IS183 Art School Inspires Date Night Creativity
By Lisa Green
Whenever I’m out photographing people at events we’re covering for Rural Intelligence, I feel like a dinosaur with a camera. Except for the pros who might also be there with their multiple lenses and impressive equipment, I’m the only one still using an old-fashioned standalone camera (a point-and shoot, but still). Cellphone cameras have cornered the market, which is what makes tomorrow’s Smartphone Photography class a smart way to spend a Friday evening.
It’s the first Arts Night Out of 2016 from IS183 Art School of the Berkshires, which for the past year has been offering one-off art project sessions one Friday a month, each focusing on a different discipline.
“Our goal was to have a regularly scheduled and easy way to experiment with a new media,” says the community art school’s director, Hope Sullivan. “People can enjoy an evening and see if it’s something they want to do at home or take a class.”
Classes are taught by IS183’s impressive faculty and upcoming evenings will be devoted to clay, collage, metal work, book arts, and tintype portraiture.
Sullivan says the Arts Night Out sessions have drawn participants from all over the region. The school’s location in Stockbridge is easy to get to, and there have been groups of friends signing up, sometimes turning the class into a potluck-and-art party.
Photo courtesy of IS183.
In the Smartphone class, instructor Thad Kubis will have participants taking photos, then using the advanced menus most mobile cameras offer. He’ll also give tips from making easy improvements (removing red-eye, for example) to archiving images and publishing professional-looking shots. Other camera-related Arts Night Out classes being planned will concentrate on composition and additional photographic proficiencies on the ubiquitous device.
“It’s an easy and fun way to get the creative juices flowing,” says Sullivan.
Just remember to charge up your cellphone before class.
Smartphone Photography at Arts Night Out
Friday, Jan. 8, 7-9 p.m.
$35 ($30 for members); 21+ BYOB
IS183 Arts School of the Berkshires
13 Willard Hill Road, Stockbridge, MA
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Echoes Of The Borscht Belt (Plus Latkes) At Valley Variety
By Jamie Larson
There’s a German word, sehnsucht, which means a longing for a place you’ve never been. Marisa Scheinfeld’s beautiful photographs of the crumbling ruins of Borscht Belt retreats in the Catskill Mountain are arresting in this same complex, yet relatable way.
Scheinfeld will be speaking about her project, Echoes of the Borscht Belt, at Valley Variety, on Warren Street in Hudson on Saturday, Dec. 12. The event includes an appropriate dinner of borscht and latkes prepared by the Savory Delicatessen food truck. Chuck Rosenthal, the designer and owner of Valley Variety, an elegant and modern spin on a house and kitchenware store, will be displaying and selling a selection of Scheinfeld’s work through the end of the year. At the event, Scheinfeld will share many more of the pieces, which depict the way nature and man have taken over and repurposed these once grand and historic hotels and resorts.
The Borscht Belt was a lavish string of primarily Jewish hotels that dotted the Catskills and operated with renown from the 1920s until the 1970s when tastes changed and the resorts closed their doors.
“Nature is reclaiming these spaces,” the artist says. “They’re falling apart, or oddly being put back together, by people for other uses like paintball or a skate park.”
The images drum from the audience a complex range of emotions. They are certainly a bit sad, expressing the loss of these grand historic structures with their stories and classic design.
A Scheinfeld piece hangs in Valley Variety above a seating area.
“There’s definitely a pathos running through the project,” Scheinfeld readily admits, “but there’s also a beauty in the transformation.”
In many photos, the way nature has crept into the spaces works as though it were a designer’s vision, as in the image of a perfect carpet of moss below a deck chair. Scheinfeld says she never moves any object for a photo, instead catching these relics frozen in time during their various states of change.
“I don’t look at this project as being about death or entropy,” she says. “So much of what is captured in the photographs is about new life.”
Before Rosenthal reached out to her, Scheinfeld had only shown in galleries and museums. This show accentuates the art and furnishings and both are heightened by how they are paired. Seeing the work in context with how you live (or how you’d like to live) adds yet another layer of connection to the forms of art involved.
“The intention was to create these spaces that give you a sense of living in the design,” says Rosenthal. “It’s the beauty of old and new.”
There’s also a kind of temporal mirror going on. The sleek lines of the furniture on display are similar in many ways, if not directly inspired by, the early 20th century modern design elements slowly spiriting away in the photos.
Saturday’s event and the duration of the show are excellent opportunities to enjoy both the exhibit and the store. Valley Variety and Scheinfeld do what they do at a very high level, so their abilities combined are well worth checking out.
Scheinfeld has an as-yet-untitled book coming out in the fall of 2016, containing the full Borscht Belt project. The book will be beautiful, we are sure, but by working with other writers and a historian, Scheinfeld also is creating a meaningful narrative around the grand history and emotion of a region and generation gone.
Echoes of the Borscht Belt Artist Talk and Dinner
with Marisa Sheinfeld
Saturday, Dec. 12, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Tickets for talk and dinner: $25
Space is limited. Please reserve in advance.
705 Warren Street, Hudson, NY
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Kinderhook Century-Old Limericks Foretell ‘Winter in America’
By Jamie Larson
Who is Harold Van Santvoord? And why the hell are the 19th-century illustrated limericks from the long dead Kinderhook, New York writer’s journal being presented at one of our region’s premier modern art venues?
Past and present collided in 2006, when the Friends of the Kinderhook Memorial Library volunteered to clean out the old library’s moldy basement. After digging through mildewed histories, they found an old barrister’s cabinet. Inside, protected from decay by the books around it, they found a small marbled notebook titled Limericks, by Van Santvoord.
“Weary Waggles, though down on his uppers, Fills himself up with booze to the scuppers: “Wot breaks down the health, Of them Captains of Wealth, Is not dope, but hard work and late suppers.”
Van Santvoord (1854-1913) is known to local historians as a headstone in the village cemetery, but also as an author, journalist and a member of the Albany Times Union editorial staff. His skill as an illustrator was not an element of record until the discovery of this single — and presumably only — copy of Limericks. The 50 handwritten pages of wry rhymes and expressive caricatures are surprisingly expert. One can’t help but feel that the Friends of the Library have done local history and the artistic narrative of the region a great service.
The one and only copy opened to this: “Some folks knows it all - Say. Great Scott! What swelled heads in the town board we’ve got: But there’s folks -I know such- What knows just as much, As them folks that minks they know a hull lot.”
Flash forward to just a couple of years ago when Jack Shainman Gallery’s The School took over the abandoned Martin Van Buren elementary school in Kinderhook like an invasion of the hyper-relevant modern art body snatchers. Minus the signage and fantastic (yet municipally contentious) sculpture on the front lawn, the school looks as stately as it did when FDR christened its opening in 1930. But inside, the world shifts from what is known and what is historic to a modern art gallery as powerfully captivating as any contemporary museum of comparable size in a major American metropolis.
The current exhibit at The School (open to the public on Saturdays from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.), “Winter in America,” is, simply, phenomenal. The theme that winds through finished and stripped classrooms, hallways and the now-combined cafeteria and gym is described thusly:
“America is in a season of malaise, perpetually struggling with war, intolerance, environmental degradation, fear, gun violence, and alienation, all of which seem to quell optimism and growth. The works featured in this exhibition express the mood currently experienced in the United States, and reflect the stark landscape, chilly air, and quiet introspection of winter.”
Van Santvoord is in excellent company at The School, on display alongside Andy Warhol, Kambui Olujimi, Michael Snow, Edward S. Curtis, Gerhard Demetz, Phil Frost and many, many more.
“Said a fool poet, Omar Khayyam: “Life’s a fake, and Future’s a sham, With my jug, and a jag, A sure cure for brain fag, I’ll play Love — that old game of flim-flam.”
Shainman has lived in the area for many years and while the inclusion of Limericks in “Winter in America” may seem to cynics like a philanthropic overture to the local community, any thought to that end evaporates upon viewing Limericks in context with the rest of the show.
Winter came early to American history. Van Santvoord’s work selected for the show cuts like an autumn wind, pleasant enough but with a chill becoming harder to ignore. An omen in hindsight, his notebook serves as a prologue to “Winter in America.” The enlarged prints selected show the artist’s humorous but knowing ideas on race and class. There are others in the book that are more genteel, but the ones on display give insight into a post-Civil War era when race, patriotism, war, political divisiveness and fear of the other was as palpable as ever.
There is not yet an official website where you can purchase the prints but if you have further interest in them, Friend of the Library’s Warren Applegate is managing the project and all proceeds from sales of the prints will go toward supporting the library.
Jack Shainman Gallery’s The School
25 Broad Street, Kinderhook, NY
Gallery hours: Saturdays from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The Kinderhook Memorial Library
18 Hudson Street, Kinderhook NY
Hours: Closed Mondays
Tuesday – Thursday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sunday, 12 – 4 p.m.
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An Artistic Revolution In New Milford: the harts gallery
Carmen Elsa Lopez Abramson.
By Jacque Lynn Schiller
When a gallery’s business plan is as inspiring as the art on its walls, you know the gallerists are seeking to do more than simply display pretty pictures — though the recently opened the harts gallery [sic] in New Milford, Conn. accomplishes this undertaking just as beautifully. Imagining the airy space as a hub for creative expression through exhibits as well as residencies and compelling talks, husband-and-wife team Evan and Carmen Elsa Lopez Abramson seem well on their way to achieving something truly remarkable: a welcoming art gallery where one wants to linger.
The duo, who are also filmmakers, photographers and activists, “envision a place where people can express their thoughts and emotions through art. We believe art is transformative,” says Carmen. Quite like the building itself. Formerly the Harts Five and Dime, the beautiful structure still boasts tin ceilings, exposed brick walls in the downstairs rooms, and spectacular windows looking out onto an increasingly bustling Bank Street. All the better to entice passersby to stop in and have a look around, perhaps chat with affable Carmen.
“A few months ago we approached the landlord, Gary Goldring, about doing a pop-up gallery here at the old Harts shop and he liked the idea. Quickly, we decided to make this a permanent gallery as well as a non-profit organization providing a gathering space that does not yet exist in our region, where community can form around the common values of creativity, vision, sustainability and collaboration,” she says.
If you sense a bit of spontaneity in their decision, I think you’d be correct. Running an art gallery wasn’t necessarily in the plans, but given their passion for storytelling — in all manifestations — it made sense to take the leap. The subject of the first exhibit, Love & Sacrifice, could likewise apply to this new endeavor.
“Without love there is no sacrifice,” the exhibit proclaimed. “Without sacrifice there is no love. Mutually dependent, the two are interchangeable—and yet evoke opposing feelings and ideas when spoken together.” United under the theme of contrast/complement, the harts gallery brought together the impressive work of six unique local artists working in diverse mediums and expressions, including Mr. Abramson, Lauren Booth, Tealia Ellis Ritter, Sebastian Tillinger, Elizabeth MacDonald and collagist Peter Wooster. An impressive start.
Why here and why now? That’s a question I’m always curious to have answered when someone moves to the area, especially when the decision to open a company is involved. Explains Carmen, “I’m from Peru and have lived in eight countries. Evan and I work on social and environmental documentaries. Traveling, meeting and getting to know people is something I love. We now live in Bridgewater and are new to the area. I like bringing people together and making connections.”
Making links carries through to the curation of shows. For the current exhibit, She’s a Changeling, Carmen and Evan weaved together a startling reimagining of the role of women in a world of flux, inviting the artists Claudia DeMonte, Julia Randall and Cecilia Mandrile to examine the relationship between the female body and identity in unique and surprising ways. It’s a thought-provoking collection, marrying pieces that on the surface might seem disparate: saliva bubbles, Milagros covered calipers, foldable paper dolls. The works are intriguing, playful, dark and developing, and the Abramsons have an eye for and embrace themes of transformation. This extends to what’s happening just outside those giant storefront windows, as well.
“New Milford can be a destination for emerging artists, artisans, makers and entrepreneurs similar to Portland, Beacon or Brooklyn,” says Carmen.
Through a mix of contemporary exhibitions, workshops, film screenings, live performances and outreach programming, the artist-run harts gallery aims to build community and inspire transformation regionally. I like what I see.
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The School: One Year And Art Five Decades In The Making
El Anatsui, “Stressed World” (as installed at The School, Kinderhook, NY).
By Robert Ayers
It has been almost exactly a year since Jack Shainman changed the contemporary art landscape in this part of the world by opening The School in Kinderhook, NY. On Sunday, May 17, he is throwing a big party to celebrate that anniversary and to mark the opening of this summer’s School exhibition, a major retrospective of the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui. It promises to be quite a day: the remarkable Imani Uzuri — whose voice, the Village Voice suggested, “would sound equally at home on an opera stage or a disco 12-inch” — will be performing, local food trucks will be on site, and the organizers have already received more than 500 RSVPs.
El Anatsui: Five Decades at The School, Kinderhook, NY (installation shot).
El Anatsui is as big an art name as there is out there. He has just been awarded the Venice Biennale’s highest honor, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. His work was the subject of a big show at The Clark in 2011, but if you have not seen it before, then you are in for a remarkable experience. Though Anatsui’s principal material is garbage, what he creates from it is little less than magical: he salvages huge numbers of crumpled metal bottle tops from liquor bottles and threads them together with copper wire into huge sculptures. Stand close, and you see their tiny glistening components, stand back a few paces and you are struck by their size and weight. In fact they are unlike anything else you’ve ever seen, though they might suggest strange metallic animal hides or perhaps flags or tents.
Anatsui is happy with the ambiguity. He actually allows their final shape to be decided by the people installing them. He does not see himself as the maker of monoliths, in other words, but of things that have a life. “I don’t want to be a dictator. I want to be somebody who suggests things,” he says.
Jack Shainman shows a wide range of artists at The School (and at his two prestigious New York galleries) and says simply that he aims to “to exhibit, represent and champion artists from around the world, in particular artists from Africa, East Asia, and North America.” Anatsui is typical of these artists to the extent that his work is not only visually arresting but resonant with cultural meaning as well. Every one of those tiny pieces of metal that he uses means another bottle of hard liquor consumed, either in celebration or relaxation or perhaps something very different. Ask yourself what it means that an artist can build a whole career’s worth of work out of them and you begin to appreciate the seriousness of Anatsui’s work.
We are fortunate indeed to have El Anatsui: Five Decades — and The School itself — on our doorstep, and it has come about because of local connections. Jack Shainman grew up in Williamstown, MA, and he harbors an abiding affection for our area. He has a home in Stuyvesant, NY where he can escape the pressures of the international art world, and it was while he was driving there in the summer of 2013 that he realized that Kinderhook’s former public school had fallen into disrepair and was for sale.
What he did with the building deserves the lavish praise it has received. (The correspondent for Whitewall magazine described herself as “blown away.”) Working with the Spanish architect Antonio Jiménez Torrecillas, Shainman converted the classrooms, offices, gymnasium and cafeteria into a showing place for contemporary art that rivals not only other galleries, but any public museum in the country.
And now you have the perfect opportunity to see it. Last year’s opening attracted something like a thousand visitors. This time around you are invited and the gallery will be providing transportation from New York City to Kinderhook. For more information on transportation, check the website. All the gallery asks is that you let them know you’re coming.
The School — First Anniversary Celebration
Sunday, May 17, 1-4 p.m.
25 Broad Street, Kinderhook, NY
The event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to: RSVP@jackshainman.com