The ides of March spawned a remarkable confluence of art and artists in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Two exceptional exhibits opened that evening that were marveled at by crowds of fascinated people, in spite of occasional white-out blizzard conditions.
“The Past Through the Eyes of the Present” opened at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts and will be on display through April 12. I’m not sure who initially had the idea for this, but I know artists Parmalee Tolkan and Tim Fortune sent out the letters that invited artists to participate. The subtitle of the show is “Barry Collection Photos Re-Imagined by Modern Artists”. The story behind the show is that in the early 70’s, Dr. George Hart, who was present at the exhibit opening, was at the town dump when someone was about to dispose of a large number of old glass plate negatives.
Over 8,000 of them were rescued and most had been created by photographers involved with the Lake Placid Club. Now known as the Barry Collection, the images range from sports and family activities to wildlife, people in costume, x-rays, and even bodies in coffins! The Collection had been gifted to the Lake Placid Center for the Arts and they passed it along to the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society.
As a way to draw attention to this marvelous collection of historic images, thirty artists were invited to come browse through file upon file of prints, choose one, and then reinterpret it in their own way. The results are amazing. Some were very literal, such as a tall, elegant Victorian woman transformed from black and white to color in a pastel painting.. Several landscape artists, myself included, selected views they liked and rendered them, each using their own own style and technique. Some photographers picked views and accurately recreated them. One piece shows the dramatic transformation of Lake Placid from a farming village to a modern resort town. Other artists allowed their photo choices to more indirectly inspire a new work of art. A body in a coffin, resulted in a composition of multiple surreal images about what might come after death. There is a “Cubist” rendition of early 20th century golfers out on the course. A detailed Victorian room interior became a large painting, complete with a mysterious figure, that invites the viewer to enter and make up a story about what can be seen. A photo of people dressed up in Native American costumes (which now look kind of silly), inspired a series of beautiful pieces of jewelry. A photo of a child bundled up on a sled ended up as a painted wood carving. The exhibit is a rare combination of talented artists who either literally brought old black and white photos to life, or who transformed them into unique, new works of art that express a myriad of emotions or draw the viewer into developing their own interpretations. Those familiar with some of the artists will recognize their “style”, yet others stepped beyond what they customarily produce and created exciting new pieces. It is worth making the effort to come to Lake Placid for this show.
The Annual Juried Show, up through April 17 at the Adirondack Artists Guild Gallery, on Main Street in Saranac Lake, also merits a visit. Held every year for 15 years, the Annual Juried Show is always a fine collection of work produced by area artists. This year it is exceptional! Professor and painter Bill Crosby, retired from SUNY Plattsburgh, was the juror and from 171 entries submitted by 71 artists, he selected 81 pieces for the show. The area the show draws from has expanded every year as the reputation Saranac Lake is cultivating as an “arts destination” continues to grow. Artists from as far away as East Greenbush, Ballston Spa, Johnstown, Northville, Kingston and New York City joined those from nearby communities and submitted entries. So when a juror has to narrow down the selections by more than half, limited by the size of the exhibit space, the quality of the exhibit also increases (as does the number of works that have to be declined, unfortunately). Some may call this “the year of the photograph” because they dominate the awards, but the walls of the gallery are filled with works in all sorts of different media and style.
First place went to a magnificent candid photo taken by Malone artist Jon Chodat. Like the photos in Lake Placid, it will draw the viewer back in time, but surprisingly is a photo recently taken. Second place was awarded to a strikingly beautiful aerial photo by Lake Clear artist John Griebsch of a patch of sunlit trees on “Cascade Mountain”. The 3rd place award, went to “Ausable River, Wilmington Notch”, by Potsdam photographer James Bullard. Subject matter, composition, color and detail, and the mood expressed by each of these outstanding photos are unique, yet all 3 are of very high quality. Honorable mentions went to painters Shawn Halperin, Lake Clear, and Catherine Hartung, Morrisonville, and photographers Jeri Wright of Wilmington and Mark T. Ellis of Saranac Lake. In contrast to the “Past through the Eyes of the Present” theme in Lake Placid, there is no evident theme in the Juried Show. It is simply a fine representation of what contemporary artists in the Adirondack region, and beyond, are producing.
The Artists Guild also invites all who attending the opening reception, as well as all who have not yet been to the gallery, to come see the exhibit and vote for a “People’s Choice” award, which will be presented at the close of the show.
In addition to these two remarkable exhibits, there are gallery talks scheduled at each one. Caroline Welsh, former director of the Adirondack Museum, will give a talk on “Adirondack Art” , Wednesday March 20 at 7 pm, at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, 17 Algonquin Dr., Lake Placid, 518-523-2512. Regular gallery hours are Tues-Fri, 10 – 5, as well as when the building is open for other events.
On Sunday March 24, juror Bill Crosby will talk a 2 pm at the Adirondack Artists Guild, 52 Main St., Saranac Lake. 518-891-2615 for more information. Gallery hours are 10 – 5, Tues-Sat, and 11 – 3 on Sun.
Photos: Above, Fabric Collage by Cris Winters, Saranac Lake, for the Barry Collection exhibit at the LPCA; and below, Jon Chodat, of Malone, 1st Place Award.