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.

Scenic Hudson 50 Years

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The fiftieth anniversary of Scenic Hudson was celebrated yesterday with a magnificent exhibition in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall. Twelve outstanding photographers from the Hudson Valley contributed their work that (to quote from the special brochure) “resonates with the organization’s mission and major achievements while also addressing the complex conservation challenges on the horizon.” The variety of content and artistic approaches displayed by these photographers was amazing–a tribute to the IMG_1721 sbeauty and sublimity of the Hudson Valley landscape and to the challenges that face Scenic Hudson in ensuring that this beauty and the ecological health of our region are preserved for all the future.    I would imagine that not since Robert Glenn Ketchum published his book The Hudson River & the Highlands has any photographer consistently documented, in an artistically compelling way, those conservation challenges the way Susan Wides and other artists in this exhibition have done. Susan’s work is inspired by the Hudson River landscape painters of the 19th century, and let’s not forget that the founder of the Hudson River School, Thomas Cole, is considered one of the first spokespersons for the American conservationist movement.

And then there are the photographers who speak eloquently by capturing this beauty so as to remind us of what a treasure we have and, by implication, what we stand to lose if we don’t act with foresight.  As always, Beacon-based Robert Rodriguez Jr. is a very great favorite of mine, and I sometimes visit the RiverWinds Gallery there to treat my eyes (and my soul, dare I say) to his work on display.

Scenic Hudson is responsible for some sixty parks that they have created or enhanced, and I’m grateful to Metro-North Railroad, and toIMG_1725 s the fine-art photographic paper company Canson Infinity, who donated the paper on which the photos were printed, for bringing to the attention of the thousands of commuters who pass through Grand Central Station’s portals each day the fact that it’s Scenic Hudson they have to thank for so many of the places that they likely visit and enjoy on weekends. Just to name a few that I’ve actually visited: Burger Hill, Esopus Meadows Preserve, Foundry Dock Park, and Walkway over the Hudson. And in visiting their website I was delighted to learn that on Thursday October 24 they celebrated the opening of the new park at the West Point Foundry Preserve at Cold Spring. Rest assured, I’ll be blogging about this historically significant site before long.

Mountaintop Historical Society Holds Archives Day

One of the older buildings on the MTHS campus in Haines Falls

The Balladeers were delightful to hear.

The weather for this year’s Mountaintop Historical Society’s Open House–called Archives Day this year–could hardly have been more different from 2011, when the lashing rains of Hurricane Irene arrived right in the middle of the events. Now, Saturday August 25 was bright and sunny, perfect weather for this annual outdoor event. The 77th New York Regimental Balladeers gave stirring and thoroughly enjoyable renditions of Civil War-era songs, the MTHS archives were on display in the Visitors Center for all to see, and well-known local geologist Dr.

Local historian and author John M. Ham poses with his latest book. The quality of the B&W photos in this one is amazing.

Robert Titus presented a highly informative (and illustrated) lecture on the geological aspects of Hurricane Irene. Far from being information for information’s sake, what Dr. Titus had to say was vital knowledge for town planners if similar disasters are to be avoided in future.

I encourage you to check out the MTHS by visiting their website. Located in Haines Falls along Route 23A, the MTHS campus is easy to find and a delight to visit. They frequently offer interesting programs, including hikes. If you live near the area or enjoy driving

Cheerful, dedicated volunteers serve food!

through Kaaterskill Clove (or up the scenic Route 214 to the west), I think you’ll enjoy the MTHS. Why not become a member?

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