Body of work

Humanity has always been fascinated with itself. We have mummified and sculpted our bodies, imagined them morphing into other animal forms. We’ve stretched our limits to create sports and the beauty of gymnastics and ballet. We’ve centered much of our art on the many ways with which we look upon ourselves, as self-examination and inspiration.

Last week, the ever-intrepid Ann Street Gallery in downtown Newburgh – a few blocks off Main Street, as well as from the historic Washington headquarters – opened a fabulous new exhibit titled “Human Form: Enduring Inspiration.” In it, 16 artists work myriad approaches to our bodies and minds, taking the idea (and ideal) of figurative art several steps beyond the merely representational. There are works on paper, videos, photographs, paintings, sculptures, collage and embroidered fabrics working with classical nudes, illusionistic emotional portraits, explorations of identity, personal histories and numerous au courant social issues.

It’s all as varied as our bodies are, yet equally professional – and, as with all the shows that director/curator Virginia Walsh puts together at this exciting non-profit space, as good an example of the diversity and depth of today’s art world as can be found in the Hudson Valley (or anywhere, for that matter). Best of all, many of the names of those showing are new to the region.

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“Human Form” will be on view through Saturday, November 12, with the gallery open Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ann Street Gallery is located at 104 Ann Street in Newburgh. For more information call (845) 784-1146 or visit www.annstreetgallery.org.

Handsome prints on view at Roos Arts in Rosendale

Printmaking is a great artform. It’s where Rembrandt and Goya outdid their role as great painters. It’s a land of individual talents, from Dürer and Hogarth to Doré and Dine, who found delight and endless variation by working within its closed world of forced multiples. It was the artform of choice in many of our early artist colonies hereabouts, and one of the great draws for artists to our region still.

Thank heavens that Roos Arts in Rosendale have taken up the tossed mantel of this medium to the same adventurous levels of all its shows, via its new “POP: Print Only Please” group exhibition, up through November 12. In addition to focusing on a wide number of known artists from the area – including many to have come out of Rosendale’s Women’s Studio Workshop over its four decades of quiet centering – are a number of newer artists to the area, as well as members of the fast-emerging Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative.

Gallery Hours at Roos, located at 449 Main Street in Rosendale, are Thursdays through Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. or by appointment. For further information call (718) 755-4726 or visit www.roosarts.com.

News at WSW

Women’s Studio Workshop (WSW), in the cluster of structures known as Binnewater, just up the hill from downtown Rosendale, is always abuzz with activity – especially this time of year, as it prepares for its annual big-time fundraising gala up at Mohonk Mountain House. It takes place on Sunday, November 6 this year, with legendary avant-garde artist Carolee Schneemann and Elizabeth Merena, former director of the Visual Arts Program at the New York State Council on the Arts, as honorees.

But there’s new joy and heady determination in Binnewater this season for the venerable WSW, which was founded in 1974 by four women artists committed to developing an alternative space for artists to create new work and share skills in a setting focused on artistic process and “often informed by feminist values.” Partly, that’s the result of the new series of ceramics classes that are underway in the various old company-store and barn buildings that make up the bulk of the WSW campus.

Sure, summer may be the busiest time here, with the Workshop’s Summer Arts Institute drawing professionals from around the world each July and August (including a week in Tuscany), as well as its ArtFarm production of foods for the communal table and materials for ongoing papermaking activities. But this is when the community hangs out and takes advantage of all that WSW has offered over its decades of service, and the Workshop hunkers down with its Arts in Education program helping Advanced Placement students from Kingston High School prepare portfolios for college applications. Most importantly, this time of year the studios for papermaking and book arts and every other that process WSW aids draw top artists to experiment on and finish new artworks.

Adding to all this activity, Women’s Studio Workshop has also been abuzz with new staff of late, having recently taken on a new manager for its Ceramics programming, where Ruth McKinney Burket has taken over the reins from longstanding WSWer Mary Beth Wehrung (who will stay on to teach several classes, for continuum). McKinney Burket received her MFA in Ceramics at SUNY-New Paltz, where she teaches as an adjunct professor and is seen as a community-builder: a theme that she also plays out in her own art. Also recently hired is WSW’s first director of marketing, Sarah Burt, a Hurley-based Rhode Island School of Design graduate who ran her own gallery in Rosendale and is planning to refocus much of WSW’s online presence through its website, blog, online archives and social media activities.

For more information, including reservations for the upcoming November 6 WSW gala at Mohonk, stop by the Workshop on Binnewater Road outside Rosendale, call (845) 658-9133 or visit www.wsworkshop.org.

Masters on Main Street 3 in Catskill

The Masters on Main Street program that started last winter, then renewed itself last summer, is opening its third round this Saturday, October 22 with a street-long slew of openings and the usual post-opening dance-party bash featuring some of the coolest music in the Valley.

The idea behind MoMS, as the program jointly run by the Catskill Arts Initiative and the Greene County Council on the Arts (GCCA) has become known, is simple: Fill empty and underutilized storefront spaces along the village of Catskill’s historic Main Street with art by students in the nation’s best studio art programs. Give collectors who look to these MFA artists a venue to see their work in public; give the artists a chance to interact with the public, away from art school; and give a town a new means of economic stimulus that fits in with the entire Hudson Valley’s reconfiguration as the home to American culture – present and future as well as past – by stressing our region’s “quality of life” attributes.

Where past Masters on Main installations have focused on photography and painting, three-dimensionality and playful takes on sculptural forms are the main focus for the current round, up into late February. According to Fawn Potash, the program’s coordinator (and this writer’s lovely wife), exhibitors’ projects will include a fiber installation addressing themes of chance, order and chaos from the SUNY-New Paltz MFA program; an atmospheric sculptural video installation work by a New York University’s MFA student; an interactive mini-opera by a San Francisco Art Institute grad student; a site-specific installation based on the recent Irene floods from a University of Massachusetts student; a series of exhibitions by 2011 summer residents of the Byrdcliffe Art Colony; and one-night-only sculptural installations responding to the town’s Main Street created by collaborative groups from the SUNY-New Paltz MFA and BFA programs. Other works are by students in New York’s School of Visual Arts, East Carolina University, Vermont College of Fine Arts, the College of Saint Rose, Cal Arts, Hunter College and Columbia University.

Artworks will be visible 24/7 through January 31, 2012. Things kick off this Saturday, October 22 with street-long opening receptions from 4 to 6 p.m., followed by a “booty-shakin’ after-party” featuring didgeridoo and electronica master Rob Hervey and Friends at BRIK Gallery at 473 Main Street from 6 to 9 p.m. There will be a mini-film-fest of experimental student films in January, and then another opening of MoMS Round 4 exhibits in late February, featuring the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies’ first-year Masters students selecting works from their peers around the country, on view through May 2012.

For further information on Masters on Main Street, including maps, visit the GCCA Catskill Gallery at 398 Main Street – where the current show is of local maskmakers and the late visionary artist Konick – call (518) 943-3400 or visit www.greenearts.org. Now to start looking at getting our artists to rebuild this nation’s infrastructure!

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