Vagabond Time Killers

The annual summer exhibit at The Wassaic Project was inspired by a 1901 photo discovered by Wassaic Project co-founder Jeff Barnett-Winsby. The photo shows young adults posing holding a banner that reads, “VTK.” Handwritten on the back of the photo were the words, “Vagabond Time Killers, 1901, Wassaic NY.” The photo inspired the name of the exhibit, Vagabond Time Killers and this photo is on display at the entry of the 7-story grain elevator/gallery. The faces of the young adults in the photo show delight in the forest setting – allowing us to imagine the story we could weave about how this merry group met upstate at Wassaic every summer for summer fun.

The exhibit riffed off the feeling of freedom, the great outdoors, and the adventure of imagining something new. The first floor included Margeaux Walter’s Digital C-prints. Walter described the process as originating from large-scale installations inspired by consumer culture and domestic scenes. The patterning created by staging a floral printed tablecloth with plates filled with pastries and four diners posed in a four-cornered directional map created an embellished, balanced universe. In Bloom

Visitors could follow the music and sound coming from the back of the gallery, where Minhee Bae’s silk organza artworks hung like welcome banners to a world of experiential art. Haley Lauw and Erik Pedersen’s installation of “Junk Mouthpieces” paired with a loop of samples from the Music Masters basement created an environment inviting visitors to proceed upstairs. The installation of musical instruments continued on each floor and was viewable through cutouts seen as you climb the stairs.

Eleanor Sabin’s neon work “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” was installed a few levels above – the neon flame burned from logs placed in typical campfire fashion – the burned wood is a fitting melding of contemporary and historical. VTK-neonFLAMEContinuing upward, Jen Hitchings’ work is all about interpreting the summer camp out. “Red Forest” shows a camping scene with a dangerous sloping geography painted in neon blues and oranges. VTK-RedForest

Continuing up to the next level, Matthew Gamber’s images are inspired by “transcendentalist thought in the New England Landscape.” The artist created the images with a large format camera, printed as three-dimensional anaglyph prints that could be viewed with the 3-D glasses available in the gallery.

Upwards on level 6, see Tatiana Arocha’s captivating installation, “Impending Beauty.” TatianaArocha5The artist has reimagined the entire small floor as a parlor, perhaps inspired by the 1901 photo when parlors were a means of civil discourse. The walls have been papered in a moody dark forest scene with birds and forest plants – the settee has an elaborate snake coiled, ready to strike. The table has been set for tea with a tea set that has also been elaborately decorated with the dark, flora, and fauna of the jungle. The artists’ work is influenced by her native country, Columbia, along with the symbolism of 19th Century opulence and what it took from nature.

For the hardiest visitor reaching the top floor, Elias Hansen’s installation, “Looking Down the Tunnel for the Way Out” VTK-Elias-Hansentook over the entire space. The glass viewers placed in front of the windows invited viewers to look down over the scenery below – the glass created a funhouse viewpoint of the scenery below, reinforcing the idea of being in another world. VTK-glass-lens

Traveling back downstairs through eight floors of the grain elevator, visitors could appreciate the works placed on each landing by collaborative artists, Ghost of a Dream, where they used several iterations of romantic travel posters with cut out words, Forever. GhostofaDream03The artists shared this additional information about this work in their interview: “The stairwell allows for a slow and intimate reading of the work as the viewer ascends or descends the stairway. Repetition is a thread that runs through all our work, from drawings to installation. We feel that when you are dreaming about something you think about it over and over, sometimes for years.”

This essay is an expanded version of the original publication for the Poughkeepsie Journal Enjoy section Friday, August 25, 2017. Vagabond Time Travelers is up through Sunday, September 24, 2017. The Wassaic Project is located at 37 Furnace Bank Road, Wassaic, NY.


Life and the Color Red

enjoy-ruth-edwy_a-landscape-in-red_oil-on-canvas_24x24The color red has long been affiliated with passion and warmth, perhaps because it is also the color of fire and blood. Emotionally intense, red increases respiration, raises blood pressure and enhances human metabolism. Red also has significant cultural meaning around the world: in China, red is associated with good luck and fortune; in Japan, red is associated closely with a few deities and statues are often painted that color; and in Sweden, red was reserved for the privileged class.

Recently, Emerge Gallery & Art Space in Saugerties curated, “Primar(il)y Red: A Group Exhibition of Artwork Celebrating the Color Red.” Robert P. Langdon, Emerge Gallery director stated, “Everyone experiences art differently, but I believe that the selected works in this exhibition will offer the viewers a chance to connect with their feelings to see which emotions are elicited from spending time with the work.” Forty-five pieces of art representing forty-four emerging artists from the Hudson Valley and New York Metropolitan area were included in this exhibition. Langdon stated, “Although some of the work included is not entirely red, the viewer’s eye is drawn to the red element in the piece.”

enjoy-marilyn-rowley_descent_mixed-media_11x14This is noted in “Red Wings,” a painting by Elin Menzies depicting two Red Winged Blackbirds perched in the brush. The artist uses layering and sgraffito on the surface, creating a magical setting for the birds to roost. The brush is painted in subtle colors making the vibrant red-colored wings pop against the background. Marilyn Rowley uses another approach with red in “Descent,” where the first thing viewers will notice is the vibrant red background. The artist has captured the moment as a black bird lands against a red background with white gestural lines completing the dynamic composition.

enjoy-alison-winfield-burns_red-palio_oil-on-canvas_36x28Alison Winfield-Burns exhibits “Red Palio,” a painting inspired by the annual tradition of the Palio horse race in Siena, Italy. Capturing the excitement of riders and horses that are working together to win with an impressionistic approach, the action on the race track is framed by the stadium’s red swath above the spectators.

enjoy-ross-corsair_assignation_photography_39x28-1Ross Corsair’s moody photograph, “Assignation,” is a study in compositional elements. Viewed from above a plaza, there are intersecting lines, patterns, and textures, primarily in shades of gray. The eye will immediately focus on the red triangles, part of an umbrella held by a lone person crossing the plaza. Corsair’s artist statement explains: “Most of my photographs attempt to capture the ephemeral, a fleeting moment, sometimes cloaked in mystery.”

Ruth Edwy shows “A Landscape in Red,” a lovely, painterly abstraction of the landscape. At first glance, the viewer may think this is simply an examination of the color red, but looking closer you can see form and gesture, design and line. The artist explains her inspiration in her artist statement: “My paintings involve the landscape, more and more, whether in a very abstract form or very literal, but in the end what defines all of my artwork, over many years, is my love affair with light and color.”

This essay originally appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal’s Enjoy! section, December 16, 2016. 

Meeting the Past – Artists Envision the Future

For the past three years, artist-curator Bibiana Huang Matheis invites the Hudson Valley regional artists to participate in the exhibit, “Meeting Past,” at the Akin Library and Museum.  There are many unique qualities about this exhibit, beginning with the site – an elegant late Victorian stone structure sited on Pawling’s Quaker Hill. The building contains historical and natural history collections year round, and the invitation to 82 contemporary artists to install their artworks among these collections energizes the space with new meaning.

Entering the building, look up and see Amy Manso’s vessels created from recyclable papers and plastics floating above your head. Her sculptural pieces are normally mounted as sculptural wall pieces, and the curator decided to suspend them at the same height as the period chandeliers.

photo: Bibiana Huang Matheis

Directly ahead through double pocket doors, the library awaits – artworks are discretely displayed on the shelves next to the collection. On the wall, Dick Crenson’s “The First Heist,” an installation of copper wire reminiscent of a delicate line drawing, complete with Adam giving Eve a boost up to reach the apple. The library also has blue velvet tufted sofas:  a felted fabric piece by Pawling resident, Pat Corrigan is displayed as a casual throw across the back of the sofa, just like at grandma’s house.

photo: Bibiana Huang Matheis
photo: Bibiana Huang Matheis

After exploring the main floor, head upstairs to the local history collections of the Historical Society Museum. Here we see photos of the people who lived here 100 years ago, alongside their treasured possessions, such as the engraved gold thimble from the Akin family.  Look closely inside the glass vitrines, though, because you will be on the treasure hunt of your life as you explore the artifacts alongside the artist’s work; for instance, Jeep Johnson’s melted glass and iron sculptures fit compatibly aside the rusted rail road spikes and branding irons.  Saddles on display from 1888 now have a backdrop of Joan Blazis Levitt’s luscious horse paintings, and Elisa Pritzker’s painted antlers sit side-by-side with China pieces owned by Harriet Taber Akin. Even the windows offer a view into the past, with Cindy Snow’s “Through Grandma’s Window” casually placed on the windowsill.  As you move down to the lower floor, don’t miss Rosalind Schneider’s shimmering tree paintings placed in an alcove, appearing like an altar in a sacred space.

photo: Bibiana Huang Matheis

Head downstairs to the lower level, which houses the Olive Gunnison Natural History Museum.  The overwhelming displays of minerals, vitrines with taxidermy animals, birds, butterflies and rocks now share space with specimen jars filled with meaningful items to Bibiana Huang Matheis, curator of this exhibit.  The jars entitled the “Soul of an Artist” contain Chinese porcelain and Virgin Mary statuettes bound together with golden thread. Placement of the objects into a bell jar creates a sense of precious preservation, causing the observer to stop and ponder why this particular object holds meaning.

photo: Scott Marston-Reid

The opening reception had a one-time opportunity to see the performance piece presented by Jeff Johnson – an enormous bell jar with a live human woman folded neatly inside the glass.  Her 10-minute performance stints during the evening stopped the crowds with a variety of comments, from brilliant to misogynistic. Ultimately, it may have been the horror of seeing another human relegated to the aging collections of unborn animals floating in brine, stuffed birds placed in glass cases that triggered the emotional response.

Anonymous photo by bathroom exhibit participant

Look for the music room, also located in the lower level, and step inside to hear Riva Weinstein’s installation of sounds collected from local places as you inspect the anthropological assortment of musical instruments.  This floor holds many beautiful pieces of art that speak with the objects that have been in this collection for decades, such as Leigh Williams’ honeycomb monoprints, and Liliana Washburn’s delicate paintings on Yupo Paper displayed behind glass, like much of the formerly living things now on display. While you are downstairs, don’t forget to visit the bathroom and see the “Three Mens” mini-gallery of bathroom photos featuring several decades of “Bathroom Photography” by Jeep Johnson, a sound installation by Dick Crenson, and featuring emerging documentary bathroom photographer, Scott Marston-Reid. During the opening, a camera was left in the bathroom for participants to take their own bathroom photograph – documenting their own creative vision of the bathroom.


The Akin Free Library and Museum is located at 378 Old Quaker Hill Road, Pawling.  Hours: Friday, Saturday and Sunday – 1 to 4PM. The exhibit runs through October 27.