One of the Hudson Valley’s most anticipated summer art events is the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art’s annual showcase of Hudson Valley artists. This year’s exhibition entitled, CAMPSITE: Hudson Valley Artists 2016, opens in the museum’s Alice & Horace Chandler and North Galleries on June 18. There will be an opening reception on Saturday June 25 from 5 – 7 pm. The exhibition will run through Nov. 13.
Every year the Dorsky invites a guest curator to select artists from an open call; this year the curator is Corinna Ripps Schaming, a specialist in contemporary art and associate director and curator at the University at Albany Art Museum.
For the 2016 show, as the title indicates, Schaming looked to one of the things that the Hudson Valley was famous for in days gone by: vacations, summer camps, and those halcyon days in the Catskill Mountains that live in the memories of so many New Yorkers. From 1905, young bohemians flocked to party at the Maverick with Hervey White and his wife Vivien. From the late 30s through the 70s, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties became known as the Borscht Belt as whole communities of middle and working class Jews migrated from New York City to the Catskills in summertime to cottage colonies. Hotels and boarding houses were built to accommodate summer visitors, such as the Overlook in Woodstock, and the Beaver Lake House Inn in Krumville, as well as numerous sleep-away summer camps for children. Although the Hudson Valley remains a place that people associate with summer fun and adventures, many of these camps and hotels are now defunct, repurposed or ruined. In her invitation to artists to submit for the exhibition, Schaming asked that they “draw inspiration from the traditions, rituals, and aesthetics associated with the regions rich history of summer camps [and] turn the museum space into a locus of visual pleasures and unexpected activities where playful experimentation leads to a more serious engagement with the larger world.”
The exhibition is open to all emerging and mid-career artists with a permanent mailing address and active art practice in the region who have not had a major one-person museum exhibition and who are not currently represented by a commercial art gallery. At 14 participating artists, this is the smallest sample we have seen in many years, but each artist has multiple artworks in the show. The artists are: Jessica Baker, Black Lake (Susan Jennings and Slink Moss), Elizabeth Ennis, Tara Fracalossi, Chris Freeman, Laura Kaufman, Thomas Lail, Meg Lipke, Ruby Palmer, Jeff Starr, Amy Talluto, Katharine Umsted, Chris Victor, and Michael Covello Odalla
Michael Covello Odalla was sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon when I caught up with him to ask about his contribution to the exhibition, and that is the magic of the internet. The piece is a video entitled, The Old Pretender and it explores, according to Covello Odalla, “How we interact with nature and how it responds to our presence. In particular I have always liked the idea of wilderness being a strange space of human invention that serves as a conceptual armature for experiencing otherness.” The video is a feast. And it has a strong sense of what it might be like watching the Blair Witch Project on acid – morphing psychedelic pinks and turquoises with flashes of colorful visual noise and occasionally interruptions of black and white graphic patterns.
For Ruby Palmer of Rhinecliffe, “The attitude of ‘serious play’ was an inspiration, and has always been a phrase or mantra I think about when I’m working in the studio.” The painted wood constructions, which she is showing in Campsite, have an improvisational nature and, she says, what they will become is never known until they are finished, “My plan always goes through changes.” Generally using a single color, the works, as Turquoise Bird’s Eye suggests, have that sense of flying high over, perhaps, a small town in Asia, or possibly a holiday resort in America. Or perhaps they could be bits of wood floating down the river that have randomly coalesced into a perfect composition. Of course, the latter is an illusion, Palmer remarked that despite the improvisational aspect of the process, it is, nevertheless, a rigorous process.
Black Lake, based in Hillsdale, NY, and comprised of Susan Jennings and Slink Moss, is a multimedia duo that integrates sculpture, painting, original music and lyrics, spoken word, amplified electric guitars, percussive jams, movement, shadows, noise, costumes, and hand-made percussive instruments, and all bathed in the abstract light of Jennings’ video art. In Campsite, Black Lake’s light “sculpture” titled Electric Fire Song functions similarly to a campfire as a focal point or magnet, not only for a visually hypnotic experience (similar to watching logs burning) but also for periodic communal experience when Black Lake enters the space to perform sound art and play their own original “campfire” songs.
Black Lake will be performing in their installation at the Dorsky at 4:30pm, immediately before the reception on June 25th, and also at 2pm on July 16th.
Hurley-based Amy Talluto contributes 6 ink on paper paintings that vary in size from 5 x 7 to 11 x 14” that show the abandoned grounds and buildings of the Beaver Lake House Inn in Krumville, NY. A three-story, 20 room boarding house with dormitories and bungalows nestled in the mountains of Ulster County, it was built by German-Jewish immigrants who had fled Nazi-era Germany. They opened their doors to other refugees such as the painter Marc Chagall who stayed for 6 months in 1945. Says Talluto, “The inn was less like the typical Borscht Belt resort of Sullivan County (complete with entertainers and waiters serving prime rib) and more of an intellectual retreat, where a guest might find a copy of Marxism Today on the bookshelf.” The Inn enjoyed a 50 year run from 1937 to its decline in the 1980’s when it was abandoned, and fell into ruin. Talluto is interested in the time capsule aspect of this place and her works aim to record, in a very unambiguous way, what’s left – to “show the decaying structures and overgrown grounds of this once grand House.”
Hudson-based Katharine Umsted’s sculptures for this show are all life rafts. She notes that while rafts, in and of themselves, are “a joyous part of aquatic fun, life rafts connote the polar opposite; danger, crisis, threat. And they also provide rescue and new life.” Well, at least a second chance at life. But the life rafts Umsted is showing have done their duty and will be doing no more rescuing, if they ever could have – they have a heaviness to them that defies floatation. They are torn, broken and exhausted. Maybe they are telling us that it’s time for us to now pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and save ourselves. A metaphor perhaps for the rising waters of global warming.
The dystopian view of fun in nature doesn’t end with Umsted’s leaden life rafts. Taking Schaming’s aspiration for the exhibition that “playful experimentation leads to a more serious engagement with the larger world,” Thomas Lail’s geodesic cardboard dome, Dome II, is a humorous but deadly serious take on what “campsite” might mean to many today: cardboard suburbs of homelessness are ubiquitous in many American cities, and tent cities of refugees from civil war in the Middle East grow at the edges of Europe. Indeed the last campsite I visited was in Hulme Park in the center of Poughkeepsie! Lail proffers a design that harks back to the hippy days of the late 60s and 70s when young people moved to rural areas to experiment with alternative living, including building economical homes; the geodesic dome was one of the most popular of those experiments – in fact, they were available as kits. Lail takes this symbol of utopia and, through its scale and building materials, reframes it as its opposite. The placement of Dome II between the columns in the gallery at the Dorsky adds another layer of irony to this installation. In addition to Black Lake’s performances on June 25 and July 9, there will be a gallery talk with curator Corinna Ripps Schaming, Thomas Lail, Ruby Palmer and Amy Talluto on September 24th. Check in at the museum’s website for further information on these and other events connected to CAMPSITE: Hudson Valley Artists 2016.
Featured Image: Jessica Baker, Circle of Change 2016. Coins and pine tree logs. 10′ in diameter.
All images courtesy of the artists.
CAMPSITE: Hudson Valley Artists 2016 is at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art on the campus of the State University of New York at New Paltz, 1 Hawk Drive, New Paltz, NY 12561 (75 S. Manheim Boulevard for GPS). Directions HERE
MUSEUM HOURS: Wednesday — Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm.
Closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and Holidays.
Please call ahead during summer and intersessions to confirm exhibition availability.
Again, the exhibition’s opening reception is June 25, 5 – 7pm.
For more info see the Dorsky website here
Claire Lambe is an Irish born painter whose works have been exhibited on both sides of the Atlantic; she is a graduate of the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and holds an MFA in painting from the City University of New York. Writing credits include contributing author to Teen Life in Europe (part of the Teen Life Around The World series), and articles and reviews for this publication. Claire Lambe’s art work can be seen here: