For over a century, the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony has a history of providing a place for artists to create work. Today, the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild sustains that creative work through an integrated program of exhibitions, performances, classes, workshops, symposia, summer residences, and artist housing. The annual Members’ exhibition demonstrates the sustainability of founders Jane and Ralph Whitehead’s multi-disciplined model that welcomed artists and craftspeople to work collaboratively and without restrictions.
This year’s member’s exhibit, Byrd & Image, provides a glimpse of the immense amount of talent showing in a broad array of media. Artist and curator, Linda Weintraub designed the installation of the exhibit with over 100 pieces of artworks on display. She commented, “Debra Priestly was honored with this year’s ‘curator’s choice’ award for her meticulously constructed print, but those eligible as runners-up are plentiful. Other impressive works include emotionally expressive abstractions, masterfully constructed sculptures, beautifully crafted collages, and hauntingly intimate photographs.”
Visitors to the exhibit will notice Weintraub arranged the exhibit works in groupings, allowing each work to be appreciated on its own merits. The larger pieces of work that are standouts include Calvin Grimm’s “Clearing Out the Stories,” an exuberant oil on canvas, and Laura Gurton’s “Unknown Species #215,” a beautiful composition of patterning, reminiscent of Aboriginal designs. The exacting designs of dots and drawn lines are enhanced by the luminescent depth of the painting’s surface. Mary Anne Erickson’s “Binger’s Rocket Gas” painting reminds us of the nostalgic roadside attractions seen during the mid-century era. Similar in mood to Edward Hopper’s work, the image depicts a place where the architecture, signage, and vehicles dominate the world. In direct opposition to this feeling is Marjorie Grinnell’s portrait of a man lying on a fainting couch, fully dressed in evening wear, which is both a beautiful portrait and a narrative painting.
The smaller artworks really shine in this setting, surrounded by other works on their own scale. For instance, Debra Priestly’s modest-sized pieces have a delicate beauty and convey a personal story about memory, ancestral knowledge, and historic events. Carole P. Kunstadt’s “Interlude” series are small artworks that have a large presence. Utilizing an old music manuscript found in a thrift store, Kunstadt cut and wove the papers followed by repetitively knotting linen threads into the fragmented surface of musical notations and lyrics, resulting in a meditative artwork. Viewers of these artworks could consider that these small framed pieces also serve as sacred objects.
Byrdcliffe Arts Colony was founded with the idea of venerating the handmade, fostering an artistic community and creating beautiful objects for everyday use. In this exhibit, there are ceramic pieces on exhibit that reflect this ideal including work by Megan Dayl, and Deirdre Puleo’s “Creepy Forest,” a wood-fired pot with branch embellishments. The exhibit also includes bronze sculptures by Philip Monteleoni, Alex Kveton, and Jean Newburg.
Weintraub commented on the artworks and artists in the region; “They each provide evidence of the artistic vitality that endures, to this day, in the historic Hudson Valley.”
This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal Enjoy!, January 13, 2017.