Photos by David Gordon
Within the next few days, Saugerties will become an outdoor museum featuring the work of 35 local artists, each with a unique vision of the Saugerties Lighthouse.
Each artist starts with a model constructed by Gus Pedersen, but each gives it a unique flavor. For some, including Pedersen himself, the basic shape is too constraining, and they have modified it, though for the most part the lighthouse shape remains, sometimes with additions.
It seems that each year, some new ideas and interpretations of the lighthouse design turn up. “Every year, they get better,” said Village Trustee Donald Hackett. “Last year, I thought, ‘how can they top this,’ but they did. How could you ever pick a winner?”
Perhaps the “winner” will be determined when the lighthouses are auctioned off at 6:30 p.m. on September 20. The lighthouses will be on display starting at 5 p.m. and the $25 ticket price includes appetizers.
Saugerties has had street displays of horses and of chairs, but the lighthouse “is our major branding for Saugerties,” said Saugerties Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mark Smith. The lighthouses were slightly smaller this year than last, as “we were hoping they would be a little easier for the artists to move, but they’re still pretty heavy.”
This year, Saugerties and Catskill are running an exchange program. Stephen Martin’s “The Cat’s Pajamas” features a cat in night clothes carrying a tray of snacks on its tail. In return, Saugerties is sending Woody Sperl’s “Woods Wild Flowers” to Catskill.
Gus Pedersen made the basic wooden model last year, but did not decorate one for the streetscape. This year, his model was certainly the most spectacular, with a brightly lighted interior, exposed by a diagonal cut across the body of the model and a musical accompaniment. Solar cells sprout from either side to charge the battery that runs it. Also lighted is “Enlightened,” by Eric Adams and Tom Swart, which has a display of colored lights across its face. With a flat roof and redesigned light, it looks more like an electronic device than a lighthouse.
There’s Aubrey Weeks and Sky Tischler’s Lego house, whose front wall is constructed of Lego bricks, while the remaining walls illustrate other aspects of the Saugerties scene, including the Woodstock Festival of 1994.
One of the most elaborate pieces, “The Best Little Lighthouse in Saugerties,” invited considerable comment for its double entendre similarity to “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” The scantily clad women seen through the windows and the underwear on the clothesline outside add to the impression.
It isn’t often that an artist deliberately exposes his work to damage from the elements, but Mike La Peruta did just that with his piece, “Tiki Time.” Knowing that the model would be outdoors through the summer, he deliberately left it out in the rain. “When I went outside, these boards were all lifted up,” he said, pointing out a row of boards on the front of the piece. “I replaced the boards, and I put another layer of polyurethane on.”
Wooden lighthouses are prone to damage from the weather, said William Kimble. “That’s why I always liked the fiberglass animals or whatever,” he said. “The fiberglass is more durable. I use acrylic paint on all of them, then UV protection, then polyurethane, five or six coats. What you should do, though it’s so costly, is automotive clear coat. ”
For Joanne Sullam, her lighthouse, “Laura’s Butterfly Garden,” was a memorial as well as an expression of love for the colorful insects. “Laura is my sister, and she passed away a couple of years ago leaving two young children. I wanted to do this for her. She loved butterflies, and that’s kind of her symbol. Also, as an environmentalist, I pay attention to some of our local butterflies.” The butterflies on her lighthouse are accurate portrayals of local butterflies, she said.