Each year, the Village of New Paltz Historic Preservation Commission issues a call for submissions of “artwork that focuses on and is inspired by local and area historic landmarks, landscapes and architectural details, and explores the theme of preservation, and life within a historic context.” Its fifth annual art exhibit is currently on display at the Elting Memorial Library’s Ron Steinberg Reading & Meeting Room.
“We’re very pleased with the entries this year,” said library director John Giralico last Saturday, as Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) board members prepared to divulge the identities of the award-winning artworks. HPC chair Tom Olsen agreed, saying that the 2019 entries displayed “an extremely high level in general. I don’t envy the judges.”
This year’s judges were Marcy Bernstein, Josephine Bloodgood and Anne Galperin. Bernstein, executive director of Roost Studios, joined in the praise of the 37 works on view this year. “The quality of the work is incredible. The bar is set really high this year,” she said.
Bernstein prefaced her announcements of the winning entries with a description of the criteria that the team of judges applied. The first question to be addressed, she said, was “Does the work actually express something about the history of the area?” noting that “history” could refer to aspects of the natural world, in addition to human habitation, or some crux point at which the two intersect. The second criterion focused on the artist’s point of view and how that was expressed, whether literally or metaphorically. Finally, she said, the judges were looking at technical skill and “interesting use of materials…how they put things together,” such as color, line, texture and composition” and the “unique voice that comes through” via the artist’s process.
This year, awards were bestowed in three categories: Painting, Drawing/Mixed Media and Photography. William Powe took both Second and Third Place in the Photography category for Hallowed Be Thy Name, a backlit black-and-white rendering of a lighthouse, and Misty Morning, a ghostly view of horses in a field. First Place in Photography went to New Paltz Noir, a downtown scene of street characters illuminated by shop windows, submitted by Agnes Devereaux. The former owner of the Village TeaRoom, about to cycle off the HPC board and primary wrangler of the delicious spread of hors d’oeuvres at the art opening, was also presented with a painting of the TeaRoom by Kamilla Nagy in appreciation for her services to community.
In the Drawing/Mixed Media category, Third Place went to Katherine Gray’s Home! a pastel over watercolor wash that Bernstein described as an “interesting point of view” of an “intimate corner” of the porch of a historic house. Second Place went to Reservoir Approach, Judy Stanger’s vibrant, purple-dominated pastel of a scene in the Catskills that could have been transplanted from the American West. According to Bernstein, the judges were unanimous in awarding First Place to Maureen Rogers’ Nyquist Harcourt Sanctuary, an exquisitely detailed winter wetland scene rendered in soft strokes of graphite.
With so many entries of high quality, Painting was by far the toughest category to judge. In Third Place was a wintertime watercolor depiction by Mira Fink of the quirky lower Main Street structure housing Roost Studios, Firemen’s Hall: Flatiron Building. “It captures a specific time of year — there’s a coldness in everything.” Second Place went to Mary Ottaway’s watercolor Mohonk from Pine Road, in which bright bursts of red and yellow foliage frame the dark tunnel of the roadway. “The tower is in there, but it’s not the main character,” Bernstein said approvingly, citing the painting’s light, energy, lyricism and “musical quality.”
Lana Privitera, who took home the Best in Show award in the 2018 competition, this year won First Place in the Painting category for her watercolor Back of the Hasbrouck House — “back, not front,” Bernstein noted. The judge praised the “high level of craftsmanship” and “spontaneous” quality of the work, in which tree shadows play over the contrasting textures of stone wall and wooden shingle. The Best in Show award was given to another painting, a large oil-on-canvas in many shades of spring green by Cami Fischer, Lenape Lane: Gatehouse Road to Mohonk Mountain, which Bernstein said captures “not only the look of a place, but the spirit of it.”
The fifth annual HPC Art Exhibit will remain on view during library hours until May 4, offering visitors an eyeful of local color — and form and line and texture. In Marcy Bernstein’s words, “Who better to appreciate the value of what we have here, and why it should be preserved and appreciated, than artists?”