Athens CC Hosts Special Paintings of Special Places

I’ll open by quoting the first sentence of the Greene Land Trust‘s Mission Statement: “The mission of the Greene Land Trust is to preserve and protect significant natural and cultural resource in and around Greene County, New York.” And I’ll add that they do superb work in this regard. The GLT owns or manages eight properties in Greene County that are of outstanding natural and ecological importance and scenic beauty. A significant part of their work consists in partnering with other local organizations to the mutual benefit of both for the sake of furthering their mission.

In the history of the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, the contribution of landscape artists in showcasing the beauty of this area has been invaluable in raising the consciousness of the importance of caring for and preserving this land. From the time of Thomas Cole (1801-1848), founder of the Hudson River School, until the present, painters and, more recently, photographers have worked tirelessly to share the beauty of our mountains, forests, rivers, and valleys with an appreciative and discerning public. This would scarcely have been possible without the venues — the galleries and other outlets — that have made their spaces available to display these artistic creations.

Now, right here in Athens, the Athens Cultural Center is hosted the third Seasons of Greene exhibition, showcasing the work of the region’s finest painters, who have contributed their paintings of the GLT-owned or -managed properties, offering them for sale to benefit the Greene Land Trust. The success of the first Seasons of Greene in 2017 (the brainchild of James Coe, GLT’s Secretary and a gifted artist) led to Seasons of Green II in 2021 and now Seasons of Green III, featuring paintings by thirteen artists, some of whom are new this year. Space doesn’t allow me to discuss or show a painting by each artist, but I’ll present a few whose paintings could be photographed without the interference of reflections and paintings of which I remembered to get the title and the artist’s name (when you’re trying to do this at a deservedly crowded opening reception, it’s not as easy as it sounds!). Thus, nothing to do with favoritism, just, really, chance.

You don’t have to be an art critic for the New York Times to realize that these photos don’t do justice to the paintings or their creators. The exhibition runs until October 23 and gallery hours are Fridays 4-7 pm, Saturdays 12-6 pm, and Sundays 11-2pm at the Athens Cultural Center on Second Street, a block from Athens’ lovely Riverfront Park. Don’t miss it.

Ken Wilson, who is new to Seasons of Greene, does some really exciting work with textures. A photograph is an insufficient attempt to convey this aspect of his work, but if you’re able to attend the show in person, you’ll see and appreciate what I mean. Ken may be new to the GLT shows, but the list of places where he has exhibited is impressive and hopefully he’ll continue to exhibit in Seasons of Greene.
This intriguing painting is a striking departure from what I consider the usual trajectory of Scott Balfe’s always magnificent work (he virtually channels Thomas Cole, if I may say that without suggesting that he is imitative). It’s small in scale — 5 x 7 — and his usually subdued, meditative colors have given way here to a fiery look. Kudos to whoever hung the show, this painting by Scott was imaginatively displayed.
Marlene Wiedenbaum is no stranger to Seasons of Greene, and this spacious, pastoral scene makes me grateful for that. Marlene is a highly noted pastel artist whose works have been shown all over the country; she has been featured in several prestigious art journals, and she teaches at the Woodstock School of Art. If you can get to the show in person, be sure to look for her magnificent Flegel Barn. Trust me, you can’t miss it!
Jay Brooks is another of the new artists to be welcomed to GLT. A native of Genesee County who grew up on farmland, a love of landscape and a keen sense of the bucolic come naturally to him. His Seasons of Greene debut was auspicious — one of his paintings was the first one sold at the show!