Kingston Offers Fine Introduction to Artist Jervis McEntee

Jervis McEntee (1828-1891) was one of the second generation of Hudson River School artists. Born in Rondout (Kingston), he painted many scenes of Kingston itself (which serve as interesting records of how the town was developing) and of the surrounding countryside, areas that will be especially familiar to anyone who knows present-day Ulster County between Routes 28 and just north of Route 212. In particular, it was a painting entitled Mink Hollow that sparked my interest in wanting to see the exhibit currently on display at The Friends of Historic Kingston (FOHK) Gallery on Wall Street, Kingston (just opposite the historic Dutch Church).

A portion of the exhibit space devoted to McEntee

A portion of the exhibit space devoted to McEntee

Although McEntee traveled farther afield, particularly to areas of New England that were starting to increase in popularity among vacationers as well as artists, most of the paintings in the FOHK exhibit depict the general area of Kingston and the Catskills. Not all the paintings, however, are titled with their exact spots, which raised two questions of personal interest to me: (1) Do any of the paintings with, e.g., the word pond in the title in fact depict Cooper Lake?  (2) Did McEntee paint any scenes from the Esopus Valley villages that were later flooded to make way for the Ashokan Reservoir?

The exhibit space provides ample information about McEntee’s life, including photographs, so that the FOHK have arranged a most admirable introduction to this Hudson River School artist who is not one of the best known (he did apprentice briefly with Frederic E. Church), though he did do an excellent job of depicting scenes in this particular area of the Catskills and their foothills.

I have only one quibble — a minor,personal quibble from someone who dearly loves that area of the world: The exhibit ends

These tombstones are in the yard of the historic Old Dutch Church, across the street from the FOHK Gallery.

These tombstones are in the yard of the historic Old Dutch Church, across the street from the FOHK Gallery.

with McEntee’s painting The Doge’s Palace (Venice), and I couldn’t help wonder what was the motivation behind including it. Stylistically it jars with the other work and (to this paranoid observer, anyhow) it almost seemed an apology that the artist had painted so many scenes of woods and streams in this (then) somewhat obscure area of the New World.

Kudos are due to the Black Dome Press for publishing a superb exhibition catalog, Jervis McEntee: Kingston’s Artist of the Hudson River School. The catalog contains not only beautiful reproductions of all the paintings and other visual material in the exhibit, but also two excellent essays by Lowell Thing and William B. Rhoads, respectively, for those who want to deepen their knowledge still further.

Just up the street, Uptown Coffee is a great place to enjoy a snack or lunch after you've seen the exhibit.

Just up the street, Uptown Coffee is a great place to enjoy a snack or lunch after you’ve seen the exhibit.

The FOHK exhibit of McEntee’s work runs through October 31, 2015. For anyone who still can’t get enough of McEntee’s work, a still larger retrospective will run at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art in nearby New Paltz from August 26 to December 13, 2015. So if you want to have your own McEntee festival, you can plan to see both exhibits on the same day (the Kingston venue is open on Fridays and Saturdays); they’re separated by just one exit on the Thruway. I’m hoping the Dorsky retrospective will include some of McEntee’s paintings of the New England coast.

Want a Catskill Treat? Go “Out Windham Way”

Last weekend I treated myself to a trip to Haines Falls — specifically, to the campus of the Mountain Top Historical Society, where I could enjoy a much-needed walk and take some photographs and then enjoy a presentation in the renovated historic train station that serves as the MTHS headquarters.

Out Windham Way coverThe presentation by Larry Tompkins was in itself worth the entire trip to the mountain top from the Lower Hudson Valley. Larry recently published a book entitled Out Windham Way, and his talk — illustrated by slides from the book — brought to life the history and people of the Northern Catskills community of Windham and the surrounding communities, such as Hensonville, Ashland, and Prattsville.

In her Foreword, Lori Anander, editor of the Windham Journal, observes that history is most often thought of as events such as “world wars, economic upheavals, royal successions, and political transformations” — and then she insightfully points out that “sometimes history can be as simple as a postcard.” That perfectly sums up the purpose and the methodology of Out Windham Way, for in his book Larry Tompkins, a lifelong Windham resident, bases his history on the dizzyingly extensive collection of photographs, other visual material, and oral recollections he has amassed from generations of families who have called this part of the Mountain Top home for countless decades. Larry is just that kind of person — the kind whom these people entrusted with their personal memories and their visual memorabilia, which he has turned into this informative and entertaining history.

Larry Tompkins is an engaging speaker and writer. I usually dislike such cliches as “page-turner,” but that was my experience in reading Out Windham Way. Also, in this day and age when so many authors are going in for self-publishing, it’s a feather in his cap that Larry chose instead to submit his manuscript to the prestigious regional publisher Black Dome Press and have it accepted and published by Black Dome’s editor and proprietor, Steve Hoare. The result is a book that’s a verbal and visual delight, both for the quality of the reproductions of this very old historical material and for the attractive layout.

Larry had his book for sale at his talk, but I imagine it’s also available at local shops both along Route 23 and Route 23a — and of course, Route 296! It can also be purchased directly from the publisher and on amazon.com.

And now here are a couple of the photographs I took that day at the MTHS campus.

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This is on the path that leads from the MTHS Visitor Center to the Headquarters where the events are held.

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These two are from the cemetery where the Haines family members are buried. Note the name “Haines” on the obelisk.

Emerging Young Artist Steve Dolan Debuts Hunter Exhibition

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Steve Dolan is a worthy successor to the Hudson River Painters — so much so that this New Hampshire native, when he first visited the Mountain Top area of the Catskills, was so taken with it that he decided to move to Hunter and pursue his passion for painting the spectacular (his word) scenery he found there. Now his long hours of creativity have come to fruition in a new exhibit at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts Gallery, Main Street, Hunter. Entitled “Atmospheres of Hunter and Beyond,” Steve’s exhibit features a generous selection of his paintings mostly from the region around Hunter but also a few from the White Mountains of his native New Hampshire.

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You can read an interview with Steve on the Catskill Mountain Foundation’s website and learn more about his background and what inspires him as an artist. The Hudson River Painters are clearly an influence — I thought particularly of Thomas Cole and especially some of his more “fantastic” (my word) paintings.  But let me not waste time trying to describe Steve’s extraordinary work — I took a couple of quick photos when I stopped in last week just after the show had been hung, and I hope they will OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAgive you some idea of his approach to his art, but most of all, I urge you to go and see his show. It’s at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts Gallery between now and July 5, with an opening reception this Saturday May 30 from 2 to 4 pm and an art talk on June 20 from 1 to 2 pm.

Click here to read the details, including the interview with Steve and information about opening times. “Atmospheres of Hunter and Beyond” — don’t miss it.

Will the Cold Spring House Survive Another Winter?

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Every now and then my camera and I take the road up to Tannersville to document the changes in the historic Cold Spring House, a once glorious and popular vacation resort that has been abandoned to go to ruin.  If you read OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmy post of September 25, 2014 you’ll see that the two photos at the bottom of that post show the right wing of the building as it looked at that time.  On December 26 I drove up there with my son, Anton, who had never seen Cold Spring House before, and I was dismayed to see what had happened to it in that short time.  Here are my latest photographs. That right wing has come crumbling down, and the iron staircase outside the building at the top floor, well, it now looks like the iconic “Stairway to Heaven.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was nearly three weeks ago, and the Catskills have had some pretty severe weather again, including very high winds. So, these photos that I took in December may no longer tell the current story.

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Saving Cooper Lake

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Cooper Lake in Ulster County is the water supply for the City of Kingston. It also happens to be an extraordinarily beautiful spot where locals and visitors enjoy walking. Because it is a water supply, it’s off limits to such activities as swimming, boating, and fishing. This somewhat “untouched” feature adds to its appeal.

But now Cooper Lake is under threat. A water bottling company in California wants to buy some 1.75 million gallons of water a day from this Catskills treasure. That means machinery, possibly a chain link fence — whatever, a complete ruination of the lake as we now know and love it. You can read the details at http://savecooperlake.org.

Locals are up in arms. Walk through Woodstock and you’ll see signs and posters in almost all the shop windows. Meetings are held, petitions are being organized.

My own argument for saving Cooper Lake — aside from loathing any project, anywhere, that prioritizes the almighty dollar over all other considerations — doesn’t need words. A picture, as they say, is worth 1,000 words. I’ve photographed Cooper Lake more times than I can count. These are from Thanksgiving weekend.

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Still in need of a Christmas gift? Looking for something that shows off our beautiful region of the globe? Check out our book Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour.

Holiday Happenings in Woodstock

Hello! Sorry for the long absence. It was a busy autumn with trips to northern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island to shoot foliage. Then came a business trip to San Diego. Then Thanksgiving with the snow, and next blog post I’ll share some of the photos I took there of an endangered place in the Catskills.

But for now let’s do a “show and tell” of Woodstock. I drove up there yesterday to have lunch, enjoy a play, and generally walk around enjoying the decorations. Here goes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst, I had a fabulous lunch at Joshua’s and can highly recommend this place — the food, service, and ambience. not to mention the prices! The menu has a strong international flavor, with a number of Middle Eastern dishes.

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Here’s the front portal of the historic Dutch Reformed Church, all decked out in Christmas finery.

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The Rare Bear gift shop looks warm and inviting to potential shoppers. Also, notice the historic marker to the left. Food for thought!

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Here the emphasis is on the historic marker itself rather than on the building. A call to support your local, homegrown businesses, please.

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It may be Christmas, but Woodstock will never let you forget this is Woodstock! Still, when you look at the decorations on display in this shop window, it’s kind of fitting that the birthday of the Prince of Peace is being celebrated.

Finally, about that play I mentioned. They preferred not to have pictures taken during the performance, and I respected that. But I do encourage you to go and see it for yourself, if you can make it to Woodstock this coming weekend. It’s The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge: A Holiday Comedy by Mark Brown and performed by the Bird-on-a-Cliff Theatre Company. It’s funny, it’s not without its commentary on some foibles of modern society, a delight for everyone familiar with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and very well acted by a professional cast. More performances this weekend December 19-21, appropriately enough in the court room of the Woodstock Town Hall. See http://birdonacliff.org.

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If you’re still looking for holiday gifts, or would like to treat yourself to something, please have a look at my Etsy shop for some irresistible specials. My Ashokan Items gallery has some photo prints of obvious local interest at a special sale price plus free shipping (USA only), and my Special Sale Items gallery has a selection of some of my best photos, already matted and framed, at ridiculously reduced prices, mostly left over from summer and fall shows because I need to clear some space around here. These are special prices for you faithful readers of my blog.

Is Nature Reclaiming the Cold Spring Resort?

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It’s easy to find if you turn south at the traffic light just as Route 23A enters the village of Tannersville from the west. Follow the road as it bends to the right and before long you’ll see it looming on your left — the poor abandoned remains of the once magnificent jewel of Tannersville resorts, Cold Spring House. Back in the heyday of Catskill resorts Cold Spring House could boast of being not only the second largest one in Tannersville but also the first one to welcome Jewish guests. Built in the 1890s, it ceased operation sometime just after the middle of the twentieth century.

Nancy_6_5I first photographed the Cold Spring House in August 2013 and have returned three or four times since, to document its appearance at different seasons. And, alas, to witness and document its decline. This past Saturday a delightful motorcycle-riding couple visiting from the Midwest spent a few moments examining the house and grounds, and then, probably assuming that anyone casually crouched at the side of the road over a tripod and DSLR camera must be an authority on things in the area, asked me if I could tell them anything about the history of this house. (It turned out that the nice gentleman had spent a few summers at the Latvian summer camp over toward Elka Park in his younger years.) I told them what I knew and suggested that they could learn more if they googled the name; I knew this would take them to Greene County historian David Dorpfeld’s fine article in the Register Star from two years ago.

Before they set off again (I gave them directions to Lexington in case they were interestedNancy_6_8 in seeing two more ruined hotels) they asked whether I would be posting any of my pictures of Cold Spring House online. I gave them my card, which happens to have three small photos on the front. He pointed to the middle one and asked if that was the same place. Yes, it was. We marveled at the extent to which it has changed — deteriorated — since I took the picture, 13 short months ago. Whenever I tell people I’ve been to photograph it again they will sometimes ask me, “Is it still standing?”  My usual reply is, “It was two days ago [or however long since I was there last] but I can’t guarantee whether that’s true now.” They understand.

Here are some photos from my shoot on Saturday. I wanted to capture the building amid the autumn-colored flora–red, yellow, and orange life springing up among the sad decay of the building. Perhaps you’re wondering whether a place like this harbors ghosts. I can only assure you that if it does, they are friendly, positive ghosts.Nancy_6_10

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Another Good Eating Place in Tannersville

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There is a surprising variety of worthwhile restaurants and cafes along Route 23A between Hunter and Haines Falls. (I say “surprising” because one wouldn’t necessarily expect a rural region of the Catskills to have better eating places than a certain area of Bergen County, NJ with which I’m familiar, and yet such is definitely the case.)  A number of them are in colorful Tannersville, which prides itself on its restaurants and has taken to touting them quite enthusiastically.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATannersville. If you read this blog regularly you’ll know I’m a fan of the Last Chance. But here’s a recommendation for something totally different: Maggie’s Krooked Cafe. It looks quite unprepossessing both outside and in, but on my visit to the Mountain Top last week I decided to try it out and got attentive and friendly service from Violet and the best beef burger I’ve had probably in my entire life. Coming from someone who hasn’t been a fan of beef burgers for many a year, that’s saying something.

Maggie prides herself on using fresh, local ingredients and all food is cooked to order. The extensive breakfast menu features a variety of pancakes — including potato pancakes — along with other dishes. (I’m going to have to try the pancakes some time, although I did warn Violet that my standards for pancakes are very high.)

If you’re traveling through Tannersville, you might want to give the Krooked Cafe a try. It’s on the north side of Route 23A. Oh, and it was written up in Hudson Valley magazine’s restaurants issue in January 2014. So if you hesitate to take my word for it, believe the experts!

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The beautiful sunflower field just outside New Paltz didn’t disappoint this year! Click on the above photo to get to my website, where you can enjoy more recent sunflower photos, which are also available for purchase.

“Light Sensitive” – An Edgy Photography Exhibit Opens in Hunter

To the left, one of Vincent Bilotta's images on a window of the gallery; to the right, some of Dan Burkholder's scenic images

To the left, one of Vincent Bilotta’s images on a window of the gallery; to the right, some of Dan Burkholder’s scenic images

If you like art that’s daring, original, visionary, really pushes the envelope, you shouldn’t miss the new photography exhibit, Light Sensitive, that opened last weekend at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery in Hunter. Carolyn Bennett has brought together three amazing artists, all of whom know one another, live within a few miles of one another (two in Palenville and one in Catskill), and are as different in their approach to their art as you can possibly imagine. What’s more remarkable is that all three are photographers — this exhibit pushes the limits of what photography can do beyond anything I’ve ever seen.

Dan Burkholder describes his working methods to some gallery visitors. One of his images is on the wall.

Dan Burkholder describes his working methods to some gallery visitors. One of his images is on the wall.

Dan Burkholder is at home in both the traditional and the digital darkrooms and uses his skills to create hauntingly exquisite scenes of the surrounding Catskills area as well as further afield (images from Italy were particularly compelling). His style is distinctive and consistent. I knew Dan originally through the West Coast photographer William Neill, who is unarguably one of the greatest living photographers of the scenic world. You can’t get a better recommendation than that.

Vincent Bilotta with more of his images in the background

Vincent Bilotta with more of his images in the background

Vincent Bilotta’s work is colorful and striking. Some of his images in this show are actuallymounted on the windows of the gallery. If that strikes you as something akin to stained glass, you’re on the right track: his current art project is a “Catskills Chapel” devoted to the “great [scientific discoveries” of the last 500 years.”

Dawn Potash poses with two of her creations

Dawn Potash poses with two of her creations

Fawn Potash is the most experimental artist of the three, combining medical imagery, satellite photography, and botanical studies to produce a series called Bodies of Water Close to Home. She explained to me how she saw resemblances between leaves, for example, and the systems in the human body, and how she  created artworks to bring this out. I couldn’t help thinking of the writings of the medieval naturalist and theologian Hildegard of Bingen.

Light Sensitive is open through approximately the end of September. Be sure to stop in at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery and have a look.

Lots to Celebrate on the Mountain Top

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Counting up money for the 50/50 at MTHS

Counting up money for the 50/50 at MTHS

Sunday saw two anniversary celebrations among the arts community on the Mountain Top. In Haines Falls, the Mountain Top Historical Society threw a party for its fortieth anniversary.  Ice cream, cake, lemonade, and ice tea were offered for our enjoyment, and top-notch music from the fifties performed by the Rhythm and Blues Band ensured that it was great fun to “twist gain, like we did last summer” — or perhaps more summers ago than I care to count…. Earlier in the day, Larry Tompkins gave a presentation on historic Windham. Alas, other commitments meant I had to miss this, but MTHS President Cyndi LaPierre assured me that it was well attended.

The Rhythm and Blues Band does their thing

The Rhythm and Blues Band does their thing

The MTHS has the friendliest, most dedicated, and most knowledgeable people you can imagine. Stop into their colorful headquarters the next time you’re driving along Route 23A — you can find details on their website — and while you’re there, check out my photography exhibition “Natural and Historic Landscapes,” open through Labor Day weekend!

Enjoying the festivities at the TAAC

Enjoying the festivities at the TAAC

The other celebration was taking place in Tannersville, where the Tannersville Antique and Artisan Center was celebrating the first anniversary of being in business. The place was alive with well-wishers, and I also met some of the regulars whose work is for sale there, including photographer Francis Driscoll and local historian/author John Ham. Rick Thomas has done a superb job of bringing together gifted regional artists and collectors to a bright, friendly venue where you’re sure to find something you’ll want to buy, for yourself or for a gift.

In Hunter I stopped into the Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery for a preview of a truly

A glimpse of the new show in Hunter

A glimpse of the new show in Hunter

eye-opening photography show that’s opening this weekend. Carolyn Bennett is always on the lookout for interesting artists to showcase, and this time she has managed to find three photographers whose work really pushes the envelope as to what can be done in the medium. Palenville’s Dan Burkholder I’ve been familiar with from Facebook and his website and was glad for this opportunity to see some of his fine work “in person.” While I was there I met Vincent Bilotta, also from Palenville, who was busy hanging his portion of the exhibit. The third photographer is Fawn Potash from Catskill and I look forward to being able to study her work more closely.

The opening reception for “Light Sensitive” is this Saturday August 16, 2 to 4 pm at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery, Route 23A in Hunter. Hope to see you there!