Getting serious

by Paul Smart
September 09, 2010 12:37 PM | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Detail of self portrait by Christopher Gallego.
Detail of self portrait by Christopher Gallego.
Enough with summer’s frivolities! The 2010 serious season, at least in terms of the town’s cultural offerings (barring the last weekend of the Kleinert/James Arts Center’s fabulous Gary Stephan show), gets underway with a host of openings at the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum this Saturday, September 11, that once again nod in the direction of more sophisticated art movements beyond the town’s past successes.

The most interesting of the various exhibitions inaugurating from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. in what promises to be a crowded and noisily effervescent afternoon opening reception appears to be, before hanging at least, the first area solo show by rising trompe l’oeil painter Christopher Gallego, who previously helped push the Woodstock School of Art into contemporariness when he taught a class there a few years back. And who just learned that he’s been named as one of the New York Foundation for the Art’s 2010 painting fellows.

Unlike classical works in his idiom, Gallego’s work has a distinct post-modern feel via the subjects he engages and renders, from rumpled dropcloths to stacked paintings and bird’s nests. The combination of his technical prowess and eye for lyricized banality has seen him recognized via a growing number of key group shows in leading galleries up and down the East Coast, guest lectureships, and other fellowships from the likes of the Pollack-Krasner Foundation.

Augmenting his Woodstock debut in the WAAM solo gallery space will be a Main Gallery opening for “Recycled,” a group show riffing off the title in both choices of materials and themes/inspirations, juried by Peter Bradford, a writer, designer and producer of editorial, educational and corporate identity materials, and painter/sculptor Mary Anne McLean, author of a series of books based on her botanical observations.

Also showing, downstairs at WAAM, will be an exhibition of small works juried by Hy Varon in the Founders’ Gallery, works by Kevin Pope on the Active Member Wall, and works from WAAM’s ongoing Poetry in Art Project, with member artists responding to poems written by kids as part of the Susan Hoover Poetry Project, in the organization’s Youth Exhibition Space.

“Arthur Pinajian: Master of Abstraction Discovered,” a show of a recently rediscovered Woodstock artist from the 1950s and 1960s, will continue on in the Towbin Museum Wing through October 11.


According to the James Cox Gallery’s online listing of hammer prices received for the 273 works for sale at last Sunday’s September 5 WAAM Fine Art Auction, meanwhile, a quick glimpse of activity shows some substantial bidding for Woodstock art this time around, and what at first looks to be a good haul benefiting the artists association and museum for its operations and maintenance budget.

Of particular note, and highest price paid at the event, was $16,000 for a Lucille Blanch painting of clowns, about twice what had been expected.

For more information on all exhibitions at 28 Tinker Street, just off the Village Green, call 679-2940 or visit

For more on the 2010 WAAM/James Cox Gallery auction, visit

Equine art

It’s still the local auction season…as well as neighboring Saugerties’ big Horseshows in the Sun (HITS) benefit weekend for Family of Woodstock, the countywide social services organization currently celebrating its 40th anniversary with a big John Fogerty concert at the HITS campus just north of town.

On Friday, September 10, Fletcher Gallery of Woodstock will be hosting a special Equestrian Fine Art Auction at 7:45 p.m. at 454 Washington Ave. Ext in Saugerties, featuring 85 lots of quality equestrian art it has had on view at its Mill Hill Road galleries all summer, until moving over to the HITS showgrounds on September 1.

This coming Friday’s auction — featuring as eclectic a collection of artistically-rendered horses as one could imagine, including everything from the exquisitely abstracted to the garishly cinematic — will be preceded by an evening preview and dinner hosted by HITS-on-the-Hudson starting at 5:30 p.m. 

To attend the dinner and auction send an email to or call Fletcher Gallery at 679-4411. 

The entire auction may meanwhile be viewed online at

Child of My Child

Sandi Gelles-Cole and Kenneth Salzmann first conceived of their new book, Child of My Child: Poems and Stories for Grandparents, with the birth of their first grandchild Josephine on April 1, 2009.

“For me, Josie’s birth brought the seemingly straightforward passage into grandparenthood. That joy, however, was necessarily tempered by the awareness that her Grandmother Diana, my wife of nearly 30 years, did not live to see our only child become a father,” Salzmann writes in the introduction of the new work, which the couple officially releases via their Woodstock-based Gelles-Cole Literary Enterprises this Sunday, September 12. Which also happens to be Grandparents Day.

“For Sandi, who is now my wife, Josie brought joy as well, along with a flood of questions about the place she would have in Josie’s life as a step-grandmother,” Salzmann continues in his introduction to the anthology of “non-Hallmark” stories and poetry he and Gelles-Cole spent the last year putting together. “We realized then that being a grandparent in the 21st century brings both timeless joys and sometimes harrowing challenges. Families fracture and recombine, often muddying traditional roles. For some, becoming a grandparent also means becoming a caretaker again. For some, becoming a grandparent is an insistent call to look themselves or their own children in the face and take account. For others, not being a grandparent is a kind of loss.”

Working with a host of writers both professional and still-learning, the results are consistently heartfelt and surprisingly touching. Among local authors are Lewis Gardner, Karen Neuberg, Myra Shapiro and Barbara Redfield…plus others less familiar to this reviewer.

Gelles-Cole and Salzmann point out their means of organizing the book around themes new or long-patient grandparents might want to access, much the way new parents look for specific issues in all the “How To” books, from Spock to Sears, that accumulate during their kids first years. Among the topics?  Step-families sorting out roles across the generations; grandparents whose own troubled children are bringing their own children into a world that’s been darkened by substance abuse or economic or legal problems; would-be grandparents grappling with the emotions brought on by abortion, and “even those who only learn they are grandparents years after the child is born.”

“Perhaps for all, the arrival of a new generation brings undeniable evidence of aging and mortality,” Salzmann continues. “That may be a particularly tough pill to swallow for the millions of Baby Boomers who have aged into this new role (and sometimes bristle at taking on traditional grandparent names).”

“Josephine was born 16 months ago, granting a wish I had for my husband to become a grandfather. I confess to the self-serving piece of that desire. I yearned to be a grandmother but I have no children of my own,” writes Gelles-Cole in her own contribution, a short prose piece titled “Steps.” “For a while I wrestled with the branding of our connection. I had never heard anyone referred to as a step-grandmother. My idea was she would call me whatever she wanted when the time came. Then it became clear that my label would be decided by her parents so it didn’t really matter what I was thinking. What is strictly between me and Josie is our relationship.”

“The poems and stories throughout this book reference the immediate awakening of a force the third generation feels upon the entry of the child onto the planet,” she continues, as if in answer to her husband’s concern. “It seems the immediate passionate attachment might go even beyond what grandparents felt for their own children. Perhaps it is the mathematics involved, love for child times love for child’s child. Through choices made long ago, I will never feel it, but I now have the opportunity to stir up a separate form of feeling.”

Upcoming events tied to the book’s release include Salzmann reading from the book at the Pine Hill Community Center Saturday, September 11, as part of their “Cabaradio” program; a Wednesday, September 15 reading featuring several local contributors at the Woodstock Farm Market, and further gatherings to be announced in the coming weeks.++


Child Of My Child can be ordered from Gelles-Cole Literary Enterprises (, P.O. Box 341, Woodstock, NY, 12498. For further information, visit

The sound of ‘it’

Arlene Shechet may be the most unknown of Woodstock’s renowned contemporary artists, working new sculptural paths out of her studio near the elementary school without press assaults or fanfare, like Avery and Guston and Hague in the old days, surfacing only when she has a new one person show opening in her New York gallery or some other art world Mecca.

Shechet, who we profiled when she had a major museum showing of her latest organically-shaped abstract vessels of clay and glaze at Saratoga’s Tang Museum, opens her latest one-person exhibit, “The Sound of IT,” at Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea this Friday, September 10th.

Expect reviews in all the major art press over the coming months, and important notices about even newer work when the international art fairs season opens come December.

“Shechet articulates forms that hover between representation, abstraction, and the sublime,” is how her gallery speaks of her work, which has grown from process-oriented papier maché takes on Buddhist imagery to her latest pioneering push into new forms in recent years. “Falling somewhere between beauty and ugliness, elegance and clumsiness, and humor and pathos, these material but ethereal pieces have obvious emotional, psychological and philosophical associations. Large forms: puffing and floating, leaning and extending, barely balancing; Shechets sculptures both embarrass and compel.”

Meanwhile the artist, who splits time between here and New York, and has shown in most of the world’s leading contemporary spaces by this point, talks about her processes, still, and how she’s trying to redo the way one fires clay, or conjures vessels.

Recalling that the original name for the Freudian unconscious was not the id but the ‘it,’ Shechets sculptures, like the sound her title evokes, have reverberations beyond the visual. They dance, laugh, weep, dazzle and delight.

The recipient of a John S. Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship Award as well as three separate New York Foundation for the Arts awards, Shechet is currently working on a permanent site-specific project that will be integrated into a new building for Bard College initiated by her friend, Kiki Smith.

For additional information hours at the gallery, located at 513 West 20th Street in New York, call 212-645-1701 or visit ++

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