Goodman, who I first learned about through some of our best contemporary abstract painters in and out of the area, takes on inner hurts and fears and renders them into a terrible beauty, as the poet William Butler Yeats would have put it, in ways reminiscent of the similarly daunting artist, Francis Bacon.
“Through the process of painting myself, my intent is to extend the parameters of my specific personal issues to reveal and comment on basic universal emotions and conditions,” she says of what she does. “I want to remove the veils between myself and the viewer, and communicate the palpability of needs met, of needs unmet, of needs never met, of rage, of fear, of vulnerability, of aging, and finally of mortality. My work is about reality, not irony.”
Goodman, who originally hails from Detroit, has been the recipient of major solo shows in New York and elsewhere, including Boston’s influential Nielsen and the City’s Littlejohn Contemporary, Pam Adler, Kouros and Robert Steele galleries. She has been the recipient of multiple New York Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts awards and has long been known for the seriousness of her self-portraiture, but also the adeptness of her actual paint-to-canvas skills.
She says that her latest works — completed since settling full time into her Birch Creek home last year after 20 years of weekending (and home repairs) — deal with two tragedies...the death of her partner’s son, from illness, as well as the passing of a beloved cat who’d been her companion for ages. The mourning process led to a decision not to return to New York, for once, and a winterizing of Goodman’s Upstate studio, where she started wrestling her latest paintings to life last November.
“I started taking voice lessons with Maria Todaro and joined the choir,” the artist says of her life up here. “But the basic aloneness of the studio was familiar. It’s just what you do. The difference was that instead of looking out my window at crappy Bowery views, I was now looking out at trees and snow.”
There had long been an element of silent voices, of herself trying to sing, in Goodman’s work. But somehow, this seems to have taken new voice in her latest works. There’s more space, and yet more blockage being worked against, and through.
She paints self portraits that are stark, literally naked, expiating inner worlds, yet in a meticulously detailed method that accommodates a massive amount of art history. Monolithic shapes play against teensy figures. Washes of color, or stacked paintings, loom over rooms, or at times even faces. Entire worlds of thought come into play.
“My work is about life: the really good times, the really bad times,” she says of her powerful work. “I paint a lot about loss because painting it is the only way I know to move through it. I paint a lot about the feelings of not belonging. I paint about what makes me sad, glad, angry, peaceful, hopeful or defeated. I paint about life as it ebbs and flows: openly, honestly and from my heart.”
She’s also, now, teaching classes in her local Pine Hill Community Center’s Kids in the Kaatskills program. And starting to ready herself for re-entering the studio.
“What will I do next? Does any artist really know,” she repeats the question, noting what a boost this past show, and its dozen plus sales, has been for her. “I’m not in the same place I was. There’ll definitely be a shift. I’m as curious as others who have asked me this.”
How nice to think Brenda Goodman will be making her changes here, now.++
For more on this artist, and her current exhibition open at John Davis Gallery in Hudson through Sunday, August 15, visit www.brendagoodman.com.
Pro-peace, not anti-war
It seems every artist and musician in the area’s going to be involved in at least part of the Varga Gallery’s biggest late summer bash yet, the massive Woodstock World Peace Project 3 Days of Art & Music combination of individualized peace signs, endless musical concerts, and an environmentally-keen inner courtyard installation on upper Tinker Street this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, August 13-August 15.
Designed partly to acknowledge “the role of Woodstock as a pioneer in the peace movement” but largely as a means of channeling a whole lot of leftist worry, outrage and other forms of energy in a positive direction, Gallery owner Christina Varga is describing her latest “project” as a means of holding a “Love-In in the small field directly next to the gallery” where “musicians, poets, bards, speakers, activists and the like will be on stage all day and into the night to manifest peace around the globe.”
“This is not an anti-war event!” she specifically notes, enlarging the scope of what she’s shepherding. “It is a pro-Peace celebration.”
At the core of the new show, visually, will be wildly embellished and artistically-messaged wooden peace symbols, made by James McColgan, each measuring 2 feet in diameter without added adornments.
Centering the three day event will be over 30 bands and acts from town, the area, and as far away as New York, all co-coordinated by Chloe Valentine and Emily Tretter of the Human Revolution. Things kick off at noon each day, running until about 9 p.m., with stage, speakers and other equipment all donated by the wildly enthusiastic crowd Varga has easily added to for this event.
On Friday, a six band line-up starts with Johnny Asia and Gus Mancini and includes guitar maestro Ted Orr, Kodi Drummer and the Dharma Bums.
On Saturday, music begins at noon with an eleven act line-up including the Gypsy Jazz Gang, Eddie Fingerhut, IS, Don Sparks, and Deep Chemistry; then settles into two hours of courtyard music by New York City’s Margret Avery from 6 p.m.-8 p.m., during the weekend’s official Art Reception.
On Sunday, music again starts at noon with a dozen acts including Peter Head and Paul McMahon, Hollow Dog and Doug Yoel, Nick Martin and The Human Revolution.
Three key New York City artists in the area for the summer, painter Peggy Cyphers, sculptor Ruth Hardinger, and provocateur Christie Rupp, were hard at work all week redoing the gallery’s courtyard with a collective piece they’re calling “W.A.T.E.R. 911 The Garden of Eden,” involving paintings of aquatic creatures in danger of extinction from hydrofracking, mounds of ropes and discarded objects, and images of the tortoises now disappearing because of the Gulf Oil Spill.
Inside the galleries, over 80 peace signs, still coming in as of press time, were going to be interspersed with work from Varga’s gallery collective of artists, as well as a solo show by event co-producer Chloe Valentine.
A “spontaneous parade” involving instruments and everyone carrying peace signs and art from the Village Green to the gallery, located up Tinker Street next to the newly renamed Upstate Cinema, is also expected to occur Sunday morning, August 15, “Possibly” between 11 a.m. and noon, when the music starts.
“Everything will then stay up through September 6,” Varga continued. “After that, I’ve been talking to area businesses about putting the peace signs up in local stores through the next month or so.”
Varga stepped away for a second as new art came in for hanging and Hardinger started unloading her sculpture materials. All corners of her world seemed happily thrumming, creatively energetic, and actually manifesting something peaceful, albeit occasionally frantic.
“Keep it busy busy busy,” Varga said. “I love doing one of these special projects each August. Probably won’t do this again, but we’ll be doing something same time same place next year.”
For more on all that’s going on with this weekend’s Woodstock World Peace Project, just head over to the Varga Gallery at 130 Tinker Street Friday, Saturday or Sunday, August 13, 14 or 15, anytime from noon to 9 p.m. For more information call 679-4005 or visit www.vargagallery.com
Connecting to nature
Judy Abbott, who’s been a key — if quiet — player in all things artistic throughout the region for 40 years now, combines equal amounts of dedication in both her field studies and final studio work. The results are meticulously detailed paintings that capture a sense of an artist’s wish for order as much as they invoke the beautiful cacophony of nature.
Abbott has spoken at length about how she could be happy housebound to her Woodstock-area property, given she had the proper supply of oil paints, birch plywood boards, fine sable brushes and unused credit cards to smooth the primed surfaces she creates her exquisitely-detailed and emotionally rich landscapes on.
And yet as often as she paints the mountains, fields and moonscapes from her Willow-area home overlooking Route 212, her work returns to scenes in Hurley and on Greene County’s Mountaintop, as well as to the canyons, buttes and rich skies of the American Southwest, which pieces have been her most recently shown in the area…up until now.
“I have a deep connection to the natural world,” she has said of what keeps her painting, and new means of capturing all she finds luminous and reflective of ageless High Renaissance beauty in landscape. “I find something spiritual in what’s around me.”
Abbott has a new show of local works opening at the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development’s Erpf Gallery in Arkville this Saturday, August 14. She’s also just been named the first-ever recipient of a new regional arts award, The Jean Arnold Foundation for Women Artists’ 2010 Women Artists’ Award of Excellence, for her just-completed series of Catskill Mountains landscapes entitled, “Pakatakan: Paintings of Spirit and Place,” created over the past year and a half.
“A key to my process of painting is the initial involvement of exploring and sketching the land,” Abbott has said of these works, in a press release accompanying news of her new award. “Underlying my work is the powerful spirit of place that is so strongly evident in the mountains and valleys of the Catskills. One valley, in particular, has captivated my imagination, and this series of paintings has grown from my close observation and experience of this place called Pakatakan.”
That valley, she has noted in the past, is where her forebears came from. Her mother’s kin were tied to all the old families of the Margaretville and Roxbury, Spruceton and Halcott areas and when she first moved from a farm in southern New Jersey, and her education in painting at the Philadelphia College of Art, she looked up what was left of her old ginseng-hunting uncles and farmer wife aunts.
The Pakatakan that she refers to in her latest exhibition’s title is a Munsee-Delaware place-name for the East Branch of the Delaware River and surrounding flatlands, particularly between present day Arkville and Margaretville…where the gallery she is showing in is located. The catalogue she has put together to accompany the show includes archeological information and histories relating to the populations of American Indians who lived in the region as far back as 10,000 years, as well as copies of the unpeopled but richly informed paintings themselves.
As for the newly formed family foundation, it honors former Woodstock resident Jean Small Wexler and her artistic writings under the nom de plume, Jean Arnold, and has been put together by her son Andy Mele and daughter-in-law, Lisa Rainwater, a former director of the Catskill Center.
“My mother’s passion for a variety of issues always played out in her artistic endeavors,” said Andy Mele, the Foundation’s chairman. “For her, the arts served as a medium to explore the difficulties of our modern world. It was her belief that through such exploration, individuals and society as a whole can reflect on and correct the wrongs of the past. Judy Abbott’s work exemplifies this belief.”
Jean Sigsbee Small Wexler (1921-2010), writing as Jean Arnold, was the author of three novels. The Foundation named in her honor will provide a Women Artists’ Award of Excellence annually to a women writer, painter, sculptor, and/or filmmaker whose work involves women artists of color; sexual violence and oppression; racism and xenophobia; and/or the environment. The annual Women Artists’ Award of Excellence will be announced each summer and no unsolicited applications will be accepted.
“Pakatakan, Paintings of Spirit and Place “ by Judy Abbott, will open with a reception 2 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday, August 14 in The Catskill Center’s Erpf Gallery in Arkville, then stay up through October 31. The exhibit is being presented in partnership with The Roxbury Arts Group. Immediately following the reception on Saturday there will be a social drum celebration with members of the Red Feather Singers and the Cloudbreaker drummers.++
The Erpf Gallery is located in the Victorian Catskill Center building at the corner of routes 28 and 30 in Arkville. For further information call 586-25611, or visit www.catskillcenter.org.