‘Blue’ at Saugerties Performing Arts Factory

“Blue Double Whammy” by Bill Richards

Red is always bold, and yellow is usually sunny. But blue – that’s a different story. Blue can be as calm and serene as a clear sky, or mysterious as the dark of night. It’s as casual as denim jeans or as formal as a naval officer in uniform.

In “Blue,” the new exhibit that opened this week in the vast gallery of the Saugerties Performing Arts Factory (SPAF), 24 artists pay homage to the eponymous color and its complex cultural associations in a diverse showing of paintings, sculpture and mixed-media works. The exhibit is an exploration of the artistic potential and emotional resonance of the color, as well as tribute to the scientific work of paint manufacturers who’ve made such works of art possible, according to gallery director Richard Hutchings, who curated the show.

Color is the only common element and it’s used differently to different effect throughout. If no epiphany is reached, none is particularly needed, either; it’s a strong body of work, and the exhibit succeeds on its own merits.

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Painter Judith Peck has two pieces in the exhibit, “Veiled Identity” (24” x 18”) and the smaller “Butterfly Effect” (12” x 12”). Both are riveting portraits of women. In “Veiled Identity,” the subject’s face is somewhat obscured by a scarf blowing in the wind. The color palette is muted and somber. The second work, “Butterfly Effect,” shows a woman with windswept hair, sharing her space with a delicately rendered blue butterfly. The color palette here is in golden browns. In an artist’s statement on her website, Peck says that she paints her models so that “captured in their gaze is the knowledge that the person has experienced life fully and moved beyond life’s challenges. My hope is that their penetrating gaze will move the viewer out of complacency.”

Saugerties-based Ruth Edwy’s “Blue Mountain” (36” x 48”) is a radiant Rothko-esque abstracted landscape. It’s all about glowing light and color; a framework of richly dark navy blue surrounds an atmospheric, abstracted mountain of lighter blue, with a hint of yellow sun rising just behind it. Robin Tedesco’s “Essence,” a 24” x 24” abstract painting of shades of blue with yellow at its heart, uses the same palette, but to different effect. While Edwy’s feels expansive, like an expression of the light outdoors, Tedesco’s feels very interior, somehow, like someone pulling inward.

Steve Kursh’s blue-saturated “Untitled” is a 42” x 42” canvas depicting partial glimpses of iconic cartoon women, including Betty Boop and someone who appears to be the Wicked Queen from Snow White, along with the Mona Lisa (whose image fits in with the others when you think about it). They’re all painted in shades of blue and form the backdrop to machine-sewn-on patches of canvas painted with rosy flowers that resonate brightly against the blue canvas.

The sculptural pieces make a strong showing here, notably Alex Kveton’s “Moderator for 7 Players,” a metal architectural-looking structure over seven feet in height, formed of overlapping curved grids painted a subtle shade of muted greenish-blue, and shown to good effect with room to breathe in the tall-ceilinged spaces of the gallery at SPAF.

If there were one thing to wish for in the next show here, it’d be labels that define the materials used, as that is something especially hard to determine in sculptural works, and can serve to enlarge upon one’s understanding of a piece. Anthony Krauss shows a dimensional “Heaven’s Gate,” (40” x 48”), which appears to be made of some type of steel and mirrored material (that reflects the room opposite it back into the piece in an interesting way), but the viewer is left wondering about its source material.

Painter Isaac Abrams has two of his expansive works here, “Creation of Time,” a predominantly dark blue painting (hanging over the bar) that resembles an explosion in the galaxy, and “A Molecular Excursion,” (48” x 60”), in a much lighter palette of light blue and spring-like pale colors, depicting something that looks like a field of budding flowers but with something exploding midair.

Abrams says that the artists in the community are enthusiastic about the gallery space at SPAF, which has only been open since April of this year. He points out that usually galleries of such size have to deal with grants and funding issues to get shows together, which can complicate putting exhibitions on, but since Gerard and Erica Price already own the building, they’re a step ahead. The couple have good intentions, he says, and people are excited.

There’s no question that the gallery has tremendous potential to be a real destination for art-viewing in the region, with its 28-foot-high ceilings, walls of windows and skylights letting in plentiful natural light to supplement the overhead lighting, and 12,000 square feet of exhibition space. Not only is the gallery spacious and bright, but its location, just minutes from the Saugerties exit off the Thruway, makes it accessible to travelers as well as locals. There’s even a full bar on site, perfect for opening receptions. The space has it all.

“Blue” remains on exhibit through Friday, Nov. 30.

The featured artists are: Isaac Abrams, Stuart Bigley, Sara Conca, Ford Crull, Ruth Edwy, Kari Feuer, Astrid Fitzgerald, Audrey Francis, Robert George, Julie Hedrick, Robert Hite, Anthony Krauss, Alex Kveton, Ramon Lascano, Jeesoo Lee, Luis Pagan, Shelley Parriott, Judith Peck, Roger Ricco, Bill Richards, Blake Richards, Nadine Robins, Susan Sommer, and Robin Tedesco.

The gallery at the Saugerties Performing Arts Factory is located at 169 Ulster Avenue in Saugerties. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Friday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 2-7 p.m. or by appointment. For more information, visit www.saugertiesperformingartsfactory.com.

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