Richard Edelman is a busy man. He’s also fond of describing himself as a “social misfit,” and something of a homebody in all but his penchants for getting out to the region’s many art opening events. And regular Zumba classes on a nearly daily basis.
“I’m a steady working man,” he says with a hint of self-deprecating humor, a constant element of the man’s mien, and a key part of his art’s aesthetic.
Work by Edelman, including a new series of self-portraits, will be part of the new two-person exhibit that opens this weekend with a preview from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, March 2 and an artists’ reception from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday March 3 at Cross Contemporary, 99 Partition Street, in Saugerties.
We caught up with the Saugerties resident this past weekend in the studio working space that is his home. In addition to his own projects, Edelman also runs Woodstock Graphics Studio, where he collaborates with top artists to create the best digital photo prints currently available.
He lays out the new self-portraits he’s been working on, noting how they evolved from an earlier series of “Stolen Portraits,” which will also be represented at Cross Contemporary.
“I’m really interested in trying to show something about the subject,” he says as we stare down into the large works, which look stark until one notes the many telling details involved as the artist holds a hand up to his face, looks straight at his viewers, seems to be losing himself in shadow, or appears bare-chested and caught in some mystic mist like a mythic satyr. “I’m willing to be self-revealing. With someone else this can be problematic.”
He explains how a self-portrait can take a week or more, as well as the way his final prints usually involve a composite of six, seven and sometimes ten individual photos all stitched together meticulously. Then shows the ways in which the last series evolved from the “stolen portraits” he created using artist/friends as his subjects, “stealing their images, their homes and studios, their ideas.”
There’s an image of Edelman being photographed. Even though he’s the ultimate photographer of the piece. Like so much of what the man does, the work is layered, including odd elements of lighting, use of additional imagery, and blurs. It’s done using a computer as camera, and remote control. As the new exhibit’s catalog essay by author Jonathan Gould notes, the photographer within the piece gets made into a prop, and instead of the self-portrait being a direct dialogue between artist and audience, it’s more about a process of self-confrontation.
“It all comes from Rembrandt,” he says of the Dutch Master whose life story drew him to the subtleties of the man’s art, especially as reflected in his many self-portraits. “It’s all a sort of self mockery…I want things to look subtly out of place. I’m trying to be disconcerting.”
Edelman learned photography from his father, comes from a family that’s periodically produced artists of either stature or contained promise. He studied his art at Rochester Institute of Technology and Pratt Institute, worked for years in New York City as a teacher of his craft, with growing renown as an architectural photographer. He was building a resume filled with strong representation in top collections…and then suffered a bad accident that shifted his life. It brought an end to previous chapters and allowed Edelman the opportunity to start again in Woodstock, a place he’d been coming to for years but had never looked at as a permanent home or work-space.
Once fully resettled in the area, Edelman started Woodstock Graphic Studio, combining his expertise in classic photography with his interests in new digital horizons. He started applying his methodology to his own work, albeit with a twist: “I found that a lot of things I like to do in photography now are what I learned not to do in school.”
He co-ran the Center for Photography at Woodstock’s salon for years and became an expert at landscapes, making contemporary our region’s great gift to American art. He started showing, locally, and pushing himself to and beyond new artistic thresholds by “always trying to do what’s most difficult.” Eventually, he moved to Saugerties, where despite regular return trips to Woodstock and other parts of the Hudson Valley, he now feels centered.
“My life now revolves around my activities. Saugerties, to me, is center to the universe,” he says. “The world I left in New York is gone anyway…”
We sidetrack into the differences between career artists and those who, as if in defiance of art markets, focus their lives on something more thoughtful. As someone like Rembrandt once did.
Or Richard Edelman is doing with his life and self-portraits, self-mockery and all.
Cross Contemporary’s exhibition of digital portraits by Richard Edelman and Susan Copich, the latter a Dutchess County-based chronicler of intense photographic narratives involving herself as a performer, opens with both a Friday evening preview from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, March 2 and an artists’ reception from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday March 3. at Cross Contemporary, 99 Partition Street, Saugerties. The show runs through April 1.