Formerly known as the College Art Gallery -- which was established in 1964 by a dedicated committee of faculty members to help enhance the teaching mission of the University -- the Dorsky Museum is named after Samuel Dorsky, who provided a generous gift to expand the art world at SUNY New Paltz after having achieved success in business.
The museum was dedicated in 2001 and has since grown to become a resource for regional artists, educators, art collectors, art enthusiasts and a destination place for the art-sophisticated public. But it is also a place for the general public, who enjoy feasting their eyes and senses on the multitude and variety of art work and exhibitions the Dorsky Museum offers. The museum has been expanded, through Dorsky’s and other gifts, to create more than 9,000 square feet of exhibition room, which is both climate controlled and includes six different galleries hosting rotating exhibitions of works from the permanent collection, as well as fine art students and visiting artists from the valley and around the world.
To this end, Marco Maggi, born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1957, who earned his MFA at SUNY New Paltz in 1988, who has exhibited in the most auspicious galleries and throughout the world, and is a New Paltz resident, was chosen and convinced to be the feature artist to help ring in the Dorsky’s tenth anniversary.
The exhibition, which opened on Feb. 12 and will run through April 15 is entitled, “From Huguenot to Microwave: New and Recent Works by Marco Maggi.”
The works are a mix of fine cuts on Plexiglas, paper, aluminum, graphite and even convex mirrors. As one person stated during the exhibition, “the work is so fine, so delicate, so precise.”
There are pieces that pay homage to Andy Warhol, with cubicles dissected and arranged in deconstructionist form with catalogue-styled Brillo Pads and Campbell Soup Cans and American Flags. Then there are smaller pieces, so delicate and small and yet profoundly engaging that you end up starring at them for minutes or hours, like small paper cuts that invade the soul with their slight, yet pervasive, sense of pain and attention.
“I love this museum, I love this town and this university,” said Maggi, surrounded by friends, family and visitors, who marveled at his works of art. “I feel at home here. I was present when it was an art gallery and then through fundraising and donations and grants and love it became this incredible space and museum. What a beautiful success, no?”
As for his work and the audience, Maggi said that he, for one, does not believe nor will his audience believe that “art is only about ideas -- that there is some hidden, complex idea that is so intellectual that few can understand it. No, not at all.”
“The main issue in this show is surfaces. Our surfaces, how superficial they are. I hope, if anything that I can help encourage people to look, give a second glance and chance at ordinary materials like aluminum from ShopRite or plastic and paper and see what our common materials are,” he said.
The artist also said, noting his precise, incision-like cuts into paper, aluminum and Plexiglas, that only a surgeon might achieve, or an artist of great focus and ability, that “this world is so distant and yet moves so fast, that I only hope that we can slow down, at times, and just look and be.”
That’s not to say that he is “against” the Internet or technology, which he embraces, but that in the drive for faster and more expedited communication, that in his estimation, “true intimacy is subversive.”
Museum Curator Brian Wallace said that he was honored to have Maggi exhibiting at the Dorsky for their anniversary. “He came from Uruguay, looking across the wide bay towards Argentina, where, at the time, Buenos Aires was one of the greatest cities of the 20th century, and he wanted to become an artist.”
Wallace pointed to the incredible arch of being a post-colonial immigrant to America, receiving an education from SUNY New Paltz and going on to become a world-renowned artist, who finds his home here, in the Hudson Valley.
“Maggi is special. Incredibly special and represents a bridge between our progressive faculty and art students and Dorsky and other contributors towards this museum in the past to the present,” he said. “But he is also one of dozens of artists who are known internationally for their work, are considered ‘New York City Artists,’ but yet have their homes right here in Ulster County.”
Wallace, who was being thanked by dozens of visitors, faculty, alumni and artists for his work on the Maggi exhibition, also noted that in his estimation the Dorsky Museum has grown in terms of its permanent collection, its public outreach with local school districts, educators, as well as artists, art collectors and art enthusiasts. But he wants to do more.
““We are becoming a known resource...yes, we are known, as a region, for the Hudson River School of painters, but that was a long time ago and as critical as it is to the canon of art, we’ve come a long way since then and have produced a historic body of work that is culturally significant and worthy of greater study and exhibition.”
Wallace said that one of his main goals as curator of the Dorsky Museum is to “work with the community more -- the town, village and Historic Huguenot Street -- we’ve done great things in the past and can do more in the future. I don’t want the Dorsky Museum to be a place that people visit once, for one show, but a place that they come to often.”
He added that “the most critical part of what the museum does is putting on exhibitions and events that inspire and challenge campus and community alike.”
“The Marco Maggi show is a great example -- recent and new work by a renowned artist who makes his home right here in New Paltz, has a show that you might expect to see at MoMA or MassMoca or The New Museum or Dia:Beacon,” he said, adding that this show was one where the “community can walk in to any time.”
Another upcoming event at the Dorsky is “The Upstate New York Olympics: Tim Davis,” from March 7 to April 8.
Davis, from Tivoli, was invited by Wallace two years ago to do a project “behind-the-scenes at HHS,” said Wallace, “which led to an amazing portfolio of photos that was displayed there and acquired for the Dorsky permanent collection.”
This March, Davis will be showing a series of faux performances called The Upstate New York Olympics.
“Tim’s humor really comes out in these videos: using politicians’ signs for croquet, leapfrogging 50 or 60 lawn jockeys, skipping stones on a beautiful green algae-covered pond ... this is art about the region, but with a fresh take that I think people are going to really like,” Wallace said.
The public is encouraged and welcomed to visit ongoing exhibitions and openings and general collections at the Dorsky Museum. To learn more, visit www.newpaltz.edu/museum.