Views of Olana by Dion Ogust
From the time that he sketched the plans for Olana in 1845 to when he completed his Hudson villa, artist Frederic Church was operating with a design philosophy that he called “viewshed.” The concept of viewshed meant that from anywhere at Olana, Church’s home, studio and 250-acre estate, visitors could see stunning landscapes, incorporating vistas of not only the Hudson Valley, but also Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. It was Church’s architectural technique for combating the rampant and intrusive spread of 19th-century industrialization, to create unimpeded views of the natural beauty of the great green American Northeast. Olana – itself an eclectic and difficult-to-define building, designwise – is an architectural masterpiece because of its harmonious blending of construction and nature.
An upcoming happening at Olana State Historic Site will throw a new wrinkle into the experience. The “Framing the Viewshed: Groundswell” event on Sunday, September 22 will feature 15 artists performing in different stations of the Olana grounds. The idea? To see how music interacts with and reverberates off disparate aspects of the unique Olana architecture and grounds. The concept behind the event comes from Paul Miller, a/k/a DJ Spooky, a trip hop superstar, former Metropolitan Museum of Art fine artist-in-residence and Olana enthusiast. According to Olana’s vice president of development Erin Gilbert, the acclaimed musician “fell in love” with the property, became friendly with the attending staff and visits regularly.
“The idea is for people to be able to enjoy a new, exciting exhibition in the space that Church designed for himself, his family and his friends a long time ago,” Gilbert told Almanac Weekly.
Olana’s landscape curator, Mark Prezorski, said that the participating acts had the chance to select where they would play, based on how they thought their sound would interact with the surroundings. “It’s a really diverse group,” said Prezorski. “Working jointly, we were able to find spots for each of the artists.”