A river runs through it: “Scenic Hudson’s First 50 Years” photo exhibit

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Carolyn Marks Blackwood’s red-winged blackbirds.

If you haven’t yet seen the photographs of the Hudson River landscape on display at Friends of Historic Kingston (FoHK), check it out this weekend, before the Scenic Hudson-organized traveling show moves to its next stop in Beacon. The work of 12 photographers, all of whom live near the Hudson River, captures the river and the surrounding landscape in all its natural glory and complexity with new eyes.

As a tribute to Scenic Hudson’s 50th anniversary, “On Time and Place: Celebrating Scenic Hudson’s First 50 Years” shows both the fruits of the environmental organization’s conservation efforts as well as the ongoing challenges. It does this through the very personal visions of the photographers, each of whom takes a different approach to conveying his or her impressions of this much-photographed and painted landscape, stripping away the tired clichés.

Robert Rodriguez, Jr.’s three color photos of river views taken near his home in Beacon, for example, immerse the viewer. Close-up details, such as the texture of the billowing snow in the foreground, framing a view of the river below backed by snow-streaked cliffs, or darkened reeds, silhouetted against white mist over a swamp, create a palpable sense that you are there. One feels an intimate connection with the landscape, as well as the mystery of its illuminated distances.

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“My goal is to convey how I feel when I visit a particular place,” often reached after a vigorous hike, Rodriguez said. Trained as a musician, the photographer also seeks to express musical ideas in his compositions, such as a strong foundation (the river anchored by the mountains and shore), dark currents and contrasts, which he likens to the shades in a symphony, and a certain dissonance, which creates tension. For example, in the photo of a cloud-streaked sky melding with the opposite bluff, shrouded in blue and reflected in a foreground pool, he says that the reflected image of choppy highlighted clouds suggests an unsettling movement.

The black-and-white photographs of Eric Lindbloom, Joseph Squillante and Jerry Freedner, some of which were originally made on film, highlight the textures of field and mountain, lake and grove. They hark back to the poeticism of their 19th-century predecessors and as delicate tonal compositions, evoke the landscape’s timeless quality. In contrast, Susan Wides’s photographs of Indian Point, the Atlas Cement Plant and the contaminated Yonkers waterfront show the deterioration of the riverscape. Sandy Gellis’ photographs of river water in the four seasons would be mere impressions of reflected light, were it not for the abstract drawing of thin horizontal lines hung alongside: a kind of chart depicting the percentages of compounds and elements in the water.

Michael Sibilia has photographed a former trailer park site being reclaimed by nature, after a proposed luxury housing development fell through. David La Spina suggests the lens of memory by photographing sites near Olana captured by Thomas Cole, Frederic Church and other painters of the Hudson River School, making views on the ground glass of an eight-by-ten-inch view camera. Each central focused image is surrounded by a wreath of blurred colors, thereby revealing his process and the means of his imagemaking. Chad Kleitsch manipulates his photographs so all that we see is the gestural scrawl of black reflections on water, while Tanya Marcuse’s meticulous compositions of fallen rotting apples, glistening with dew, are a memento mori, images of decay rendered beautiful.

Greg Miller contributes a fragment of his panorama of the Hudson River, a strip of Manhattan waterfront paralleling a panorama of the same view photographed in 1912. In contrast to this historical documentation, Carolyn Marks Blackwood’s remarkable photographs of hundreds of starlings or red-winged blackbirds in flight freeze moments in nature of which we normally catch only a glimpse. They have the force of revelation.

The show, which originated at the Hudson Opera House in February, is on view at FoHK this Thursday, March 7 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and on Saturday, March 9 from 12 noon to 4 p.m. This Thursday night, March 7th, at 6 p.m., FoHK is also hosting a lecture by Dr. Sacha Spector, Scenic Hudson’s climate change expert, on waterfront flooding. “On Time and Place” will also be on view at the Nyack Public Library and Teatown Reservation, in Westchester County, over the summer, ending with a display at Grand Central Station in Manhattan in the fall.

“On Time and Place: Celebrating Scenic Hudson’s First 50 Years,” Thursday, March 7, 5:30-8 p.m., lecture by Dr. Sacha Spector, 6 p.m., & Saturday, March 9, 12 noon to 4 p.m., Friends of Historic Kingston Gallery, corner Wall & Main Streets, Kingston; (845) 339-0720, www.fohk.org, www.scenichudson.org.

There is one comment

  1. Michael Nickerson

    You failed to mention the name of the curator, Katherine Menconeri,
    in your article. She had the vision and insight to put together a show of more than just pretty, expected landscapes. I’m sure she’d say getting people to see the show, and extending the reach of Scenic Hudson is the more important thing. Please remember in your future reviews if curated group shows, remember the person behind the curtain.

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