The Woodstock Artists Association & Museum continues its centennial year celebration with the opening of a new host of exhibits this Saturday, March 9, that celebrate the freshness and diversity of creation that’s been at play within the organization since its founding by a mix of traditional and younger artists in 1919.
The main gallery will continue the WAAM’s enterprising FOCUS shows that feature ten artists in theme-based conglomerations curated by top arts professionals from the greater area. The opening FOCUS set to run through March 31 has been juried by the amazing SUNY New Paltz art professor Amy Cheng, whose colorful mandala-like paintings and public art installations have been a growing phenomenon of recent years.
The artists Cheng has decided to bring FOCUS to include former restaurateur William Durkin, whose depictions of fish as an ultimate cosmic art form have been covered in these pages over the years; Columbia County-based landscape modalist Gail Giles; aerial photographer Judy Glasel; the amazing line artist John Hampshire; Uzbeki-born sculptor of singular things Sergey Jiveten, pop surrealist Cynthia McCusker, Woodstock-based sculptor Lowell Miller, Brooklyn iconographic painter Tracy Phillips, New Paltz uber landscapist Thomas Sarrantonio, and mixed media environmental artist Susan Togut.
Cheng’s theme for this FOCUS is Gaia: “The personification of the Earth and the ancestral mother of all life,” as Cheng has put it. “Today, we are acutely aware that Mother Earth is threatened by global warming and other destructive factors resulting from human activity. Work on view relates to the creative forces of Nature from poetic, socio-political, aesthetic, scientific, and spiritual perspectives.”
As for Cheng’s jurying aesthetic, might we suggest a look and listen to her statement, which although regarding her own art seems to apply to all we’ve seen of this FOCUS, her Gaia.
“Secularism does not preclude the spiritual, the contemplative, the mystical, or the sacred. If pressed I would admit I think all art making is devotional,” she has written. “Sumptuous, intricate, ornamented…I believe when we are telling stories, singing, dancing, drawing, carving, we are directly engaged in spiritual activities that takes us out of time into a different realm.”
Elsewhere in the WAAM galleries this month will be a Solo Gallery exhibit, “Domestic Detritus, A Family Album,” of new photographic works by Vassar professor Abigail Gunnels.
“I am a mother, wife, woman, and artist. I identify with these roles daily, sometimes independently of each other but more often these conflicting responsibilities are intertwined,” she writes of her high-octane images of found things, dryer lint and other items overlooked in so many day-to-day lives, “When I look around my house I see remnants of life, and accumulated evidence of time passing. This current body of work focuses on my fascination with detritus consisting of lint, bugs, dirt, and hair that accumulate in the nooks and crannies of my home. Each image is a portrait of the trace evidence from a period of time, illustrating a balance between the artistic, feminine, professional, and domestic self.”
The show, along with all of this year’s solo exhibitions, was juried by Anastasia James, Curator of Exhibitions and SUNY New Paltz’s Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art.
Other exhibitions opening Saturday will be a Founders Gallery show of small works juried by Lindsey Guile of SUNY Dutchess’ Mildred I. Washington Art Gallery, and a YES (Youth Exhibition Space) Gallery opeing of works by Onteora High School students creating new pieces inspired by WAAM’s Permanent Collection, from which a collection of community-chosen highlights is now showing in the building’s Towbin Wing gallery space.
Taken together, the various new shows demonstrate not only the new diversity of art-making in the Woodstock area and greater Hudson Valley, but also those fresh works’ deep connections to the eternal creativity that’s been embedded in the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, sometimes peacefully but often not, since its first shows a century ago.
A series of artists receptions for the various new exhibits will take place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 16. For further information on all that’s happening at WAAM, including its new website for area artists’ pages, see woodstockart.org, call 679-2940, or simply stop by 28 Tinker Street in Woodstock.