The fourth Gardiner Open Studio Tour on May 2 and 3, offers both curious observers and serious collectors the opportunity to peek into the work lives of 20 diverse local artists. For this article, several of them opened their doors ahead of time to talk a bit about what they do, how and sometimes, why.
Marsha Massih and John Varriano not only share two children and a 250-year-old stone house, they also share a large studio and together grind pigments, filter oils and build canvases for their landscape, still life and portrait paintings. Although they each veer into the others’ subject specialty, Massih is recognized more for her landscapes that hint at impressionism, while Varriano’s still life and portrait paintings have a distinctly classical feel.
Their clearly supportive partnership was launched when they met as students at the Art Students League in New York City in 1991. They moved to Gardiner in 2003 with their two little daughters and began, with the help of John’s father, to renovate the house — but only after remodeling the two-car garage into a studio. Now, when they’re not painting — they both also do commission work — one of them is likely to be teaching. Varriano gives lessons in the studio, at the Art Center of Northern New Jersey and at the Art Students League. Massih teaches both children and adults privately and at the New Paltz Montessori School.
“We know how precious time is and so we try to embrace the paradigm of being artists who do everything, from creating to selling,” Varriano said. Massih adds, “It a way of life we commit to again and again.”
Although she only moved to Gardiner from Portland, Oregon in 2013, Andrea McFarland’s love affair with the local landscape shapes the pastel paintings she has shown at such local venues as the Mark Gruber Gallery, the Gray Owl Gallery and Ulster Savings Bank. The daughter of a painter and a photographer, McFarland’s primary creative outlet for most of her adult life was playing the violin and “creating kick-ass costumes, play props, birthday cakes and gardens” for her two now-grown daughters. Then, eight years ago, she broke her wrist and, looking for another mode of expression, began experimenting with pastels. Despite a lack of formal art training, it wasn’t long before she began to see everything as a possible subject. Working from her own photographs, McFarland infuses each pastel with her memories and emotion of the colors, light and place.
“I became obsessed with capturing the wonder I see in the natural world,” she said. “Then I had to develop the patience my technique and approach need.”
McFarland shares a home with Jonathan Pazer, a photographer whose abstract compositions fuse elements reminiscent of Paper Chaser to origami, calligraphy, drawing and computers, and whose studio will also be open during the GOST weekend.
After moving to Gardiner in 1998, Jerry Teters taught art to middle and high school students and painted when life with three children and working as a drummer allowed. But when his school in West Park shut down in 2011, he decided to do what he’d once only dreamt about — paint full time. Teters met his wife when they were both art students in New York City, and together they set their sights on building a market for his textured, emotive abstract oils. He now often works on commission, creating paintings for clients of interior designers who are looking for just the right piece of artwork to complete their homes, building lobbies and offices.
“Interior designers commission paintings because they like the work they see on my website but need something that’s either larger or smaller or in a different palette to work with their designs,” Teters explained. “It’s a great challenge to stay true to my art and, at the same time, work in ways that respond to their visions.”
Gregory Glasson learned his trade — designing, sculpting and casting in bronze, stone, wood and composite — after he “flunked out of school” in South Africa and became an apprentice in London. A silver medal winner at age 27 and a Fellow of the National Sculpture Society, his sculpting and foundry work has taken him around the world. He found his way to Gardiner in 1994 after being hired by the Tallix Art Foundry to help run it and later to be the project manager for the 24-foot bronze horse envisioned by Leonardo da Vinci and sculpted by Nina Akamu.
Glasson divides his time between restoring existing sculptures, casting work for clients and working on commission projects that range from abstract to realistic, including likenesses of people, animals and birds, often as memorials to children.
Visitors to his two studios will find a wide range of projects underway, including polystyrene and plastic prototypes of three versions of a 40-inch sculpted head, prototypes of a lamp design and castings and molds of a banjo player and six-foot fountain maquettes.
“This work is complex and very time consuming, but it’s what I love to do,” he said.
GOST, the Gardiner Open Studio Tour (www.gostartists.org) takes place on May 2 and 3 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Maps showing the studio locations of the 20 participating artists are available online and can also be found at shops and restaurants throughout Gardiner and New Paltz.