Bacon and Hardinger

by Paul Smart
June 09, 2011 01:35 PM | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Drawing by Peggy Bacon.
Drawing by Peggy Bacon.
Quirky humor seems to be one of the key themes for the art that will be on view at the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum starting Saturday, June 11. It’s evident in the astute caricatures and cartoon-like depictions of cats and other home life by the late great Peggy Bacon 1895-1987, seen in a new Towbin Wing exhibit put together by guest curator Tom Wolf of Bard College; and easily distinguishable within the solo exhibit offerings of sculptor/installation artist/two dimensional artist Ruth Hardinger, whose more serious themes involving our use of natural and manufactured materials is constantly leavened by a rambunctious sense of humor.

Augmenting these two major shows will be one of the WAAM membership’s annual non-juried shows, a constant potpourri of offerings in various media, in the Main Gallery, and downstairs exhibits of Small Works curated by Westchester County contemporary gallerist Kenise Barnes; an Active Member Wall exhibit of atmospheric new landscapes and other Impressionist-influenced works by works by Linda Puiatti and Ackerman Award Recipient Zak Apolito, a rising visual artist as well as singer/songwriter and Onteora wrestler, in the YES (Youth Exhibition Space) Gallery.

“Her talent for capturing a likeness was apparent early, and she took the convivial, creative life around her as a subject, populating many of her early prints with incisive portraits of her fellow artists,” writes Wolf of Bacon, the artist who studied with Ash Can Greats alongside many of her future Woodstock peers, poblished a number of well-respected books of caricatures during her lifetime (in addition to magazine and gallery work), and always drew herself with no chin.

As for the cat element in the show, up into October, Bacon said it best.

“I think every child loves pets. Cats were the only pets I had. I drew them constantly,” she wrote at one point. “I loved them dearly and enjoyed them as personalities and models.

As for Hardinger, whose primary work is in concrete these days, molded in disposable items and stacked/hung/roped together in precarious but intuitive fashion, there’s a constant sense of commentary, embedded in her process, and downright fun, reflected in the gee-whiz surprise of her finished pieces.

“My current works have an enmeshed relationship to my long-standing interest in myth, archaeology, early cultures and primary structures. My forms negotiate a tension between their own literalness and abstraction, exploring their essential materiality rather than purely abstract,” she has written of her art.

Alongside this weekend’s openings, Wolf will be giving a gallery talk about the witty and well-respected Bacon on Saturday, June 11 at 2:30 p.m., while the always-fun Hardinger will give a talk about her work at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 12.

Saturday, June 11, will begin with a special morning presentation, “Beginning With A Story: Creating and Preserving the Places of Our Imagining…A conversation with Richard Lewis and Jill Olesker,” put on by the Touchstone Center and Nature’s Storytellers Arts Collective at 10 a.m. Aimed primarily at educators, the event will focus on the importance of mentors and other teaching catalysts in helping children “preserve the instinctive, expressive and imaginative capacities

of their childhood.”

Also upcoming will be a June 18 Janine Pommy Vega Poetry Festival, which will be covered in more depth in next week’s paper, a “Cats and Caricatures” family event on the Bacon show taking place from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 25; an August 6 “Drawing Animals” workshop, and a Columbus Day weekend literary event focused on the writings of Bacon and such friends of hers as Carl Sandburg, Heywood Campbell Broun, and others.

The openings take place 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, June 11, at the WAAM galleries at 28 Tinker Street, just off the Village Green. For further information call 679-2940 or visit

Aurora and Nordness at Oriole 9

The two artists showing at the now five year old Oriole 9 starting Saturday, June 11, have an aesthetic that some say is definitively Upstate…at least in terms of a certain period, and style, of living (ands seeing). Call it post-psychedelic, Pop-o-graphic, spacey folk-like. Through years of practice, and exhibition, Aurora, of Woodstock, and Astrid Nordness, of West Shokan, have gradually perfected what they do to the point where it’s escaped origins and easy assumptions.

“The interior of an interdimensional kaleidoscope,” is how the former describes her installations…although the term, and sensibility, fits both artists.

Aurora’s work, defined by what she calls her “Flying Rainbow Lasagne shape” is fantastically colorful, meticulously detailed (and repetitive). Somehow, it’s both forward-looking — into the future of the current computer age, while simultaneously looking back into the sixties.

At Oriole 9, she’ll be displaying several four foot panels, each of whose entire surface is covered with an intricate network of circles “perfectly calibrated to each color of the rainbow.”

Now creating animations of her hand-drawn works, based on intricate mathematical principals, she’s taken what seemed a bit precious at first and turned what she does into something nearing monumentality…the sign of a true artist emerging.

Nordness has a Miro- and Klee-like sense of coloration and playful composition, with her own patternings incorporating organic representational shapes and a sense of a natural world allowed to surge into hypergear. With a growing line of work in ceramics, however, she has pushed her two dimensional pieces into ever-greater subtlety and originality, again showing great growth via increased concentration on her own vision.

The opening reception for this stunning show — kind of perfect for the wildness of the midsummer solstice season, takes place at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 11 at Oriole 9, located across from the Village Green at 17 Tinker Street.

For further information call 679-5763 or 679-8117, or visit

And yes, happies to Luc and Nina, there…Feel better Mr. Lenny and many thanks to Peter Wallack for getting this up and running…++

Eye Candy at Barthel

Slowly but surely, Jaime Barthel’s Lotus Fine Arts on Rock City Road has established its credentials as a home for visually stunning and technically adept painting. She finds artists, many from farther afield than the Hudson Valley or Catskills, through a number of means…and then invites them up for openings and other events. And, best of all, she is able to connect these artists with a growing body of collectors who trust her sense of taste, her eye.

In other words, she’s bonafide… and has quietly become more than just a showcase, but a working, sustainable gallery.

Her latest show, opening with an Artist’s Reception Saturday, June 11, presents a series of meticulous medium-sized oil on canvas still lives by Brooklyn-based Douglas Newton. They are all of candy…be they Hershey Kisses or gumdrops and peppermints. Think of what Will Cotton was doing a few years back cleaned up and made more affordable (and much, much easier to fit into one’s home).

“I paint the things around us: fruits and vegetables, household items, toys, all the objects of everyday life. I also have a series on candies and their wrappers, focusing on their translucency and reflections,” he says of his sweet-toothed brushes. “In all these paintings, my emphasis is on light, color, texture and atmosphere.”

Earlier works by Newton, of flat-planed, surrealistically-charged houses and gardens, demonstrate the strong sense of art history and pictorial possibilities that have made the artist a regular of galleries throughout the Northeast, as well as within the growing Abu Dhabi art scene in the Arab Emirates, ever since graduating Stanford with a degree in painting in the early 1980s. Given that knowledge, it’s easy to note a classicist sense of the temporal, and much more beyond the surface qualities he talks about, in the artist’s intense focus.

“Eye Candy,” as he and Barthel are calling the new show, kicks off with a 5 p.m. reception Saturday June 11 at Lotus Fine Art, 33 Rock City Road (just up and across the street from The Colony.) The exhibit runs through Sunday, July 10.

For further information call 679-2303 or visit

Bronx tales

One of the highlights of last year’s 1st Annual Bronx Memories Open Mic — which moves from The Colony Café to the Kleinert/James Arts Center next Saturday evening, June 18 — came when longtime Woodstock friends Basha Ruth Nelson and Toby Heilbrunn discovered they had both attended the same elementary school in New York City’s only mainland borough. And been in the same class.

“We set the concert up as a CD Release party for our album, The Bronx Song, and then opened it up to people to tell their own tales about The Bronx and sing their own songs,” says local artist Rick Pantell, who is putting on the gala event with his printmaking and music-making partner Karen Whitman. “When we were recording, we discovered that a lot of our artist friends in town were also from The Bronx…You know, a million people have left the place over a generation.”

“People had a lot of great stories, some funny, some touching,” adds Whitman, who was born in the borough but grew up elsewhere, unlike Pantell…who wears his Bronxness like a badge. “So many people then said they wanted to bring their parents or kids back for a second one that we knew we’d have to do it again.”

According to Pantell and Whitman, anyone from the borough known for its grit, creative spark, and accent should contact them ASAP to get on the bill for the 18th. And yes, people from those other downstate urban counties can get involved, too, as long as they keep with the theme.

“We’re putting a lot into this,” adds Pantell. “At this age, we’re all looking to share our memories of this special place and its neighborhoods.”

“The song we started this all of with mentions a lot of places dear to anyone who knows the place,” adds Whitman. “I guess you could call it the ‘American Pie’ of The Bronx.”

To sign up for the Open Mic portion of the event or to get advance tickets, stop by Whitman and Pantell’s Bearsville Graphics Gallery at 68 Tinker Street, a few doors down from the Kleinert, call 684-5476, e-mail, or visit

A balancing of sorts

The paintings of Melinda Stickney-Gibson, opening in a new exhibit at Elena Zang Gallery in Shady Saturday, June 11 are both raw and sophisticated. They’re roadmaps, on the one hand, charting where she’s journeyed, inside, since her last showing. They also comment on themselves and other art work out in the art world. They are all about paint…but also the space of a canvas, the filling of artistic vision. The emptying of influences and amalgamation of everyday occurrences.

Over the years, she’s played with fire and the remnants of things burnt, and lost emotions. She’s expressed ecstatic joy, tinged with elements of guilt and grief. Her latest pieces feel like a balancing of some sort is going on, an adding up of past feelings and summations. They are both playful and deadly serious in the ways in which individual elements are allowed to both jar against each other and achieve a natural balance.

One can tell that this artist lives all that ends up on her giant canvases and smaller works on paper. Each piece draws on a lifetime looking inward, wrestling with converting the stuff of life into two dimensional worlds that are rich in the ways Stickney-Gibson’s found to pare it all down, make each mark matter.

Originally from the Chicago area, educated in Arizona, practiced in New York, and a Catskills feature for years now, Stickney-Gibson exhibits around the country, draws praise for her works wherever she shows. And sells.

There’s an element in which each of her creations becomes more than a representation of what she’s thinking or feeling and a thing unto itself, as every great abstract work — all art, actually — should be.

“Thinkings,” as this latest show is called, opens at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 11 at Elena Zang Gallery, 3671 Route 212 in Shady…three and a half miles west of Bearsville.

For further information call 679-5432 or visit

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