Opening receptions were held on Saturday, July 13 for two new art exhibits in the village. “Dowsing with Scissors” at the Saugerties Public Library explores the cutout collage works of Elin Menzies. The Kiersted House is hosting “Bridges,” a group show encompassing that theme with one piece each by 26 of the 36 artists who will open their studios to the public in August for the annual Saugerties Artists Studio Tour.
Dowsing is the art of finding hidden things. An ancient practice dating back thousands of years, it usually involves the use of a rod or forked stick to locate water sources or mineral deposits. The premise is that all things possess an energy force, and the vibrations from that force can be perceived by a skilled dowser with a divining rod.
Artist Elin Menzies does her dowsing with scissors. She says that as she cuts into paper to create the forms for her collages, she doesn’t put much conscious thought into what form the cutouts will take. “Sometimes it feels like I’m dowsing or channeling with scissors as a tool,” she says. “If I see a form in paper, I take the scissors and cut it free.” If a shape appears that she likes, she creates a narrative for it and works it into a collage of cut papers and fabrics. Menzies says that sometimes she’s not sure at first what “world” should be created for her cutout forms, and she’ll tape them to her studio wall until she sees where they should go. Some of those cutouts stay on the studio wall for years.
Menzies’s artistic influences include growing up with a mother who loved to draw. As a very young child, she thought her mother’s drawings came from the pencil itself. When she took up that pencil herself, she was surprised that images didn’t just flow out from it on their own. One could see a parallel in Menzies’s approach to her work today, perhaps, as an extension of that early notion, in her conception of the forms she cuts out as being independent of her ego.
There also seems to be an expression of something being set free in many of the compositions. A number of the collages depict figures who seem to be releasing something into the air, while in others, they’re flying, or galloping away. The collages have a Matisse-like spirit, with that same exuberance and playfully sophisticated use of amorphous organic forms, but it’s a more narrative sensibility at work here.
She constructs a world for her cutouts by blending personal stories with the lives of fantasy characters from her imagination, like the series of “Baby Gazers” inhabiting fanciful worlds with narwhales or the mermaid-like figures swimming in “The MerKids and Their Moms.”
The textures and colors in Menzies’ collages are varied and interesting to look at. She utilizes velvet and brocade fabrics as well as textured, painted and printed papers, and hints of her earlier work as a painter show up in small details and color juxtapositions.
The exhibit remains on view through the end of September at the Saugerties Public Library at 91 Washington Ave. For more information, visit www.saugertiespubliclibrary.org.
The 11th annual Saugerties Artists Studio Tour will be Aug. 10-11. Leading up to that weekend, several events have been planned to stimulate interest and give the public a taste of what they’ll find in the individual studios, including “ArtSites in the Village,” with art by participating tour artists placed in the windows of local village businesses, and “Art Lovers’ Weekend,” in which five B&Bs are hosting “Meet the Artist” gatherings.
Over at the Kiersted House, the newly-mounted exhibit “Bridges” finds the titular theme interpreted by tour artists in ways literal and symbolic. The exhibitors were welcome to construe a bridge as a physical structure or as something “encompassing a point of convergence or separation, spanning places, ideas and time.”
The opening reception Saturday brought out a large and convivial crowd of artists and their friends and families. Though the art was inside, the heat and humidity that evening drove most to congregate on the relatively cooler lawn outside.
Tour organizer Barbara Bravo says she welcomes the opportunity to work within a theme, because it allows her to explore something she might not have otherwise. Her contribution to the exhibit at the Kiersted is “Fond Memories of Brooklyn,” a handmade glazed relief clay tile.
Among the artists treating the theme in a more literal manner are Carol Zaloom, whose distinctive graphic style is displayed in the linocut “Red Bridge,” and Robert George, who contributed a striking “Brooklyn Bridge” in oil on canvas with strong linear qualities. More symbolic interpretations of the theme are found in works like Polly Law’s “What the Tide Brings,” a bricolage assemblage work with painted metal figures embellished with buttons and feathers, and painter Yvette Lewis’s abstract oil on canvas, “Entrance.”
“Bridges” remains on view at the Kiersted House through Sunday, Aug. 11 with gallery hours from 1–4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. After that, the exhibit will move to Café Mezzaluna, 626 Route 212 from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31. Opus 40 will host a separate exhibit featuring tour artists Aug. 9 through Sept. 8, with an opening reception Friday, Aug. 9 from 5–7 p.m. (the night before tour weekend), giving tour-goers one last chance to check out which artist studios they’d like to visit. Descriptive tour maps are available now in many locations around town, including Smith Hardware in the village and at the Visitors Center kiosk off the Thruway exit.
For more information, visit www.saugertiesarttour.com.