It’s easy to overlook the power an artist has when she’s able to move between genres with ease. Consider the photographic work of Marcia Slatkin, who will discuss the sensuously serious themes at play in her Correspondences solo show at the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum at 2 p.m. Saturday, November 18, prior to a grand opening for her own and several other shows later that evening. Or moreover, consider that in addition to her black and white photography, the Rhinebeck-based Slatkin has also written 18 plays, several PEN-recognized short story collections, countless books and chapbooks of poetry, an entire body of colorfully rich photo collages, and raised two daughters.
All out of an early life in Brownsville, Brooklyn that she describes as “roiled with health and financial problems, but we were encouraged to study, to play music, to pursue interests,” to the level where she followed achievement as a cellist with advanced degrees in English Literature and a 28 year career as a high school English teacher.
“Fascination with human interaction has led me to write plays, poetry and fiction focused on our brave quest for sanity and happiness despite the pain we have suffered — and continue to suffer,” Slatkin has written about what drives her. “I’m involved in political and environmental organizing, in gardening, I create apartments for rental. My longtime partner and I travel, I play cello every day and relish music as expressed through it, and I value friendships and the solidity of family life.”
Moreover, again, Slatkin’s ability to write about her visual art does more than explain it, rather enlivening what she’s seen to pull together as a book of observations, of which 26 prints will be seen on the walls at WAAM, while another 35 will be available for viewing in portfolio.
“In 1985 I decided to study shape and shadow photo-graphically by isolating bones/eggs in my studio, as they provided clean, spare specimens…I worked for structure, contrast, elegance,” she writes of the birth of Correspondences, and a time when she was living in a commune convincing the models she shared space with to climb trees for her art. “I shot trunks beside trunks, limbs between limbs. But this led to deeper insights. Suddenly, our arms did look like branches; our torso did, in form and function, resemble trunks of trees. We were truly part of nature, within it, and operated much as others in nature did. The metaphor grew. A woman’s abdomen, bearer/protector of life, is a nest; a pregnant belly and engorged breast are gourd-like vessels. Deer hooves resembled our toes. The peeling bark of trees rippled like locks of hair. The female clitoris seemed like life within shells. Then, I thought of men and their complex reproductive apparatus…”
The result has an enticing, primitive sense of pre-religious grace about it all, perfect for this time of year when we celebrate and simultaneously reach out of our times of “darkness.” And seems perfect for Slatkin’s talk about her art from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. before the WAAM exhibits hold their public opening from 4 to 6 PM.
“This group of photos does not tell a story with beginning, middle, end. You as observer can begin anywhere, cross the room, walk in any pleasing sequence. My intention was exploratory. I am not teaching you about similarities between our species and the natural world, but showing you examples as they occurred to me,” Slatkin writes. “The artist working in several genre lives within a gnawing dilemma. Several hungry mouths need time and focus. So you juggle. As a cellist, a writer of poems, plays and fiction, a photographer, and a maker of cut/paste photo-collage, I’ve found that all media require similar effort: a dogged desire to see each project through to completion; to sniff a trail/explore side shoots as well as main routes; and to revise/re-edit until the work gleams. If recurring ideas animate your work, you begin to see thematic unity.”
Slatkin’s Correspondences opens simultaneously, Saturday afternoon, 4 p.m.-6 p.m. with WAAM’s annual holiday show of works by Artist Association members, priced to sell as gifts for the season, as well as a Small Works exhibit juried by Saugerties artist/teacher Patty Mooney and a Youth Exhibition Space show of Bennett Elementary School 5th graders’ interpretations of classic myths and stories. All will stay up, along with the John Yau-curated Book Arts exhibit in the Artist Association’s Towbin Wing, through December 31, after which the gallery will close to the public for the month of January.
The Woodstock Artists Association & Museum is located at 28 Tinker Street in the center of town. Call 845-679-2940 or see www.woodstockart.org for further information.