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.

The Stunning Photography of John P. O’Grady

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A really remarkable exhibit entitled “Catskill Remains” featuring the photography of John P. O’Grady has been showing at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts center in Hunter since April. It closes on Sunday May 17 and I only just had the opportunity to see it on May 10. If you’re anywhere near the area before it closes, I very strongly recommend going to have a look.

What’s good to say about Mr. O’Grady’s work? Consider this:

  • He’s a Renaissance man — an author, a historian, a man with an amazing variety of interests. This informs his work. Obviously a highly intelligent man with his own very personal starting point for his photography, he refreshingly avoids both the “trendy” and the self-conscious attempt to be superficially “original.”
  • Having said that, I must say that Mr. O’Grady’s photos are unique and original, but not gimmicky. No, never gimmicky, either in composition or in technique,
  • Speaking of technique: He doesn’t speak about it. At least, he doesn’t mention f-stops, focal lengths, shutter speeds, equipment, or postprocessing software in a recent interview for  the Catskill Mountain Region Guide, and you’ll be hard put to find anything about it on his website. http://www.tuckabold.com/  His photography is out there to inspire you, to make you think, and he doesn’t get hung up on explaining to you how he did it.
  • I found this intriguing: Many of the titles of his images both are and are not “about” the central focus of the picture. For example, the one entitled Olana. If you know just where Olana is and that it’s on the height on the opposite side of the Rip van Winkle Bridge from Catskill, you’ll see it — but he seems to defy the convention of titling a picture after some obvious feature.

All the images in this show are in black and white, in plain black frames with white matting. And very modestly priced. In this day and age when one tires of looking at consciously trendy photography, I was extremely gratified to see how well received Mr. O’Grady’s work is. How did I know that? By the number of tiny green “Sold” stickers on so many of them.

The quickly snapped photo at the head of this post shows you something of the layout. It doesn’t do justice to Mr. O’Grady’s pictures at all, so you’ll just have to go and see for yourself. You’ll be glad you did. “Catskill Remains,” Kaaterskill Fine Arts center, Route 23a, Hunter. This is by far the finest exhibit they’ve had there in a long long time.

“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!

Cultural Happenings in Prattsville and Hunter

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It’s been nearly three years since Hurricane Irene devastated Prattsville. Driving through there on Sunday I noticed some all too obvious signs of the destruction in the form of homes that were so ruined, their owners are likely to have abandoned them never to return. The Zadock Pratt Museum, cultural gem of Prattsville, is slowly recovering from the damage it sustained, thanks to the indomitable spirit of  group of dedicated people.

The Museum was originally the Homestead of Zadock Pratt, who founded the town named after him in the 19th century. Pratt led quite an adventuresome life: New York State militiaman, soldier in the War of 1812, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, founder of what was the largest tannery of the world in its time.  He built the town of Prattsville to accommodate the huge labor force needed to operate his tannery.

The Pratt Museum was dedicated to preserving Zadock Pratt’s papers and belongings and a wealth of other material that told the story of life in this part of the Northern Catskills in the 19th century.  Then came Hurricane Irene. The Museum was inundated with flood waters, and just about everything in it went floating down the Schoharie Creek. Thanks to the diligence of Carolyn Bennett (director of the Catskill Mountain Foundation) and many other dedicated people, most of the material was recovered. But it was, of course, soaking wet, and is now in a deep freeze awaiting a day when they can afford to thaw and restore them. During my visit on Sunday, Suzie Walsh, who now manages the Museum and is incredibly knowledgeable about everything to do with Zadock Pratt, the Museum, and the history of the town, showed me the marks where the water had reached in the house. It’s a wonder there is anything left.

But they don’t give up. They are still using the premises for cultural events. This year there is an exhibit titled “The Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings of D.F. Hasbrouck, American Impressionist (1849-1979).”  What an amazing feat of organization went into amassing this exhibit of works by Dubois Fenelon Hasbrouck–they came from all over–and how beautiful and varied they are. Pay your $5 admission fee and Suzie Walsh will give you the tour and share all she knows about this undeservedly rather obscure artist.

After leaving Prattsville I headed to the Doctorow Center for the Arts in Hunter, where, under the auspices of the Mountain Top Historical Society, a new film about the Catskills was being premiered. Titled To Be Forever Wild, the film is the brainchild of David Becker, a gifted young filmmaker from Saugerties. This was another astounding feat of organization, recruiting and managing the cast and other workers and dealing with an intimidating mass of administrative work. To Be Forever Wild is available for sale on DVD and will also be broadcast on PBS beginning in August or September. Kudos to the Mountain Top Historical Society, and especially to Drs. Bob and Johanna Titus, for sponsoring the premiere of David Becker’s fine work.

Now about my upcoming events:

Ed IMG_2513 sSaturday July 26 at 2 pm in the Golden Notebook, Tinker Street, Woodstock: I’ll be giving a talk about the making of my book The Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour. Come hear my talk, see the exhibit of my photography (it’s for sale, and books will also be for sale, which I’ll be glad to sign for you), and support this wonderful independent bookstore right here in the Catskills.

Sunday August 3 from 2 to 4 pm at the Mountain Top Historical Society, DSC0003 ed blogRoute 23a, Haines Falls: This is the opening reception for my photography exhibit, Natural and Historical Landscapes. Come and join us! All artwork, and some extras, will be for sale throughout the show, which lasts until after Labor Day. The Visitor    Center is open weekends 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons 1-4 p.m.

I hope to see you soon!

St. Mary’s of the Mountain Church, a Historical-Cultural Landmark

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I enjoy photographing historic buildings and have lately gone in search of the ones in and near the Mountaintop region of the Greene County Catskills. Some I’ve discovered simply by wandering around, some from the classic book Picturesque Catskills, and some have been suggested by Carolyn Bennett of the Catskill Mountain Foundation in Hunter. I’m particularly grateful to Carolyn for having put me on to Saint Mary’s of the Mountain Church, right down the road on Route 23A in Hunter. Built in 1839, Saint Mary’s of the Mountain is the oldest Catholic church in the Catskills. It served the Irish and German immigrants who settled in the Catskills to work in the tanning, cotton, and lumber industries.

DSC0025 sThe Diocese of Albany, in which Hunter is located, closed the church in 2002 and planned to demolish it. Fortunately, a group of local citizens banded together to save the church, and in 2011 the diocese transferred the title to the Village of Hunter.  Saint Mary’s of the Mountain is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The unforgiving Catskill weather hasn’t been kind to this historic church and it is sorely in need of repair and restoration. The committee is actively raising funds to ensure that this beautiful historic landmark can be restored and preserved. I will be adding my own efforts to this project, but meanwhile I wanted to share with you a few of the photos I took during a recent visit. It was toward the end of May and fresh snow had been falling on the top of Hunter Mountain–real snow, not fabricated ski snow–a glorious day!

Please consider making a contribution, even a small one, to the church restoration project. Check out their Facebook page or send checks made out to “Village of Hunter St. Mary’s Fund” to PO Box 934, Hunter NY 12442. Every little amount adds up. Every little amount brings this historic church closer to the day of its former glory.

Also — great news! — our book Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour is now available!

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Lively Arts Scene on the Mountaintop

On a recent Sunday afternoon I drove up to the Mountaintop region of Greene County—the villages along Route 23A—to check out what was happening, especially since some interesting art events were available. My first stop: XTreme Barns and Beyond, an exhibition of photographs by Richard Schepper at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts Gallery in Hunter. Be prepared to be surprised; intrigued; to wish the photographer were there so you could ask, “But how … ? Why … ?” Whatever — you will definitely not be bored. A gifted photographer of nature scenes both stunning and serene, Richard Schepper pushes the envelope when it comes to walking (or blurring) the lines between photography and painting. Don’t miss his show; it closes October 28.  Kudos to the gallery and director Carolyn Bennett for hosting this challenging exhibition.

My next “art” destination was Catskill and Thomas Cole’s House, but first I stopped in Tannersville to enjoy the colorful buildings on Route 23A. Tannersville is the mountaintop place for restaurants. This picture shows Susan Kleinfelder’s Rip van Winkle “Breast Cancer Awareness” statue outside the Tannersville General Store, one of many artistic renditions of ol’ Rip in  “Rip Lives 2012,” the third annual such event sponsored by local Mountaintop businesses.

The Thomas Cole Historic Site was holding its annual open house, always a good time to enjoy free admission to Cole’s house and studio (including the special exhibition of the year) and a variety of entertainment and other activities for all ages.  I interviewed Thomas Cole himself (a.k.a. Catskill Mayor Vincent Seeley), who was gratified to see such an enthusiastic turnout and amazed to learn that he had such a thing as a Website. The 2012 special exhibition features landscape paintings by 19th-century artist Louis Rémy Mignot. Mignot produced a variety of masterpieces in his tragically short life; having just seen Richard Schepper’s daring exhibit in which several of the photos looked more like paintings (Braque came to mind), I was now face to face with a painting—Mignot’s  View Across the Valley of Pierstown —that could well have been mistaken for a photograph. Art is amazing. And here are some photos from the event: