Although not an artist myself, I have always admired and loved being around artists because of the way they continue to celebrate the imagination and maintain a sense of wonder that many of us leave behind in our childhoods. And they do it despite the fact that pursuing a career as an artist can be an incredibly difficult path to follow. An artist friend told me once that despite being relatively well known, he had essentially chosen a life of poverty, all so he could continue expressing himself through his love of painting.
What artists bring to the world is more than decorative beauty or thought-provoking concepts that ask ‘what art is?’ Art is more than wandering around the Met or MOMA to see what critics consider the greatest historical and contemporary works. In my view, art is about an artist’s process, because it is through this process that they tap into that spark, the light that exists within all of us.
As I continue to meet more and more local artists, I keep hearing that the community here in the Hudson Valley is unique, because it is just that – a true community. And I continue to witness just how important supporting that community is to the artists, gallery owners, and curators that live here.
I first heard about the Hillsdale gallery LABspace from artist Susan Bee, who told me that what owners and curators Julie Torres and Ellen Letcher were doing there was “incredibly inspiring and special.” This enthusiasm was reiterated by another artist friend who said she would take me for a visit.
What I found at LABspace was more than a gallery and more than just a curated space with beautiful art on the walls. What I found was not only a space that respected and celebrated and fostered a community of artists but also two people who intrinsically held themselves to the highest level of ethical integrity in their interactions with their community.
Within Torres and Letcher is the utmost respect for and understanding of the vulnerability each artist must be willing to express in order to exist in this world. Torres and Letcher, both artists themselves, honor and hold that space for their artists as precious. And they simultaneously appreciate and show works by artists in their local community. No wonder the space has such a buzz. They keep the light alive and they do it with integrity and honesty.
The Hills Have Eyes and more
On view at LABspace in Hillsdale until July 30 is The Hills Have Eyes: artists of Hillsdale + neighbors. Torres and Letcher state, “The hills surrounding LABspace are inhabited by skilled artists and makers who are keen observers. In the five years that we have been in Hillsdale, these exceptional artists have also looked out for and watched over us. These artists are actively engaged with our programming, exhibitions, and events. These are friends and neighbors who have run to our aid when we’ve needed support. Gallery life can be hectic. It really does take a village.”
“This exhibition will feature recent paintings, sculpture, ceramics, photography, fiber, installation, and an organic work sourced from the natural environment. We are thrilled for you to see the powerful artwork being made in our small hamlet and within minutes of the gallery. The hills are alive.”
Please join LABspace for this love letter to the artists of Hillsdale and our neighbors, featuring Les Baum, Martha Bone, Louis Brawley, Ian Wilson Clyde, Peter Bradley Cohen, Stuart Farmery, Jean Feinberg, Marianne Gagnier, Joan Grubin, Guzman, Sean Hutcheon, Susan Jennings, Erick Johnson, Jennifer Johnson, Suzi Matthews, James Menshenfriend, Rylan Morrison, Kristen Palazzo, Susan Petry, Liz Sample, Karin Schaefer, Kim Sloane, Joseph Stabilito, Linda Stillman, and Guy Walker.
Following are brief introductions to each of these wonderful artists, edited from statements they provided.
Les Baum, West Copake, NY
I make sculptures out of wood, then I paint and mount them. The wood has often been found as detritus and cast aside as “not good.” I started by making bookends from beaver-gnawed wood, then I started to see faces in the wood. If I did not live on a very large pond and on the back end of a mountain, my work might very well not exist. It is immediate to my living experience. I am presently working on a root/branch piece that is very delicate and small. I found it walking down a dirt road, and it excited something in me.
Martha Bone, Hillsdale, NY
I make acrylic paintings, drawings, and assemblages on canvas and paper. My work incorporates what I see around me, for example roots from my garden, starry skies, and the immensity of the natural world. I use nature and the symbols of prehistory to understand the self. Through a process of constructing, obliterating, erasing, and reforming, images take on sculptural qualities and give birth to unexpected meanings, like vivid dreams with hidden meaning.
Louis Brawley, Craryville, NY
After traveling the globe for years, landing in this area has brought me back to the landscape of my childhood. Since building a studio in my house, I now have room to explore ideas I’ve been exposed to over the years. These make their way into paintings and now sculptures, a practice new to me. I am drawn to mysticism, strong color, and expressionism of all kinds.
Ian Wilson Clyde, Craryville, NY
I make paintings on wood using oil, acrylic, and spray paint. I come from a design background, so I’m used to dealing with exact measurements and details. I’ve tried to distance myself from that by becoming more influenced by the nature around me and by doing traditional landscapes of the area to loosen myself up. My painting for this show is about the superficiality of the online world contrasted with the real experiences that people have in nature.
Peter Bradley Cohen, Hillsdale, NY
I am a sculptor and work mainly with steel and aluminum. My work explores the tension and balance between geometric rigidity and organic fluidity mirroring and reinterpreting the natural world. I started by working principally with found objects. My process was to figure out how to assemble them into a piece that made sense to me and felt whole and complete. I’m currently obsessed with a certain form that was inspired by a Tony Smith sculpture. The twist is that I re-orient the piece in ways that the original artist did not intend, and the result elicits an entirely different experience.
Stuart Farmery, Ghent, NY
I make sculptures from a mix of materials including wood, cardboard, concrete, and pigments, and I also make drawings on paper with charcoal, ink, and oil stick. I have always been influenced by my surroundings, be it in the kitchen or out in the nature that surrounds us. My wood is often taken from the roadside while the cardboard is usually delivered as packaging by mail. I find this apparent unwantedness stimulating and exciting.
Jean Feinberg, Craryville, NY
My work is a hybrid between painting and sculpture. It has always been abstract or non-objective and has a three-dimensional element. Because of the landscape and weather here, I started looking at color differently, with many of my color choices coming from relationships seen in nature. The relationships between shape, color, and texture are the story – wall oriented, modest in size, and focused on the specific characteristics of the materials: wood and oil paint.
Marianne Gagnier, Copake, NY
I make paintings using acrylic and pieces of canvas, mounted on canvas or panels. I am working on a group of paintings made from collaged canvas and another body of work that uses a mono-printing process. Color is primary in both. Many artists that I love and deeply respect had moved here long before we did, and it is a privilege to be in this community. Nature has always been a great source of inspiration, and now I think we all feel how precious and precarious it is.
Joan Grubin, Hillsdale, NY
I work with paper, making wall installations, 3-D objects, assemblages, and collages that revel in color. My work was once more geometrically rigorous and spare; now time and age have loosened it up to include humor, found objects, text, and fragments of earlier pieces. Hillsdale has been a dreamy place to make art because of the tranquility and nourishment that come from being embedded in nature, combined with a fertile and friendly community of artists and a vibrant art scene.
Guzman, Egremont, MA
We are two photographers that work under the name Guzman. We started out doing advertising, magazine editorial, portraits, and album covers. Now since moving to Egremont, we do more personal projects that reflect where we live, in particular our relationship with the natural world. Often, we perceive ourselves as being separate from nature. How can we appreciate being connected to it? In our current photographic series, on fungi, we contemplate the strange beauty of those peculiar dispositions found lurking in the forest.
Sean Hutcheon, Hillsdale, NY
I’m a fine art photographer who focuses on architectural landscape and still life. For my commercial work I shoot interiors and provide images for auction houses and artists. My work has evolved by slowing down and disciplining myself not to force a shot. I’ve learned to shoot more with my heart rather than what I think I should be shooting. Living in this area has allowed me to relax and focus more on what I wish to accomplish.
Susan Jennings, Great Barrington, MA
I create sculpture/instruments and sound paintings from various found objects, and I occasionally perform with these artworks. My work has recently become increasingly baroque, colorful, and joyful. I love the colors of sounds and the sounds of colors! You can hear many sounds that bring water to mind. Also the rustling of trees or dropping acorns. Nature is my creative hero. I am currently crocheting elements for a large sculpture that will live in and on a tree this summer at the brand new Hudson Sculpture Park.
Erick Johnson, Hillsdale, NY
All my work is abstract – geometric painting on canvas, panel, or paper and colored pencil on paper. I use hand-drawn geometry as a structure to contain painterly “gestures” that reveal movement (actual physical or implied). I aim to heighten the historical tension between drawing (geometry in my case) and painterly affect: hard edges that bleed and stain. Polygonal shapes appear rational, but are irregular and unique. Broken colors are more akin to a woven textile or stained glass than to flat, declarative paint.
Jennifer Johnson, Hillsdale, NY
My work is functional: one-of-a-kind ceramic pieces, drawings with ink and pencil, and photography. My work is ever changing, incorporating and influenced by nature and her myriad forms. I’m currently working on ceramic vessels that serve as environments for cut flowers as well as living plants and also, on paper, drawings that are abstracted reflections of nature as well as hard-edge mandalas. My work is about engaging with the moment intuitively and, with my own touch, creating something to be sensorily shared and touched by others.
Suzi Matthews, Hillsdale, NY
I work in collage on canvas and wood panels. I describe it as “mixed media,” as I also use paint, adhesives, and urethanes. My current work is a series I call Data Mine. The selected piece, Looper Invigilare celebrates my two fathers. My biological father, a pioneer in electronic musical instrument manufacturing, and my stepfather, an accomplished psychiatrist. For me, the looper, a device that can create a repeating section of sound material, is a metaphor for life and how its tragic moments can weave back around to create exquisite beauty. Invigilare in Latin means “to watch over.”
Rylan Morrison, Craryville, NY
I do acrylic and gouache paintings on found photos, wood, and paper. I am now making tiny paintings of meteorites and atomic bombs on exotic woodcuts, an exploration of scale and absoluteness, still with a nod to the unseriousness of life. Growing up in this region informed my connection to the changing political and economic environments, and my agricultural family background and artist upbringing threaded through my need to escape.
Kristen Palazzo, Alford, MA
I started out as a photographer but the drawing process has always been important to me. I mainly create works on paper using drawing, sewing, photography, and painting. I’m influenced by everything in my surroundings: most especially landscape, trees, tall grass, weather, light, music, things around my house, conversations, books, and poetry. Texture and textiles have always played a role. At the moment I’m reviewing sketchbooks and photographs and, even though I tend to work very abstractly, considering how portraiture could work its way into near-future pieces.
Susan Petry, Hillsdale, NY
I make 2 D pen-and-ink and watercolor abstracts and portraits and 3 D tissue-paper papier-mache open-frame figural work. My work has evolved to create works in which the viewer can become immersed – through complexity and ambiguity – and lose a sense of self. The muted, monotonic colors capture the deep peace and introspective potential of the region. Right now I am working on papier-mache pieces focusing on hands, figures and gestures, and 2 D layered-paper stilllifes.
Liz Sample, Hillsdale, NY
My work is exclusively full-frame 120 format photography, done with vintage Rolleiflex cameras. My love is portraiture, but I’m now drawn to ‘portraits’ of Columbia County – the lush landscapes and hardscrabble details that reveal beauty, sadness, and promise. Growing up in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, my first photos were the small details of faces, animals, and terrain, but lately my view has widened. The big picture can reveal details as well. I try to give the viewer more breathing room now.
Karin Schaefer, South Egremont, MA
I make oil paintings on wood panels and works on paper. When I moved to this area my palette completely changed, I kept finding myself mixing colors I had never used before, then one day I saw that the color I was mixing was the exact hue of the pollen on the pine trees, and my favorite pink is the same shade as the crabapple tree blossoms outside my studio window. I make abstract paintings that do not necessarily relate to the landscape, yet the work is clearly very informed by my surroundings.
Kim Sloane, Copake, NY
My work is oil paint on panel. The aim of my work is movement. It is movement across the surface and in and out of depth. I try to extend or expand the poles or potential endpoints of the movement to opposing points such as light and dark (black and white), color and absence of color, figurative elements and abstract strokes or signs. I am always influenced by my surroundings, and my space is mostly a landscape space, which I hope has a feeling of light and air.
Joseph Stabilito, Hillsdale, NY
I create acrylic paintings on canvas, normally large scale, with roots in abstract expressionism, typically super charged with color. I started out with purely color field paintings, as I consider myself a colorist at heart. From there the work got more personal, and I explored mark making, inventive shape-making, and gestural swirls. I began layering objects and images over backgrounds that were highly textured. I pour excessive layers of paint on built-up backgrounds of plaster and foam to achieve work that is highly dimensional.
Linda Stillman, Hillsdale, NY
I make mostly abstract work on paper: collages with dried leaves and drawings using flowers as my pigment and I also take photographs of the sky. My work is increasingly focused on the natural world but still conceptually based and often geometric in form.
My flower gardens, our trees, and the sky are my inspiration and the subject of my work. Each day I take a photograph of the sky in a long-running project called Daily Skies. And I am collaborating with the sun to make cyanotypes, solar prints.
Guy Walker, Hillsdale, NY
I make 3 D mixed media objects, painting, and drawings on paper as well as oil on canvas. As my interest in music has deepened over the years, from high volume sound to low listening levels, it has profoundly influenced my visual language. Hillsdale provides the ultimate quiet atmosphere for listening to music at low levels. I am currently exploring tempera and encaustic paintings on paper. •
“The Hills Have Eyes: artists of Hillsdale + neighbors” will run July 1-30, Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5pm. On view for extended hours during Upstate Art Weekend: July 21-24, 10am-6pm. LABspace was founded and directed by artist Susan Jennings from 2014-2018 and has been the curatorial project of artists Ellen Letcher and Julie Torres since 2018.
To learn more, you can visit LABspace at 2642 NY-23, Hillsdale, NY, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit online at labspaceart.blogspot.com.
Rylan Morrison, One Day, 2020, acrylic on found photograph, 8 x 11 inches