The Saugerties Artists’ Studio Tour returned Saturday and Sunday, August 14-15, with 31 in-person tours of artists’ studios across the town and village after COVID-19 forced the free tours to online videos last year.
“We took lemons and made lemonade last year,” said Barbara Bravo, a longtime local artist who helps coordinate the event, speaking of last year’s online tour featuring videos of each artist made by a videographer that’s part of the tour.
Standing in her studio at her home on Old Route 32 in Quarryville where she formerly threw pottery for decades before stepping back from it because of hand injuries, she said she now makes collages. She now builds a piece by painting in layers and sometimes working clay but by hand and on a smaller scale. She said the layering tactics she learned throwing items on the wheel have definitely come in handy in this new pursuit.
Bravo said while Woodstock is perhaps the best-known as the cradle for the arts in the area, Saugerties has more than its fair share of artists. She credited that at least in part to Saugerties being a bit more affordable than Woodstock.
While the artists may seem spread out when one picks up a printed map showing all the homes on the tour, she said it never really takes more than ten minutes to get from one studio to another and there were several clusters of artists particularly surrounding Harvey Fite’s iconic outdoor bluestone sculpture Opus 40.
Bravo said approximately 800 people check out the tour each year, but she added that no one has an exact number because the tour is free and there are no tickets. “We get together and compare notes,” she said.
Bravo also opened her home next to her studio for Ellen Perantoni to show her work. Perantoni, was a part of the studio tour, now in its 19th year, for many years before she left the area for about ten years. She no longer resides in Saugerties, stating that she was unable to find a home to buy there.
Perantoni works in the famed Hudson River School style, inspired by iconic 19th-century artists like Thomas Cole who lives in Catskill and Frederic Church in Greenport. She works in her own style, keeping scenes very realistic, but admitted she’s not afraid to take a bit of an artistic license if she feels like it.
Her works on display included local scenic vistas like the famed Kaaterskill Falls, Bastion Falls just downstream in the Kaaterskill Clove and views from around Saugerties, including a field on Blue Mountain Road and work commissioned for a client of the old dam on the Esopus Creek at Diamond Mills.
Perantoni is mostly a self-taught artist, save for working with the Woodstock School of Art’s Hongnian Zhang. “He worked with me in color theory and that’s very important when you’re painting scenes occurring in nature,” she said.
Perantoni’s background is in marketing, including working with New York State’s tourism office. “Mostly I was just updating the text in brochures from last year’s brochures,” she said.
But she always loved the Hudson River School. Unable to afford to buy Hudson River School works by the greats, she took up painting in the style on her own around 2000, and she said it proved to be a perfect outlet for her to be creative.
One thing rarely seen in her paintings is buildings or people, and when they do appear, they’ll most often be very tiny, keeping with the way people and buildings were portrayed in paintings by Cole and Church.
That contrasts with Charley Mitcherson’s photographs that feature the many characters she’s come across over the years, from a black-and-white photo on infrared film of a couple pulling up to a biker bar on a Harley in her native Texas, to a more recent shot of a person with a giant Mohawk at Coachella, the iconic music and arts festival in Indio, California. Above it hangs a photo of a sculpture featuring tractor-trailer tanker trucks of the vintage found in one of those 1970s trucker flicks packed with CB-radio banter welded together and twisted into a pretzel shape.
She said she loved to frequent places like music festivals to find people doing some of the craziest things, like a woman suspended from a structure above the crowds like a spider at another Coachella to a photo of a classic hot rod at car shows in Dallas and the Matterhorn.
Mitcherson arrived in Saugerties six months ago from San Diego, where she served as the property manager at the apartment she lived in with her partner Eugene Davis. She said her son, an avid surfer, still lives in San Diego. Over the years, she’s bounced across the country running a photo studio and doing photoshoots in her native Dallas for big commercial clients like Radio Disney and also non-profits and also working for the City of Dallas before moving to San Diego.
Mitcherson said she was no stranger to New York having worked in Manhattan years back. Now retired and looking for a more affordable place to live than southern California, she turned to Saugerties. She remembers the weather being a bit of a shock when she moved to her home on Ridge Road in Glasco. “It was snowing,” she said. “We hadn’t seen snow in years.”
Mitcherson said she loves to spend time in nature, both in Saugerties and also with friends in Woodstock and Fleischmanns. Now armed with a large lens and retired from photography for pay, she’s turned to shooting nature, including animals.
She said after making the transition from film to working with programs like Photoshop and Lightroom, she’s finding her way back to film, at least for black-and-white shots, which she said just look better on film. Mitcherson said she even has a small darkroom at their home, which they are still renovating.
David Sarlin also likes to photograph unusual objects and moments he stumbles upon, many of them on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Sarlin and his wife Istar Schwager, a mixed-media artist who is also featured on the tour, split their time between Manhattan and a cottage on Church Road just down from the High Woods Reformed Church and around the corner from Opus 40.
Many of the objects he photographs are the type of supermarket pony-type kiddie rides found outside of pizzerias and other businesses in this Manhattan neighborhood. He said he’s fascinated with how kids interact with the contraptions, which they rarely pay to ride and oftentimes are even broken. They include a likeness of Dino the Dinosaur from the Flintstones and an odd-looking duck ride that looks a bit like Donald Duck.
Other subjects include a woman reading a book on an older NYC subway car. Sitting on the bright orange benches, one can’t even see her face which is buried in a hardcover book. She’s framed on one side by the doors marked with signs warning riders: “do not lean on doors” and above her head is an unknown PSA poster, like those put in trains by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority or some city agency with its message spelled out in about a dozen different languages.
Another photo depicts a sculpture featuring the iconic Sesame Street character Big Bird on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a Dalmatian outside an FDNY fire station on 77th Street.
Sarlin’s eclectic collection also include photos of celebrities like Lin-Manuel Miranda, the star of the smash-hit Broadway musical Hamilton, which became a streaming blockbuster on Disney+ last summer while Broadway theaters were shuttered. Sarlin said his portrait of Miranda is on the evening of a performance of Hamilton at the Public Theater before it moved to Broadway.
He said he’s known Miranda since he was four and his kids went to school with the famous actor. “I capture moments in pictures in the city and up here,” he said of his work.
In another room, Schwager showed off a mixed-media work on the wall that depicts what would’ve happened if Rip Van Winkle woke up in the 21st century. Hanging next to one of her husband’s photos of a supermarket pony ride, it combines a depiction of the Catskill legend, along with found images of airplanes and electronics, including a laptop, headphones and a smartphone.
“Mixed medium is a lot like collage,” Schwager said and added that still other works are made around the differing patterns found in security envelopes. “Different companies have different patterns,” she said.
Another work of hers was based on an Emily Dickenson poem.
Schwager, a participant in the Saugerties Artists’ Tour since 2007, said she returns each year because the arts community in Saugerties is a “really wonderful group of people. I love this community of artists, everyone works together.”