From the road, the apartments at the Bearsville complex — which new owner Lizzie Vann is hoping to upgrade along with the rest of what she’s renamed Bearsville Center — look like a more stolid version of Byrdcliffe’s classic artist housing. There’s a sturdy fireplace, north-facing windows. A good fix-up will do the place wonders.
But then one enters one of the smallish apartments inside and a whole other side of Woodstock creativity springs to life. Brightly colored murals capture the local mountains, the wondrous fecundity of our nature. The ceilings are cloud-filled, endless skies. This is not fine art, per se, but it’s complete unto itself, covering the walls and ceiling of what could be a pedestrian kitchen. Every inch is thought out, touched, transformed.
“It develops over time; the Bearsville one took two years. I just get into it,” says the kitchen work’s creator, Alan Midgette — the actor and former Andy Warhol substitute who’s lived in Woodstock for three decades now. “That one had a lot of complex angles to work out; you have to go with the form of the room to make it work. The painting itself looks simple but the execution is anything bit.”
Midgett, who lived at 281 Tinker Street from 2015 to 2017, says he painted his first house works in the late 1960s, where he did one in Santa Fe, NM. On that project, he concentrated on doors and windows, using Etruscan themes.
“I try to pull the normal out of a space,” he explained of his art. “I cover the electrical sockets, the appliances, everything.”
We speak about the impossibility of saving such art. It’s not moveable, like the pastoral mural on a long wall where Bank of Greene County is now, moved to an eventual home in Woodstock’s Town Hall building by a group of seasoned town volunteers. But also the beauty of things that are created to disappear, like sand castles or sand paintings. Or that we create from the innocence of childhood.
“You can’t sell something of this sort,” Midgette added.
It’s similar to this man’s acting career, grown like a butterfly from ambitions the young man from Whitman’s home town of Camden, NJ once had to be a Martha Graham dancer. Other young men of significant charm, intelligence and handsomeness directed him to their New Wave films of the early 1960s; eventually he gigged as a double for Andy Warhol on a 1967 lecture tour after a fan had shot the famous artist.
We learned of Alan Midgette’s former haven, this fleeting masterpiece, from Vann, who would have been his landlord were he to have stayed. Her appreciation of the man and his creation was unbounded. But she’s got much else on her mind, and hands, as she beings the community-treasured Bearsville Center back to life.
“I’m working in the space I’m in now,” Midgette added of his current apartment in the center of town. “I can’t have people see it yet since I am also living in the middle of my painting.”
So goes the immersive creative life.