With so many artists located in every hamlet, town and city of the county, studio tours tend to be a scramble. But no matter how much you hustle – an approach that takes away the pleasure of hanging out with the artist and talking about his or her process – you’ll never get to visit everyone on the Shandaken Artist Studio Tour, held July 20 and 21 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The studio tour is the most geographically spread-out of such an event in the area, with the 30 artists and exhibition venues spanning 30 miles. That’s definitely a trek, from Highmount in the west to Mount Tremper in the east.
Now in its sixth year, the tour is dramatic evidence that even Ulster County’s most mountainous, remote backwaters resonate with artmaking and are home to a diverse and exceptionally talented bunch of painters, ceramicists, sculptors, assemblage artists and photographers. So even though you’ll only get to visit a portion of the studios and venues, chances are good that you’ll discover artists you’ll like.
The participating artists benefit as well, of course. Studio tours are supposed to help artists make sales, and on that count, the Shandaken Artist Studio Tour has delivered for some of the participants: Last year’s event resulted in $16,000 worth of sales. Some studios received more than 100 visitors, according to organizer Dave Channon. “If you start early and try not to get in long conversations, you might be able to get through half of the studios,” said Channon rather optimistically.
This year’s spiffy 28-page catalogue, which contains detailed maps and samples of each artist’s work, is an indispensable aid. (It was funded in part through a grant from the Mid-Hudson Arts Council, administrator of public funds through the New York State Council on the Arts’ Decentralization program.) It will be given away free at shops in Shandaken.
The online version of the catalogue, posted at www.shandakenart.com, provides an excellent preview: A map, broken into sections and clearly marked, shows each stop with a description and illustration of each artist’s work. Artists are also listed alphabetically, with a link to his or her website. One can thus thoroughly review all the studios on the tour and target ahead of time the most desirable destinations. Channon also suggested that you hold on to the printed catalogue, so that personal studio visits can be set up all year long.
From the west, the first stop is the 49A Sculpture Park at the historic Galli-Curci estate in Highland, whose pieces include Kevin Green’s whimsical metal sculpture of a horse and Channon’s metal tree-climbing figure, crafted of metal scavenged from the dump. The cluster of studios in Pine Hill represents a range of styles and media, from Ralph Persons’ traditional watercolors of country scenes to Michael Boyer’s functional stoneware to Tony Jannetti’s abstract-patterned grids and “found and grown” works, utilizing natural materials.
In Woodland Valley, Chip Gallagher makes animistic pieces out of tree trunks, leaves and other organic substances, while partner Susan Brown Woods uses encaustic in some of her sculptures and installations. Down the road, Joan Hall, a 2001 recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, shows her collage illustrations – including a piece commissioned for the largest shopping mall in Japan – and mixed-media assemblages.
Phoenicia boasts the largest cluster of exhibition spaces, including the Arts Upstairs Gallery and Cabane Studios, two outdoor sculpture parks, Ulster Savings Bank – exhibiting Kurt Boyer’s humorous country-themed paintings, whose flat shapes and clear colors reflect his background as a sign-painter – and the studios of Lynn Fliegel and Bronson Eden, both veterans of downtown Manhattan. Besides painting, Fliegel designs clothing for the Babytoes store; Eden not only draws, paints and does assemblages, but also makes animated videos.
The tour will kick off on Friday night at 7 p.m. with a party and spoken-word performance at Mama’s Boy Art Park, located on Phoenicia’s main drag, and sponsored by Dan Sofaer of the Woodland Valley bookstore in Phoenicia. On Saturday, the Arts Upstairs, which exhibits many of the artists on the tour, will host a potluck dinner and reception at 6 p.m.
Along Route 214 in Chichester, one discovers glassmaker Mary Centoma and Barneche Studio, showing Carla Shapiro’s photographs and Stephanie Barne’s vintage-inspired clothing and fiber pieces. Shapiro will be exhibiting her latest platinum/palladium black-and-white series of slips, unworn and posed in by women of all ages; the images are printed on handmade paper whose fine texture suggests a slip’s filmy fabric.
Farther east on 214, Christie Scheele will be displaying her newest paintings, which are misty, subtly toned renditions of photographs of marshes, fields and highways: images that are strangely romantic yet detached, an aesthetic that taps into some fundamental zeitgeist of our time. Mighty Xee makes colorful flat acrylics that range from abstract to representational, keyed to political or social issues. Lucy Lasky, on Stony Clove Lane, will show her digitally enhanced color photographs, taken on her trips to Asia, Europe and Central America.
Judith Singer, who was responsible for coming up with the idea of the tour six years ago, makes elaborate, poetic assemblages displayed in her studio on Route 28. Rita Schwab, located on Route 212 in Mount Tremper, will also show the work of Fred Duignan’s molten-field abstract paintings. Other Mount Tremper artists include Allan Skriloff, who showed at OK Harris in SoHo’s glory days, displaying his Photorealist paintings of the bronze equestrian statues that front Venice’s Duomo, and Sally Rothchild, who makes delicate ceramics with shino and temoku reduction-fired glazes.
Tour visitors can get the first look at a new sculpture park at the Catskill Interpretative Center, which debuts with the installation of Mor Pipman’s abstracted stone birds and a piece by Channon. Astrid Norness’s studio, farther down 28 in West Shokan, marks the easternmost point of the tour: She makes enabled ceramics representing bugs, lizards and other critters.
Channon said that the tour is not only a great way to showcase the abundant visual arts talent in Shandaken, but also gives local businesses a boost. “The sponsor ads we sold for the tour were a big help in paying for the expenses,” he said, referring to the catalogue. “It’s also a good way to get the business community more involved in the art scene. There’s a lot of support for the arts here, and I’m trying to get artists to consider themselves more as businesses – as artrepreneurs.”
Shandaken Artist Studio Tour, Saturday/Sunday, July 20/21, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; www.shandakenart.com.