In the interim after Dorsky Museum curator Brian Wallace moved on and before current curator Daniel Belasco was hired, SUNY-New Paltz commissioned temporary curators to keep up its top-shelf exhibitions at one of the nation’s top teaching museums. While serving in this capacity last year, the very busy Beacon-based gallerist and artist Carl Van Brunt (who also serves as gallery director in charge of membership, exhibitions and publicity at the Woodstock Artists’ Association & Museum) got to know not only the Dorsky staff and collection well, but also the teaching staff at the college, whose Art Department has been seen in recent years as not only a state but also a national treasure.
When the idea came up for putting together an exhibit featuring that staff and its talents, Van Brunt was asked to curate. In the process, he says, he shifted from appreciation and knowledge of a few artists’ work to a sense of the entire school’s current preeminence as a hotbed of talent that, in its diversity, reflects the variety, depths and nature of today’s Postmodern art world.
“They’re all great. Everyone is interesting and engaging,” he says, now that the resulting exhibition is open and up for the remainder of the school year. “We picked out a bunch of work, and then put it all together with Wayne Lempka and Bob Wagner at the Dorsky.” The result, called “Fields of Vision,” addresses the diversity of approaches being taught at SUNY-New Paltz, along with a wide range of talent.
“What I realized is that they collectively mirror the art world as it is today,” Van Brunt continues. “When we were younger, artists fell into camps…you were a Minimalist, or into abstraction, and you had your turf. That’s not where the art market is these days, though. Thanks to Postmodernism, everything’s wide open now; and it all comes down, in the final run, to how well you’re doing what you’re doing, and whether what you’ve made is exciting and engaging.”
The artist/teachers represented include full-time staff Thomas Albrecht, Robin Arnold, Jamie Bennett, Steven P. Bradford, Rimer Cardillo, Amy Cheng, Bryan Czibesz, François Deschamps, James Fossett, Andrea Frank, Matthew Friday, Anne Galperin, Kathy Goodell, Rena Leinberger, Carmen Lizardo, Ann Lovett, Aleanna Luethi-Garrecht, Myra Mimlitsch-Gray, Itty S. Neuhaus, Amy Papaelias, Jill Parisi, Jessica Poser, Emily Puthoff, Thomas Sarrantonio, Anat Shiftan, Suzanne Stokes, Alice Wexler, Cheryl Wheat and Jennifer Woodin. Media shift between the school’s masterful crafts departments to its painters and sculptors, photographers and performance art professors. There’s much concept at play, resulting in great quirkiness and a consuming sense of individualism with nods to the region’s deep cultural traditions.
“In our postmodern society, the art world is both more connected and more fragmented than ever before,” says Van Brunt. “New York City, once the capital of that world, is now just one of a network of regional centers spanning the globe. And close-up, contemporary practices appear to be a mash-up of disparate concepts, political agendas, media and styles. ‘Fields of Vision’ explores how art and design being made by full-time Department of Art faculty at the State University of New York at New Paltz fits into this local/global picture.”
“The goal was to show the depths of the department,” is how Van Brunt put it; which is why this show, “Fields of Vision,” is so good at simultaneously explaining – like any great educational experience – what is simply important about what’s being taught, while also so beautifully and complex.
“Fields of Vision,” through June 23, Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., free, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY-New Paltz, 1 Hawk Drive, New Paltz; (845) 257-3844, www.newpaltz.edu/museum.