Mountaintop Artists Liman and Trautman Shine in Ridgewood

That area of the Northern Catskills known as the Mountaintop is home to heartbreakingly beautiful scenery, gorgeous summer days, inhospitable winters–and an amazingly active colony of artists and crafters. I’ve written about photographer Francis Driscoll in these pages (and will be doing so again) as well as crafter and antiques dealer Cindy Smith. Now, as a lover of the Mountaintop I’m pleased and proud to report on a wonderful exhibit by Mountaintop artists Peter Liman and Sheila Trautman in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

Sheila Trautman poses near her work.

Sheila Trautman poses near her work.

The exhibit is called Oil and Water Do Mix, and Peter (an oil painter) and Sheila (a watercolorist) demonstrate successfully the truth of that statement. Despite their using two different media for their paintings, their work does blend well. I wonder whether it has to do with the sense of place they bring to their work and, with that, their obvious love for the places they paint. Reading the captions to each painting was almost as much of a delight as seeing the paintings themselves. Of course, a number of the paintings depict scenes in the Mountaintop region,

Peter Liman with one of his paintings

Peter Liman with one of his paintings

and I felt privileged to recognize those; perhaps not many in this New Jersey venue could say that.  Bergen County has its own lively arts scene, and, although these two gifted artists are no strangers to the area (Peter is now resident there),  it’s nice to think of the people in northern New Jersey who are seeing Peter and Sheila’s work for the first time.

Oil and Water Do Mix is at The Stable Gallery, 259 North Maple Avenue, Ridgewood, NJ, easily reached off Route 17. The gallery is open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 4 pm, and the exhibit runs until January 31, If you can make it, do get to see it; it’s more than worth it.

Guests at the reception enjoying the art

Guests at the reception enjoying the art

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Don’t Miss Mike Bennett’s Radio Memories

Mike Bennett bookDon’t Pay the Ransom, I’ve Escaped. Beginning right with the title you know this isn’t going to be a “serious” book — which is to say that the author, WHUD radio personality Mike Bennett, has the gift of not taking himself too seriously. This is a valuable asset when you live your life as a highly exposed local celebrity, and Mike has a hilarious take on what it’s like to be recognized when you’re trying to enjoy a meal in a local restaurant.

For those of you who don’t know, Mike Bennett is the co-host, with Kacey Morabito, of Mike and Kacey in the Morning on the Hudson Valley radio station WHUD. This award-winning duo is about to celebrate 14 years together playing “one great song after another,” presenting the news, traffic, and weather, and running contests with prizes ranging from New York State lottery tickets to vacations in the Bahamas.

As the book’s subtitle explains, Mike’s book recounts his Memories of a Life on the Radio. But that’s not all. It includes his brief but brilliant stint as a freshman at Orange County Community College — from which it ought to have emerged right then and there that Mike had the gift of gab–, his lightning career (that’s how fast it went) as a real estate salesperson, and, told with his delightfully self-deprecating humor, his brush with formal training as a broadcasting professional.

Someone like Mike Bennett doesn’t emerge suddenly and unexpectedly like Venus springing fully formed from the head of Zeus, and so we also learn about the important things that went on at his alma mater, Monroe-Woodbury High School. Here the lens widens to give us a broader context of life in the Hudson Valley as Mike recounts how the students would sprint across Route 32 to a cow pasture in which there stood a large tree — large enough for the students to hide behind and smoke without being caught by the school authorities. Where that cow pasture and that tree once is now Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, one of the world’s largest shopping centers, the presence of which makes for (in Mike’s words) some “truly awful traffic jams.” I dare say I speak not only for myself when I say I fervently wish it had remained a cow pasture.

We also get several insights into what goes on behind the scenes during the WHUD morning show, including the grueling task (!) of interviewing famous celebrities.

My personal favorite is about the brief exchanges with the contest winners. Here I learned that they actually tape and edit the segment while the music is playing — we’re not hearing it live. Good to know. I always wondered how they avoided some infiltrator yelling out “WXYZ!” to Mike’s closing question, “What station makes you a winner?”

You can’t claim to be the Voice of the Hudson Valley without putting in your fair share of community service. Mike and Kacey each make valuable contributions here,

Here I am with Mike and Jim at Fran's Hallmark in Monroe.

Here I am with Mike and Jim at Fran’s Hallmark in Monroe.

both on and off the air. Outstanding is their annual stint broadcasting from the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital as a fundraiser for this incredibly competent and compassionate facility. Mike also partners with meteorologist Jim Witt, whose  long-range weather calendars are sold to raise money for the Hope for Youth Foundation. In the closing weeks of the year Jim appears at various venues to personally sign and sell the calendars, and I recently caught up with Jim and Mike together, signing their calendar and book respectively, at Fran’s Hallmark in Monroe. By the way, it’s not too late to buy this lovely calendar — you get not only Jim’s long-range weather forecasts but also a year’s worth of great Hudson Valley photos.

Closing question: Kacey, when are you going to write your radio memoirs?