“The arts, like newspapers, are undergoing lots of change. That’s because the way galleries did business in the past was to be involved in the development of an artist’s career, and the sales would be through their client base,” says Jen Dragon, who for the last month or so has been working at her new job, that of Director of Exhibitions at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild. Dragon, who has been involved in the local arts scene for more than three decades and has installed more that 100 exhibitions nationally and internationally, and who ran Cross Contemporary Gallery in Saugerties for five years, has curated a new show, entitled One on One: A Survey of Contemporary Monotypes & Monoprints. The exhibit will be on display from Friday, January 13 until Sunday, February 26, with an opening reception for the artists and the public, 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, January 21, at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts at 36 Tinker Street in Woodstock.
The show will exist simultaneously with another exhibition practically next door when the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum presents Pressure and Presence: Contemporary Printmaking, one of five shows (see sidebar) also holding an opening reception, 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, January 21 in their galleries at 28 Tinker Street.
The openings and runs of the exhibits are deliberately scheduled to create a kind of blockbuster Opening Day to the 2023 art world of Woodstock.
“What has happened,” continues Dragon, “certainly with Covid, and even before, is that galleries do not work developing artist’s careers, they are not working trying to get them into museum shows, or do the next thing, unless it’s a blue-chip sort of thing. Galleries are working in a storefront way — it’s becoming more like that because of the finances involved, and it’s just very tight with sales and how to sell art.
“And this is where non-profits are becoming increasingly important, like the Byrdcliffe Guild and the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, acting outside of that commercial realm. Yes, we do sales but our primary focus is to serve the community. That I think creates a different kind of environment for an artist to show, to exhibit. We try to become that stepping stone for an artist’s career, and we try to promote their work through our organization and that creates possibilities for them beyond that.
“That’s what I see as our service, what we do here.”
Dragon points to a lack of true art galleries in the main hamlet of Woodstock. There are other galleries exhibiting around the town like the James Cox in Willow, the Woodstock Art Exchange on Route 28 and Lockwood Gallery, but they’re not in the middle of town.
“I feel we are super-important because the galleries in Woodstock are gone. And the reason is because of the infrastructure, there isn’t really a great venue for showing contemporary art here because the venues were houses before they were shops. So you have too many windows, and you’ve got these little rooms and that’s not really great for showing contemporary art or bigger art. And then, the rents are too high, and that’s that. Cox? Yes, he has that beautiful space but that’s out in Willow and he had to build it.
“Now, Saugerties and Uptown Kingston, they were built as commercial places, so you have the infrastructure you need for galleries…But that’s why the Byrdcliffe Guild and Woodstock Artists Association, right in the middle of town, are critical. It’s an important part of Woodstock’s culture and heritage keep this definition of an arts colony alive.”
Elizabeth Keithline is Dragon’s counterpart Director of Exhibitions at the Woodstock Artists Association. She and her husband moved to Woodstock in 2019 and her art world credentials are plentiful, including a 14-year contract with the Rhode Island State Council On The Arts, during which, she founded and managed Rhode Island’s Contemporary Art In State Government and Airport Gallery programs. She’s also done extensive work as an independent curator in New York City.
“My husband and I were looking for art and music towns — he’s a bass player. We came to Woodstock on a night when the Center for Photography at Woodstock (CPW) was still here, and CPW, Byrdcliffe and WAAM all had openings on the same night…and you’re just bopping around Tinker Street going from opening to opening to opening, and they’re all packed and it’s like, OK this works…so doing the opening event the same night, it helps the environment, because people only have to drive once, and it’s fun feeling on the street. Think about how long that’s been going on…it’s a lot of pairs of shoes…”
Keithline speaks of the collaborative nature of the exhibitions at the galleries.
“I think Jen Dragon is calling it ‘printstock,’ which is so fun…we have a really collegial relationship with other arts bases. A lot of the time we are working with the same very talented artists.
“The Byrdcliffe show is monoprint only. Our juror, Alexandra Slattery, the Sales Director at Two Palms, [a print studio that has a history of working with some of the most influential contemporary artists to produce experimental prints and sculptural multiples] chose some really far-reaching techniques. So that’s really fun for us too. As you probably know, WAAM does everything by juror, we’re not curating the show. Our 1919 bylaws state that we’re going to do everything by juror. That keeps us perpetually fresh.
“Jen has this, nice tight focus on monoprint [and monotype] artists and we have just, through our juror, a really vast selection of techniques, including linocut, silk screen, monoprint, hard ground etching, handmade paper embossment, something called Kitakata, solar plate etching…she (Slattery) just went wide, which is so cool.
“Woodstock is such a print town, Woodstock School of Art has real masters, Joan Ffolliott, Kate McGloughlin, who are so known not only as educators but as artists for printmaking. It’s really sort of a pleasure to delve into that…
“Working with Alexandra Slattery has been amazing…she selected 45 works by 28 artists… we got 60 apps. It’s not a difficult thing to do a good show in this town. So that’ll be fun.”
Dragon talked about what’s in the Byrdcliffe Guild exhibition.
“The show is personal passion of mine. Once upon a time, I went to college for printmaking and was trained as a printmaker. I always was drawn to a community that came out of a print shop, working with these big machines, working with your hands, all these things that are so different from painting…you know painting is so isolating and there was this cameraderie…
“With monotypes, coming from a painting background, you could have that sort of singular experience, that painterly experience, and you get that fun of surprise, that happens when you pull a print, because you never really know what’s going to happen until you pull that paper off the substrate…”
Wait a moment… explain, please? The interviewer is a bit confused…
“Generally speaking,” says Dragon, “you are inking or painting on some kind of substrate… it’s often a piece of plexiglass and you are depending on the white of the paper to create the lights of things.
“The excitement about monoprints or monotypes process, this paper goes through a press or maybe you put pressure on it yourself or with a roller, pull it off and there’s the surprise, because you think you know what you’re going to get but you don’t really know. And you see this thing in reverse and the color has gone into paper in a certain way, there’s kind of a depth in saturation.
“Originally it was an oil-based color because that’s what artists use, oil-based inks. But lately it’s been watercolor. You paint in watercolor on a piece of plexiglass and you let it dry, so the thing looks like nothing, and then you run a piece of paper that’s been saturated in a bath and it reactivates the color, and it looks like this gorgeous rich, watercolor on paper.
“The difference between a monotype and a monoprint is that with a monotype, you get one and that’s it. It has a painterly way about it. A monoprint uses elements, cut-out shapes — one artist I worked with painted with a kind of emulsified acrylic that’s got a lot of texture — then it dries and she can run it through the press about three times before it falls apart. And each one is different.
“Now the WAAM show is of prints that can be editioned, which means they’ve created a very stable template that you can pull between 10 and, oh, 100, prints from. The goal in that kind of printmaking is to have each one look as much like the others as possible.”
The artists participating in One on One at the Kleinert-James are: Gregory Amenoff, Zoe Anderson, Christine Beneman, Gregory Crane, Ford Crull, Peggy Cyphers, Maxine Davidowitz, Katie de Groot, Mary Anne Erickson, MB Flanders, Deborah Freedman, Randy Garber, Michel Goldberg, Jane Goldman, Brandon Graving, Judy Haberl, Catherine Howe, Catherine Kernan, Jennifer Marshall, Kate McGloughlin, Debra Olin, Eileen M. Power, Wendy Prellwitz, Susanna Ronner, and Joanne Simon.
The exhibiting artists in Pressure and Presence: Contemporary Printmaking, at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum are: Robin Adler, Karen Capobianco, Cynthia Carlaw, Marie Cole, Mary Delaney Connelly, Yale Epstein, Barbara Esmark, Gail Giles, Julianne Hunter, Tatana Kellner, Annie Lewis, Rita MacDonald, Kate McGloughlin, Elizabeth Melnyczuk, David Munford, Nancy O’Hara, Richard Pantell, Michael Piotrowski, Gina Porcelli, James Porter, Susanna Ronner, Thomas Sarrantonio, Susan Siegel, Amy Silberkleit, Alex Testere, Robert Troxell, Claudia Waruch, Betty Wilde-Biasny.
Dragon says the collaboration between the arts organizations works because each has different goals.
“Having been involved in both organizations,” she says, “I felt there was a need for us to team up, and work in conjunction. Elizabeth and I agreed that we would try to do as many events in tandem as possible.
“Instead of seeing it like competition… let’s have openings and closings at the same time, give people more reasons to come into town to see the art that’s being made here.
“The Guild is really based on working with the heritage of Byrdcliffe, its roots in an artisan community, in weaving and pottery as well as printmaking and painting, and those things that were established in 1902, and everything we do kind of refers back to that mission. And we also run an artists-in-residency program, so we have a lot of contemporary and emerging young artists that we support and house here, and they come up and are exposed to the art.
“WAAM is really an artists’ association, and they create maximum exhibition opportunities for their members, and the amount of programming and shows that go on there, it’s an amazing pace. We do seven shows a year, they do twenty something — it’s a lot of exhibitions. So the pressure is on to hold the torch high for Woodstock.”
For more information about the exhibitions and the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, see https://www.woodstockart.org or call 845-679-2940; and for exhibition information and the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, see https://www.woodstockguild.org, or call 845-679-2079.
Openings at WAAM, January 21
The Woodstock Artists Association and Museum will present an array of exhibitions also running from January 20-February 26, celebrating with an opening reception from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday, January 21 in the galleries at WAAM, 28 Tinker Street, Woodstock.
Opening in the YES Gallery will be Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, in which WAAM has partnered with the Woodstock Elementary School’s third grade class and art teacher Roberta Ziemba. The students made psychedelic silhouette portraits inspired by Milton Glaser’s famous poster for Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits album with Columbia Records in 1967. Glaser’s work was instrumental in raising his profile as a graphic designer and is now featured in WAAM’s Permanent Collection.
Opening in the Phoebe & Belmont Towbin Wing at WAAM is Restoring Indigenous Voices: Landscapes from the Permanent Collection that explores the historical contexts of a selection of landscapes from the permanent collection acknowledging the Native American significance of well-known mountains, rivers, fields and sites in the region. Twenty works will be on view including paintings, photographs, and prints presented alongside extended labels that identify the Native American territories depicted, and the tribes – Mohican and Munsee – who inhabited the Hudson Valley for centuries before being forced out by European settlers.
This exhibition and accompanying public programs are curated by Nicole Goldberg, Executive Director of WAAM, along with Evan Pritchard, descendant of the Mi’kmaq people (part of the Algonquin nations), founder of the Center for Algonquin Culture, and former Professor of Native American history at at Marist College, Vassar College and Pace University.
A concurrent solo exhibition of works by Shinnecock Nation tribe member and artist Jeremy Dennis, entitled Jeremy Dennis: On This Site will be on view from January 20–February 26, 2023 in WAAM’s adjacent Solo Gallery. This solo exhibition of works is the culmination of an art-based research project by Dennis and will include a selection of his photographs of sacred, culturally significant, and historical Native American landscapes on Long Island, New York.
In the Founder’s Gallery will be an exhibition of Small Works (A-F), an unjuried show, open to members with last names A-F. It presents a stylistic and thematic range of small-scale, affordable artwork by artists within a 50-mile radius of Woodstock.