Ad Astra Per Aspera

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. Anna ConeHer 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. Saki SatoAs 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. Susan HamburgerThe 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.

Photos by Linda Marston-Reid