 29 photographers to show 70 images for the exhibit.
Olana is a stunning example of Calvert Vaux’s partnership with Frederic Church to complete a home sited on a rise where views of the Hudson River and the landscape seems to go on forever. Photographer Paolo Nigris used drone photography to capture Olana and the sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.
Several photographs in the exhibit feature the abandonment and ruination of these grand structures. Liz Cooke’s photography, Convalescent Home Piano Room, is a wonderful example of the architectural details in these old buildings. The photograph allows us to imagine the grandeur of this room in its prime, filled with music appreciators for an afternoon concert. Cooke has created a collection of these memorials to grand architecture and is the founder of Abandoned Hudson Valley, a website devoted to sharing ideas and images of the forgotten places in the Hudson Valley region.
Now abandoned, the Hudson River State Hospital Psychiatric Center looms above Route 9, a major transportation corridor. The iconic buildings were designed by Frederick Clarke Withers and the grounds were designed by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted: both were known for their pioneering work of America’s Park Movement, as well as the design for New York City’s Central Park. Monica d. Church captured the existing building on a cold morning in her photograph, Cheney Building, Psychiatric Hospital.
Bannerman Castle is another spectacular architectural structure adjacent to the railroad corridor on the Hudson River. John Verner’s photo of Bannerman Castle shows the intricate architectural details of the structure up close.
Wilderstein is an Italianate style home designed by John Warren Ritch in 1852, and 40 years later, Calbert Vaux completed a landscape plan for the grounds that were originally pasture. Wilderstein’s interiors were designed by Joseph Burr Tiffany featuring the finest decorative arts during that time, including stained glass windows. Photographer Pieter Estersohn captured one of Wilderstein’s large stained glass windows at the top of a stairwell. The window’s artistry continues to sparkle in the sunlight, providing beauty and grace to all who walk within the walls of this architectural gem.
This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal Lifestyle section, May 10, 2020.
Jan Sawka was a world renowned artist with artwork held in collections of 60 museums. Originally from Poland, his life took on unexpected direction when he was exiled from his country during the Cold War. He landed in New York and eventually made his home in High Falls, where he continued to make art from 1985 until his death in 2012.
Currently, the Dorsky Museum has a one-person thematic exhibit of Sawka’s work, The Place of Memory (The Memory of Place), curated by the artists’ daughter, Hanna Maria Sawka and Dr. Frank Boyer. The artworks clearly show Sawka’s love for his new country and especially the Hudson Valley. This is seen in the large four-panel painting depicting the Ashokan Reservoir, a place that reminded Sawka of his home country. Hanna Sawka, the artist’s daughter, commented: “This was a favorite place for my parents to take walks. The Hudson Valley was a place tied to my father’s memories.”
Sawka, his wife and daughter would travel for summer vacations to Asbury, New Jersey. Sawka felt the urban decline of Asbury Park reminded him of the conditions in Soviet-dominated Poland. The painting, “Asbury Notebook,” contains a multitude of small sketches and paintings that describe one detail about the place. Together, the images create a symphony of visuals.
An entire gallery space is devoted to Sawka’s series, “Post-Cards,” which includes 36 drypoint prints of places around the world that were meaningful to the artist. What is especially exciting about this exhibit is a recent discovery of a letter from Sawka to Elena Millie, who was the Fine Prints Curator at the Library of Congress, where he described the inspiration and memories that he associated for each print in the “Post-Cards” series. Visitors will find these descriptions available in the gallery to guide their exploration.
Each of the artworks was created using drypoint, which is a scratching tool to create line on thick sheets of Plexiglas. Hanna Sawka provided this memory of visiting her father’s studio: “The persistent sound of a steel needle scratching Plexiglas is a part of my earliest childhood, it was a sound that I would hear well into adulthood.”
Artists scribe lines into the Plexiglas to create the imagery for a finished print. Lines that are deep and thick will print darker when put through the printing press. Hanna Sawka explained, “The length and the rhythm of the scratches would change with the length of the lines or hatchings. It was not a quiet scratch, but a determined, loud sound as my father scratched hard to create lines deep enough to hold ink for the printing process.” The exhibit includes a glass vitrine that contains two Plexiglas plates for the printing process as well as Jan Sawka’s drypoint scribing tool.
This article was originally published in the Hudson Valley News Weekend, February 26, 2020
Symposium: Jan Sawka: The Place of Memory (The Memory of Place): A two-day symposium co-hosted by The Dorsky Museum and The Kosciuszko Foundation in New York City including panels of scholars who will help illuminate aspects of Jan Sawka’s practice, his biography, and the social and historic context of his art. Speakers will include Peter Schwenger, Tom Wolf, Beth Wilson, the exhibition curators and others.
YouTube video exhibition views of Jan Sawka: The Place of Memory (The Memory of Place) Curated by Hanna Maria Sawka and Dr. Frank Boyer at The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art.
One of the most important milestones in the career of an artist is to have their work included into a permanent museum collection. The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art has established an annual purchase award and acquired artwork over the past 12 years through the Alice and Horace Chandler Art Acquisitions Fund. The exhibit, Collecting Local: Twelve Years of the Hudson Valley Artists Annual Purchase Award is a rare opportunity to see selections of the collection together. Entering the gallery, it’s apparent that the collection has been built with a discerning, yet diverse eye. The exhibit includes video, sculptural installation, paintings, photography, mixed media and ceramics, yet all these artworks together create a vivid picture of the work of contemporary Hudson Valley artists. Many of the artworks included in this exhibit turn the mirror back onto our culture as they examine climate change, violence in our society, and displacement. Curt Beishe and Lise Prown collaborated on the installation, Carrying (Pistol Packing Pupils) 2010, an artwork that makes a statement on our gun culture and gun laws in schools across the United States. Seen in a context of when the sculpture was created, we have seen ten additional years of gun deaths in our schools.
Libby Paloma creates wall hung multi-media pieces that memorialize her Chicanx and queer culture. In Chingona AKA Libby, she remembers her family roots while she claims her own individuality. The piece is embellished with seed beads and tiny objects that depict her world. Several paintings are featured using a variety of style and approaches to working with paint. Nestor Madalengoitia’s work, Simon Bolivar – Hero 2, uses the artists’ trademark signature of portraiture with lettering and designs that feel inspired by Incan civilization from centuries ago. Thomas Sarrantonio’s small paintings on paper show us the birds eye view of forests with waterways from his series, Forest Paintings. Charles Geiger’s works are not only beautiful, but also a statement on the environment as shown in his painting, Out of Sight, inviting the viewer to search within the jungle of flowers and plant-like objects. In Stephen Niccolls’ painting, Strapat, the artist has pared down shapes to explore the essence of painting. Looking closely at the artwork, you will see the deliberate brushstrokes and placement of color.
There are several fine examples of photography in the exhibit from François Deschamps series, Available, where the artist places an image of a person alongside an empty storefront, to Richard Edelman’s dramatic piece, Rebekah Creshkoff in Search of Matilda, a study of shadow and light. Several artists use existing materials to reconceptualize the work, such as Barbara Leon’s Homo Naturalis, where the artist has taken an existing poster and painted over the images. Don’t pass by the grouping of steel engravings; look closely to see how Jean-Marc Superville Sovak has inserted images that change the perception of these formerly bucolic landscapes. As you depart this exhibit, pause a few moments at the gallery entrance to enjoy Patrick Kelley’s ethereal video, 175 Rome Churches.
The exhibit Collecting Local: Twelve Years of the Hudson Valley Artists Annual Purchase Award is on exhibit until July 12, 2020 at The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art.
State University of New York at New Paltz, 1 Hawk Drive, (75 S. Manheim Boulevard for GPS), New Paltz, NY. Phone: 845.257.3844 Email: email@example.com
This essay was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal, February 28, 2020.
Originally posted during winter 2015 – I’ve revised it to include more photos of recent collections.
Once again we departing for Mexico in a couple of weeks, leaving snow and slush behind – nothing these little Mexican hairless dogs would likely experience. Xoloitzcuintli, or Xolo for short, has been popular in Mexico for centuries. The dog was named by the Aztecs after Xolotl, the God of lightning and death.
These small effigies can be seen at street markets as freshly baked clay folk arts, and also nearly identical to the Xolos at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. The dog statues were buried alongside their masters to protect and guide them in the afterlife.
Now you can find Xolos as simple clay or embellished folk art pieces, such as the one on the left we discovered two years ago. This type of ceramics is created in Tonolá, a ceramics-centric town outside of Guadalajara. The artist, Chon Chon, signed their name on both of these fantastical creatures. Different from its sibling we found two years later on the right, they both have lively expressions on their faces.
The Lockwood Gallery is one of the latest galleries to the Hudson River art scene and they finish off the year with a flourish with their exhibit In Pursuit of Color. Michael Lockwood, owner of The Lockwood Gallery and curator Alan Goolman organized the exhibit that includes 24 of the Mid-Hudson region’s extraordinary visual artists. Visitors can explore the smaller galleries organized around colors that showcase a variety of paintings, sculptures, drawings, and mixed media.
Andrew Lyght’s artwork, Painting Structures 645C, is prominently situated in the first gallery. Lyght created the three-dimensional piece with red oak and plywood, building negative and positive spaces that were informed by his observations of built structures during his early life in Guyana. The piece is embellished with drawings that may remind viewers of the Peruvian Nazca Lines. In the same gallery Stephen Pusey’s lively abstract painting, Nexus, is executed with colorful lines that dance on a rhodamine red background.
Joseph Conrad-Ferm’s painting, Cornu, was inspired by music. The artist stated, “My mood picks the music that drives my spirit in the studio: Monk, Coltrane, Davis, Parker, and others were in the studio with me.”
Congruence by Stephen Niccolls
In the same gallery space, see three of Stephen Niccolls’ exquisite paintings including Congruence, where the artist has created an abstract composition that quivers with energy using color and design.
David Provan’s petite sculpture, Primary Structure, is big on presence. The sculpture is created from rods painted the three primary colors; yellow, red, and blue, that crisscross forming interactions with the colors. Provan also exhibits Trance Stance, a painting with color gradations that suggest states of meditation and consciousness.
Susan Spencer Crowe’s work is informed by early training and work as a sculptor. Floating on Blue is a recent work where she has created a three-dimensional wall-hung painting by cutting and folding the artwork. As viewers walk around the artwork, each angle brings a fresh view of this complex work.
Talya Baharal’s painting practice has evolved out of her work as a studio art jeweler and sculptor. Her paintings bring unlikely colors together on one surface. For instance, in Untitled, pink and goldenrod yellow intertwine with an organic black line. The work is overpainted with layers and the surface bears markings where the artist has added and subtracted color, adding to the depth of the work. Laura Gurton’s work explores patterning and color, as does Ralph Moseley‘s One-Over-One color field abstract landscapes.
Several artists depict the human form including Angela Voulgarelis’ delicate study, Portrait of a Young Woman, and D. Jack Solomon‘s diminutive abstractions of the female form. Don’t miss Mike Cockrill’s collage paintings that present the humorous side to art school.
In this exhibit, the exuberant use of color is the focus until you approach Carole Kunstadt’s mark-making drawings that showcase color in a subtle way. The line of the pencil is the star of these drawings and the introduction of small bits of color teases the viewer, who may try to read the markings as a centuries-old text.
The artists retain all rights to images in this post.
The Lockwood Gallery is located at 747 Route 28, Kingston, New York. In Pursuit of Color was on exhibit November 2019 through January 4, 2020.
Every year the Wassaic Project hosts a summer festival, an artist residency program, ongoing arts education for youth and the annual summer exhibition. This year’s exhibit, Ad Astra Per Aspera, references the Kansas state motto, which translated from the Latin means “to the stars through difficulty.” Curated by the Wassaic team including Bowie Zunino, Will Hutnick, Jeff Barnett-Winsby, and Eve Biddle, the exhibit is complex and thought-provoking with surprises awaiting visitors on each of the seven floors. The curators stated; “The artists in this year’s show seem to be asking of us, the viewer, to reconsider that which we think we know using different lenses, or perspectives.”
The main floor features work by Margot Bird, who creates sculptures with gold leaf embellished with kitschy ceramic poodles, merging polar opposite ideals in the decorative arts. Moving towards the back of the gallery visitors can follow the sounds and explore several installations, including work by digital collage artist, Anna Cone. Her work references Baroque furnished rooms seen in museums. Cone commented that “By visually employing a Baroque extravagance with Kitsch undertones, I want to democratize these opulent, elitist, and once inaccessible spaces.”
Moving up the stairs to the second floor, you will come upon Saki Sato’s installation, “The Icebox,” an immersive environment that provides an opportunity to think about our food sources. The room may remind visitors of walking into the refrigerated section at the supermarket, where it is uncomfortably cold. Decorative cans of food are sparsely arranged on shelving creating a feeling of scarcity, while a video plays promoting foods we casually buy at the market as rare and precious. As you continue up the stairs you will note the vertical installation inside the shaft of the grain elevator by Tatiana Arocha, providing visitors a glimpse of a rainforest, including sounds of howler monkeys and a thunderstorm.
On the 4th level wall, you’ll find a fine exhibit of abstractions by Eleanor Sabin and Anthony Sullivan. Delano Dunn’s works on wood with resin coating represent research-based facts of deeply held beliefs. The interior of the room features Amber Heaton’s “Rites of Spring,” an installation referencing natural systems with patterns of light and time. Don’t overlook the immersive environment by Jeila Gueramian, where visitors can sit and contemplate the crocheted limb-like growths and observe the world outside of this shelter.
The climb to the top floor rewards visitors with a birds-eye view of the Wassaic village. Susan Hamburger has filled this small room with “Birds of New York,” an installation that features pigeons, sparrows, and starlings perched on stacks of shipping boxes. The floor is littered with strips of newspaper as if the birds had opened the boxes looking for treasure. Looking closer, visitors will notice the birds are all individually made from newspaper paper mâché.
Many alumni of the Wassaic Artist residency program are featured in this exhibit. If you time your visit right, you can meet current artist residents during Open Studios and see what they have been creating.
The Wassaic Project is located at 37 Furnace Bank Rd, Wassaic, NY.
This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal Enjoy! section, August 23, 2019.
Summer in the Hudson River Valley is magical and one destination worth visiting during this time is Wilderstein Historic site in Rhinebeck. Landscape designer, Calvert Vaux created a winding set of walks and trails meandering through the 40 acres of Wilderstein, which also features a stunning Queen Anne mansion. Visitors to Wilderstein can experience the sweeping views along with the 5th Outdoor Sculpture Biennial Exhibition up now through the end of October. This is the second time that local artist and curator, Franc Palaia, has organized the Outdoor Sculpture Biennial increasing the exhibiting artists to 25.
The works have been thoughtfully placed throughout the property, creating a great visitor experience of surprise and discovery. On Wilderstein’s front lawn, you cannot miss “Plastic Bottle Man,” Willie Cole’s larger-than-life sculpture created from 5000 plastic water bottles. The sculpture lounges against one of the grand trees, perhaps unaware that his essence is a major source of world pollution. Turning towards the incredible views of the Hudson River, see William Scholl’s “Portal 409,” a sculpture created from Bluestone and mounted in a large tree.
Circling around towards the back of the mansion, see Alison McNulty’s “Hudson Valley Ghost Column 4.” The artist stated that “The Ghost Columns echo the Hudson Valley’s industrial history and architectural ruins, formalizing traces of the region’s geological, social, and material history.” Visitors will note the stacked bricks and Cormo sheep wool sourced from a historic Hudson Valley fiber farm. Julia Whitney Barnes is another artist fascinated with the historical context that bricks hold in the Hudson River Valley region. She has installed “Hudson River of Bricks,” at the edge of the front lawn of the mansion; an homage to the historical brick industry of the past. Visitors will note the glazed historic bricks included in the installation – the shape of the installation defines the places on the Hudson River that the brickyards formerly operated.
Inside one of the rustic gazebos on the property, see Hans van Meeuwen’s sculpture, “Melvin,” casually seated as if he is surveying the landscape. Nearby on the tennis courts, Namoi Teppich’s sculpture, “Snowflake Cactus” is centered in that space, the cactus spines jutting out from copper outlines provide shape and interest to the simplified sculpture. Step over to the edge of the mansion’s lawn and appreciate the sculpture, “Here I Am,” by Andres San Millan. The life-size sculpture of a horse has leaves of silver and copper that shimmer in the sun.
Poughkeepsie artist Suprina exhibits, “Someone Else’s Shoes” featuring a pump created from found objects. From a distance, the sculpture is in a recognizable form of a pump, but on closer examination, the five-foot-high sculpture could be a bench, a place to take selfies or a place to imagine what it’s like to be in some else’s shoes. Visitors will discover other delightful sculptures placed on the property along the Calvert Vaux designed walking paths, including Joe Chirchirillo’s “Deciduous Rings,” as well as Dave Channon’s “Flâneur,” a sculpture created from rusted metal resurrected from the junkyard.
Details if you’d like to visit:
Wilderstein Historic Site is located at 330 Morton Road, Rhinebeck.
The exhibit will be on view daily 9:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. through October 31, 2019. Hiking trails and grounds are open to the public free of charge.
For further information: 845-876-4818 http://wilderstein.org/
Photos by Linda Marston-Reid
This article originally appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal on July 26, 2019.