Art as a healing force

by Paul Smart
September 08, 2011 03:29 PM | 0 0 comments | 62 62 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Eccentric Portraits at the Kleinert.
We’ve got one of those big cultural weekends coming, reminiscent of the old Arts Consortium bashes of a few years back, with a host of major gallery openings all around Woodstock and the area on Saturday, September 10. And somehow, the idea of art’s role as a healing force seems to have played a role in many of the curatorial choices that will be on view. Talk about an appropriate way of drawing folks out after the damned rains and wind of recent weeks.

The Byrdcliffe Kleinert/James Center has what’s promising to be a delightfully eclectic demonstration of art’s vast interpretive ability, as well as the whole range of emotions and self-images that see us through often difficult lives, in its new Eccentric Portraits show. It’s been put together by artist Nancy Azara, long head of The Guild’s exhibitions committee, and noted appraiser Sylvia Leonard Wolf, a major component behind the ascendancy of the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum’s Permanent Collection in the past decade. As a result of both women’s deep roots in the region’s cultural scene, and high aesthetic standards, the quality of what’s being shown, and those showing, is a tonic.

The goal of Eccentric Portraits is to match the ways in which the Woodstock community “exalts independent, non-conformist, outside- the-box thinking” with 32 artists “who have created works that deviate from the norm and illustrate a variety of imaginative interpretations of ‘portraiture’.” Among those showing are many well-known local artists, and some new “faces”: Barbara Bachner, Elizabeth Bisbing, Bette Blank, Yale Epstein, Lulu Ekiert, Laura Elkins, Peter Franceschetti, Reiko Fujinami, Verna Gillis, Bo Gehring, Brenda Goodman, Arthur Hammer, Amy Hill, Martha Hughes, Nicole Jeffords, Lenny Kislin, Polly Law, Jason Lujan, Mari Lyons, David Marrell, Eva Melas, Ann Pachner, Alan Siegel, Eleanor Steffen, Melinda Stickney-Gibson, Michelle Stone, John Tomlinson, Virginia Tyler, Carl Van Brunt, Rob Van Erve, and Catherine Welshman. Expect a crowded, invigorated opening crowd…as well as a bit of fun as audiences try to match each other to portraits, and figure out what’s autobiographical or not. The exhibit stays up, on weekends, through October 16.


Over at WAAM, the main juried show this month is being overseen, and selected, by Brian Wallace, Curator at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Fine Art at SUNY New Paltz and arguably the best authority on world-class contemporary art working in the region these days. A downstairs show of small works is being juried by Henrietta Mantooth, a former journalist with an eye for adventurous work, while other exhibits throughout the building will include a Youth Exhibition Space (YES!) collection of works by area homeschoolers, a Member’s Wall show of works by Lucette Runsdorf, and a solo show of fabulous new paintings, colorfully abstract and layered, by C. Michael Hunt of New York and New Kingston, whose wife Ruth Hardinger had a fantastic solo show of her sculpture at WAAM earlier this year.

C. Michael Norton’s work, showing in the solo gallery of the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum for the coming month, has long mixed elements of the decorative, hints of the figurative, and an abstract painter’s love for pure explosive shapes and color. But there’s something about his latest works of the past few years that seems brighter, more hopeful than all that came before. Could it be his use of yellows? The hint of three-dimensionality at play in his use of various acrylic planes on his sumptuous linen surfaces, which critics suggest is a reference to his many years as a renowned sculptor? AS with so many of WAAM’s solo shows this year, we expect it to reach beyond its middle gallery confines and suffuse the Main Gallery selections being made by Brian Wallace with an added edge. And knowing Wallace, some points of reference for his own work jurying. It all stays up, for such contemplation, through October 9.


Similarly colorful and ecstatic, Christina Varga will be showing a series of new paintings by Joseph Arthur, a grafitti-like painter and renowned singer/songwriter whose art works have been touted on his own Museum of Modern Arthur website, and who’s presently touring in support of his acclaimed new album, The Graduation Ceremony. Arthur will be performing an acoustic set of his music with a plate passed for donations to aid the current “Helping Hands of NY” effort to benefit Phoenicia victims of Hurricane Irene.

Arthur first gained fame as a Peter Gabriel musical discovery in the mid-1990s, after which he became known for his soundtraclk contributions to the likes of Dawson’s Creek, The OC, Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, Shrek 2, The Bourne Identity and the American Pie trilogy. But he’s always seen himself as a painter first…albeit one whose aesthetic is entirely self-taught. ““I was struck by the strength and visceral quality of Jo’s paintings,” Gabriel has said of his protégé. “They seem to connect to Expressionism, Art Brut, Basquiat and the Graffiti movement. I remember encouraging him to take the painting seriously and it has been great to watch its evolution.”Andy Warhol’s approach to art is an ideal for me,” Arthur has said of his own drive. “Make art, and while people are deciding whether they like it or not, make more art.”

Finally, at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, the main gallery’s been filled with works gathered for their upcoming 33rd Annual Benefit Auction of contemporary and classic photographs, while CPW’s smaller Kodak Gallery has been given over to Chichester-based artist Carla Shapiro for her exhibit, Rewriting Loss, which opens with a reception and talk this Saturday, September 10, like everything else.

Shapiro’s work, created in the months following the 9/11 tragedies we will be remembering this weekend, is made up of 2,500 obituaries pulled from the New York Times and hand-copied onto vellum sheets that then hung in the artist’s back yard as she caught their changes over a year’s span.

“For twelve months the obituary-prayer flags hung in lines across the stream in my backyard in Chichester,” Shapiro writes of her haunting photo series. “In each season they moved in the breeze, generating song through their movement, and creating patterns of light and dark. Each day I saw a new story, as every sheet of vellum told a different story, as every sheet of vellum washed away and became free of its story and became the pure whiteness I waited for--my way of honoring those who had died on 9/11.” The artist’s still imagery of this great project, which has brought her career much attention over the past decade, will be augmented in this month’s show with the showing of a black and white 8mm film that moves in and out of this moving installation over its year of expiation, with a special soundtrack organized by Shapiro. Talk about getting at the heart of this difficult anniversary… and growing from it, every one of us.


The various openings start at 4 p.m. with the WAAM events, which run through 6 p.m. (and are preceded by a 2:30 p.m. performance of John Cage’s 4’33”, rescheduled from two weeks ago). The Kleinert Show opening runs over the same time, while the Arthur performance starts at 6 p.m. and the CPW show runs from 5 p.m.-7 p.m., with Shapiro speaking about half way through.

WAAM, where the Brian Wallace-curated group show, C. Michael Norton solo exhibit, and other collections will be on view, is located at 28 Tinker Street, just off the Village Green (679-2940 or; while the Kleinert/James, home to Eccentric Portraits, is located almost next door at 34 Tinker Street (679-2079; Varga Gallery, where Joseph Arthur will hold court, is down by Upstate Films at 130 Tinker Street (679-4005;; while CPW, home to the auction compendium and Shapiro’s great Rewriting Loss, is at 59 Tinker Street (679-9957 or

Get out and connect, with and through the art. And remember. We all heal. We do.++

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