Waiting on the traffic light at Albany Post Road and Route 44/55 in Gardiner, I mused to myself about the lustrous gold door that was suddenly standing aglow amidst the usual collection of gray rocks and debris at that corner. ‘Wow, that’s a cool door,’ I thought to myself. ‘Where did that come from? Must have been at a business… maybe it was in a nightclub or something…’ After the light changed, as I drove on, I took another glance at the door in my rear view mirror and received a jolt of genuine surprise (so noted because that’s an ever decreasing experience once one has lived for a while). ‘Oh! It’s green on the other side!’ And not only green, but a mottled neon green… clearly a deliberately done effect, but why? and by whom?
As it turned out, the door was one of 18 artist-painted doors that were placed overnight at locations all over the area — on corners, on roadsides, in fields — inviting speculation and serving as a preview to the upcoming Gardiner Open Studio Tour (GOST) on Saturday and Sunday, May 2 and 3 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Twice a year, spring and fall, the collective of 20 “GOST” artists based in Gardiner and the surrounding areas open the doors to their studios, inviting visitors in.
The painted doors on view around town have since been labeled with signs identifying them as #GOSTDOORS, so the element of surprise in encountering them is no longer, but the kind of internal dialogue they can still incite is part of the point. “Installation art and public art become an experience in time and place,” says GOST artist Lady Pink, the protagonist for the project. And she knows whereof she speaks; the artist formerly known as Sandra Fabara has been doing public art for a long time, having made a name for herself in the world of New York City street art in the 1980s.
Now based in Gardiner, she’s embraced her new home and brought some of her own style to the artists she associates with. “I wanted to inspire some of the artists in the collective to come outdoors and share their skills and talents with everyday people, not just the cultured few that frequent galleries and museums,” says Lady Pink.
But she did warn them about the hazards of doing public art. “I said to them, ‘Don’t spend too much time on your door and don’t get too attached to it, because public art is at the mercy of the public.’ To have someone come by and vandalize your work or steal it is a devastating feeling that they have never felt; I have. And they’re not used to that. They’re used to having their artwork handled with tender loving care. But it may not survive; it’s just the nature of public work and we know the public is unpredictable. But, it makes life interesting.”
The doors are also at the mercy of the weather, of course. But if they make it for the duration, they’ll be on display around town for three weeks and taken down after the studio tour ends. And what then? “We are bouncing around ideas,” says Lady Pink. “We would like to perhaps do an opening, an exhibit, a party… to auction these things off for charity. I haven’t thought it through any more than getting the doors up there. But we see the need now for a plan.” And they might just hang onto the doors until fall when they do their next open studio tour, she adds. “These guys are really enjoying the project and they would like to do more doors. If we acquired more doors and had twice as many that would make more sense in a charity auction; we could fill up a space better.”
The sites where the doors are displayed were used with permission. The project came together with the help of the New Paltz Recycling Center, who came up with 14 of the doors. The rest were donated by individuals. (Wendy at the Gardiner Transfer Station was on the lookout for doors, too, says Lady Pink, but none happened to be discarded there.) Artists with large vehicles were organized to go get the doors and then Lady Pink primed each one before they were distributed to the artists. She also organized the installation of the doors, sending out three crews to “plant them” all in one day to keep the surprise factor intact.
The artists of the collective suggest that people look for all the doors and then share them; through photographs, tweeting, Facebook and the like. A full color brochure with maps to the artist studios on the tour is available at www.gostartists.org and from sponsoring local businesses; one can use the images in the brochure to try to match the artist to the door they painted.
And why doors? Beyond representing the open studio doors of the tour, GOST artist Jonathan Pazer waxes conceptual in his blog entries about the project. “Doors let us in, and doors let us out,” he writes. “They separate us and protect us. They are what we close when we want to hold ourselves apart and they are what we open when we want to welcome people into our lives, our hearts, our homes and of course, our studios. They are usually barriers, now they are artworks; usually they keep people out, now they are an invitation to explore.”
To see Lady Pink in action, check out the corner of Main Street and Arch Street in Gardiner over the weekend of April 25-26; she’ll be painting a mural there. ++