Since the founding of the Byrdcliffe Colony in 1902, Woodstock has been synonymous with the arts, and for many years a cornerstone of its thriving arts community has been the Woodstock School of Art (WSA). Located on Rt. 212 a couple miles outside the village in a charming campus of bluestone buildings — they were constructed in 1939 as a youth school for arts and crafts under FDR’s New Deal; the WSA later served as the summer school for the Art Students League — the school was founded in 1968 by a group of League instructors and was formally instituted at the complex of buildings in 1986. Initially open only in the summer — instructors who brought in heaters during the colder season had to pay for their own heat — the school has evolved into a year-round institution and has steadily updated its facilities, which are fully heated and flooded with natural light. The WSA’s roster of 47 instructors, offering everything from monotype printing to portrait painting, have attracted a loyal following; many of the students are accomplished artists themselves. The school’s breadth of talent (some of its artist instructors have shown nationally or are otherwise known outside the region) representing a diversity of techniques, mediums, styles and genres is sumptuously showcased at the Woodstock School of Art instructors’ second annual exhibition and sale at The Lockwood Gallery, located on Route 28 a couple of miles outside Kingston.
The exhibition features the work of 37 artists/instructors, including paintings (oil, acrylic and watercolor), prints (ranging from linoleum and wood block prints to lithographs to monotypes), assemblages and collages, and sculptures. Such a variety could come off as cacophonous, but the expert eye of curator Alan Goolman has gracefully surmounted that challenge. Goolman has anchored each of the gallery’s several rooms with a particular striking piece, from which he takes his cues of color, scale, and texture to create a lively visual harmony and tantalizing pathway through the space. (Proof of Goolman’s curatorial talents at the gallery, which is located in the architectural offices of Michael Lockwood, is Chronogram’s selection of Lockwood as the best gallery of the Hudson Valley in 2021).
The long-standing Woodstock tradition of landscape painting is very much alive, as seen in the works of Bruce Bundock, Mary Anna Goetz, Tor Gudmundsen, Marlene Wiedenbaum, Hongnian Zhang (who teaches classes on history and figurative painting as well), John Varriano, and Keith Gunderson (better known at the school for his figure study classes), along with pastels by E.S. Desanna. These artists demonstrate an overall excellence in their ability to convey light, space and the beauties of the region’s fields, forests, wetlands and mountain ranges. Personal favorites are the two plein air paintings by Bundock that capture subtle shifts in the tonalities of light-dappled tree canopies, fields, and a bluish mountain range through loose daubs of color, communicating the essence of paint in building the scene. Christie Scheele’s two luminous landscape paintings, one of a sky aglow entitled Sundrenched, demonstrate her signature style of blurred edges, enhancing the luminous effect, and minimal, Modernist approach to composition. Staats Fasoldt’s small watercolor of the Gunks, one of three exquisite works by him, reduces the scene to a few shapes of gray, toned-down green, and gray-blue washes. In addition to this Zen-like spontaneity and simplicity, Fasoldt captures the essence of a scene so it remains recognizable, conveying the specifics of the weather, light and space. Les Castellanos’ watercolors of richly colored, roiling clouds contrast their light-edged, almost animal-like shapes with the planar contours of earth extending from the low horizon line.
Balancing out the landscapes are numerous abstract works by seven artists (Kate McGloughlin’s three large black-and-white mixed-media works fall in this category, even as their nuanced texture and tonalities, ranging from splattered drops of black ink to washes of pale gray, suggest the spaces and surfaces of landscape). Donald Elder’s masterful work in somber gray green and black — the black area defines a large rectangular central shape that could be read as a veiled head, rock or rich patch of earth — anchors an entire wall, but its subtle lyricism — dollops of yellow and pink paint read as blooms and the scratched surface suggest the textures of grass or the path of falling stars — doesn’t so much overpower as seduce us with its magic. Engulfed in brownish atmospheres, Meredith Rosier’s two paintings, entitled Pivot and Quiver, are darkly romantic and hyper-sensitive in their delicate massing and blurring of the soft shapes, sensual in their pure appeal to the eye, with their pricks of color, pale washes and muted textures. Muriel Stallworth’s gorgeous watercolors capture the movement of water and clouds in swooshes of paint depicting wheeling circles and geometric forms, liquid and with an uncanny clarity. Joan Ffolliott’s collagraphs of heavily outlined floating ovals play with pattern layered over tree-like forms of branching rectangles; the ink smudges and splatterings lend the paper surface a pleasing patina, as if it had been exposed to the weather. The other abstract artists represented are Melanie Delgado, Jenne Currie, and Jenny Nelson.
One of the WSA’s strengths is its printmaking studio; McGloughlin, who is famous for her classes on monoprints, presides over the Friday-morning sessions, attended by a group of dedicated printmakers and students. The school offers a variety of printmaking workshops, with some of the instructors’ works showcased here. Karen Whitman bases her vivid large-scale black-and-white linoleum prints on actual rooftop urban views in New York City but then spices them up with fanciful details, such as a roosting pigeon, potted plants, a line of laundry and, glimpsed in the street below, a dog walker. In her woodcuts, Jeanne Bouza Rose translates the birds, standing stones, hills and harbors of the Orkney Islands into gentle undulating colored shapes, creating lovely harmonies of delicately modulated greens, blues, purples, yellows, pinks and reds. Also noteworthy are Ron Netsky’s exquisitely detailed lithographs, Malgorzata Oakes’ energetic silkscreens, Lisa Mackie’s charming monotypes of cats and faces, and Wayne Montecalvo’s colored silkscreen and solar plate prints (which incorporate wax and in one case, tea bags) of blurry nudes, which echo the simplified forms and tonal atmospheres of Seurat as well as the vintage Victorian girly photos. Anthony Kirk’s Fields reduces the image of a green field under a charcoal sky to an abstracted ground of luxuriantly applied emerald green ink.
The show is rounded out by the still lifes of Karen O’Neil and Peter Clapper, each of whom have a distinctive style but are similar in that fruit, vegetables, plates and bowls are interpreted as studies in color and light; numerous botanicals by the highly accomplished botanical illustrator Wendy Hollender; and portraits by Lois Woolley, Claire Lambe and Les Castellanos. There are small-scale, intriguing paper collages by Robert Ohnigian; a carved wooden spear-like sculpture by Patti Mooney; and two beautifully rendered table-top-scale porcelain sculptures of female mythological figures by Tricia Cline. Last but not least are the fanciful bricolage pieces by Polly M. Law, in which surrealist narratives are played out by long-haired women in stylized landscapes having the charm, simplicity and literalness of folk art.
The show, which is open through December 30, is a fundraiser for the school, which receives 25 percent of all sales (another 25 percent goes to the gallery and the remaining 50 percent to the artist). Following on the heels of last year’s very successful exhibition, this year’s show already had substantial sales within two days of the opening, according to Goolman. While the school has had online shows of its instructors’ work, Lockwood Gallery’s wider clientele is an advantage, he said, an observation that was seconded by WSA Executive Director Nina Doyle; she noted that a $12,000 Donald Elder piece had a much better chance of selling in a commercial gallery rather than at the school shows, where pieces sell generally for under $600. She added that as a way to publicize the school, WSA instructors and students have also had shows at the Arts Society of Kingston, Mark Gruber Gallery in New Paltz, and Tivoli Artists Gallery.
After being closed for 15 months, the WSA studios began re-opening in June after high-tech air filters were installed (the number of students per class is also limited to allow for social distancing). Currently the WSA is offering nine weekly classes and four workshops a month, which compares with 20 weekly classes and 10 workshops a month pre-covid. Staats Fasoldt, who has been with the school since the beginning and currently serves as co-president of the Board of Directors, said it’s up to each individual instructor as to whether a class is offered live and if so, how many students are allowed in class. A few artists will be returning over the winter and others not until the spring.
Throughout the pandemic the WSA offered online classes, which still continue and have been wildly successful; some Zoom classes had as many as 70 students and people from all over the nation as well as Europe and Asia. “We served about 700 students last year during the closure, compared to 800 served the year before,” said Doyle. “We couldn’t have done that without the support of the artists’ community. They jumped into the online classes and donated money. We also had support from PPP [the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program]. It took a village to keep the school running.”
In March, the school plans to introduce a new artist, internationally known painter and author, David Hornung, who recently moved to the area and will teach a workshop in abstract collage, according to Doyle.
Hornung will join Robert Ohnigian and Donald Elder as one of three artists teaching at the WSA who are represented by the prestigious Elena Zang Gallery. Elder, to cite one example, has had much success selling his work and one assumes doesn’t need to teach workshops because of financial reasons. So why does he do it? “It gets me out of my studio,” Elder said. “I enjoy meeting the other artists, and I learn a lot from being around the people who are creating art. We help each other, and it’s enjoyable.” Added Fasoldt, whose watercolor class has attracted and inspired generations of artists: “It’s a place to grow and a gorgeous spot. We’ve tried to keep it a place where people are happy to go.”
Woodstock School of Art Instructors’ Show and Sale at The Lockwood Gallery, 747 Rt. 28, Kingston, through Dec. 30; open Thurs.-Sun. 11 am-6 pm or by appointment; 845-663-2138; info@TheLockwoodGallery.com