“I am especially interested in painters’ working methods as well as the attraction of specific places to the artist, including locations throughout New York,” wrote Karen Quinn, who has curated the show of Woodstock art from the collection of Arthur A. Anderson opening this Saturday, February 4, at the Samuel Dorsky Museum at SUNY-New Paltz.
How did more than 100 works from what is probably the world’s most extensive collection of historic Woodstock art – 1500 works by almost 200 artists — end up at a show at the college in New Paltz? Curator Quinn said she selected as wide a representation of twentieth-century Woodstck art in various media as she could.
For many years, Anderson had stored most of his growing collection in a vault near a cabin in the Ulster County woods. After trying unsuccessfully to create a consortium of Woodstock arts organizations to build a secure storage space to hold their art collections, he turned to SUNY New Paltz. The college didn’t have such a facility, either, and wasn’t likely to get the funding to build it in the forseeable future.
Director of the NYS Museum Max Schaming had the facility and the funding, and so after the appropriate promises of sharing the works periodically, the collection of Woodstock art became not a local treasure but a state treasure. In 2018 and 2019, a comprehensive show of the Anderson collection was held in Albany.
Thanks to Anderson’s insistence and Schaming’s willing acquiescence, there’s more than a New Paltz show to share work from the vast collection. Arrangements have been made with almost a score of museums and galleries in the region to exhibit particular works. The recent Woodstock Guild Byrdcliffe exhibition contained pieces from the Anderson collection.
Such is the fame of Woodstock that works have been requested by organizations outside the Hudson Valley. Quinn told of an American embassy in Europe that had arranged to show a piece from the collection.
To a visual artist, a specific place is not a location but a dancing universe of form, color, space and touch. Captivating as that Albany show was, it failed to convey the attraction of a specific place the way walking out of an exhibition of Woodstock art held in Woodstock would have done. That can’t be helped.
So now Albany will take a trip to New Paltz to provide a richer experience of Woodstock.
When Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead sang “What a long, strange trip it’s been” 53 years ago, he wasn’t thinking of art collections. But he might as well have been.
“It’s particularly special because as a friend and champion for more than 20 years, Arthur Anderson has been so instrumental in the story of our museum,” said Anna Conlan, director at The Dorsky. “I’m excited to share the breathtaking artwork, recognizable local scenes, and compelling stories of artists in Woodstock who together pushed the boundaries of American art and formed a unique creative community.”
The New Paltz show will be up in the Morgan Anderson, Greenberg Family and Sara Bedrick galleries of the Dorsky Museum from February 4 until July 23. Also running from February 4 to April 2 at The Dorsky is “Homespun: Upcoming: Hudson Valley Artists 2023,” featuring a range of approaches to textile art.