Many longtime residents of the Hudson Valley would tell you that the line between performance art and merely living one’s life, in these parts, is a fine one. Our region has been a hospitable host for events that straddle that boundary at least since the first Maverick Festival in 1915. Recent years have continued that trend, with the Hudson Valley becoming ever more of a lure to creative types whose artworks incorporate performance but don’t quite qualify as straight-up “performing arts” such as music, dance and acting. Chatham-based Marina Abramovic comes immediately to mind, of course, although her dream of founding a performing arts institute in Hudson never got off the ground.
But it’s not just a matter of artists from elsewhere gravitating to the area. Among the brightest stars in the firmament of native creatives is Linda Montano from Saugerties. The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY-New Paltz, which is about to open a new longitudinal exhibition of her work, describes Montano as “a seminal figure in contemporary feminist performance art, whose work is critical to the development of video and performance by, for and about women. She works to dissolve boundaries between art and life, exploring her art/life through shared experience, role adoption and intricate life-altering ceremonies, some of which last for many years.” The “durational” works that established Montano’s artistic reputation include Three Day Blindfold and Art/Life: One Year Performance, in which she was bound by rope to Taiwanese performance artist Tehching Hsieh 24 hours a day for a full year. She is also the founder of the Art/Life Institute in Kingston, which offers residencies to aspiring performance artists in the Hudson Valley.
Curated by Anastasia James and running from January 23 to April 14 at the Dorsky’s Morgan Anderson and Howard Greenberg Family galleries, “Linda Montano: The Art/Life Hospital” explores themes of healing, aging and death. It will feature rarely screened video work from the 1970s through the present, alongside newly commissioned participatory works and a durational performance by the artist. A public opening reception will be held on Saturday, February 9 from 5 to 7 p.m. The Dorsky Museum’s opening hours are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays when college is in session. To learn more, call (845) 257-3844 or visit www.newpaltz.edu/museum.