Monday, March 12, 2012

Edward Babbage: The Story of a Phat Boy

This is a story about a fat guy. In this politically correct and hyper-sensitive world (a Utah School District recently rejected the students’ choice of mascot―cougar―because it might be offensive to middle-aged women!), some of you might already be reaching for your keyboards to send me a nasty message for being so thoughtless. But if I can’t refer to him as fat, I couldn’t write this piece.

I’m pretty sure he knew he was obese, as did anyone who ever met him. But if there was ever any doubt, one could always refer to his professional name: Phat Boy. (Imagine … a name like that, 150 years before the birth of Rap music.)

His given name was Edward Frederick Babbage, the son of John and Frances Babbage, who emigrated from England in the early 1800s and eventually settled in Rochester, New York. Among their five children was a pair of twins, Edward Frederick and Edwin Francis, born in 1841, about 20 miles west of the city. Early on, Edward exhibited a propensity for gaining weight. He was considered large at age six, and weighed 200 pounds when he was fourteen.

By his early twenties, Edward had worked as a hotel porter, hotel manager, traveling salesman, museum manager, and glassblower (he was lead agent for a group of glassblowers performing at various venues). After the Civil War ended, he returned to Rochester. A number of veteran soldiers formed a minstrel troupe (again, politically incorrect), and Edward worked successfully as their road agent for three years.

When minstrel performer and organizer “Happy Cal” Wagner needed an agent, he dispatched a telegram to Rochester, but unaware of Edward’s first name, Wagner addressed it to “Phat Boy Babbage.” The nickname became Edward’s public identity, and for the next several years, he traveled across the country, representing various minstrel shows (including Wagner’s) and other performers.

Invariably, at the bottom of newspaper ads and posters touting his events appeared, “Phat Boy, Agent.” Everyone in the business knew him, and Edward became somewhat of a celebrity in his own right, courtesy of his large size, charming personality, handsome looks, and great sense of humor. He was always good for a laugh, and people gravitated to him. (If you caught it, that’s the sort of self-deprecating humor he employed.)

For more than a decade, he traveled to every state in the country (there were 37 at the time), and claimed to have visited every city or town of more than 5,000 residents. His travels included stops in northern New York and southern Quebec, and in the early 1870s, he recognized an opportunity for promotional work of a different sort.

The spectacular scenery of the Thousand Islands area was attracting thousands of travelers, and during the summer months, Edward began working as a tour guide on the water. It was there that he became a North Country legend.

Steamship companies sought his services, and Phat Boy himself became one of the area’s great attractions, holding court while seated in the bow of the boat, and always wearing his two signature items: a felt hat with a large brim, and a diamond pin on his chest. As individual islands were passed, he spouted (there’s another one) their history, interspersed with colorful stories and plenty of humor.

Edward became well-versed on the background of sites from the Great Lakes to Montreal, plus Boston, New York City, the Hudson River Valley, and Lake Champlain. He eventually put it in writing, and for more than a decade, a new version of his booklet appeared each year, with the title changed and the text modified.

One of the later editions was The Phat Boy’s 15 Years on the St. Lawrence River: The People I Have Met and the Things I Have Seen. For 25¢ each, Babbage sold thousands of copies to his followers. He addressed his great size in the text, warning others that being large wasn’t always so great, and that he often couldn’t fit into common spaces designed for average-sized people. As always, the passages were laced with humor.

He also told of encounters with famous people, many of whom had sought him out for his own fame as a guide. Among them were President Grant, George Pullman (of the luxurious Pullman rail cars), Mark Twain, Sir John A. MacDonald (Canada’s first prime minister), and members of various royal families. Others too numerous to mention were captains of industry, including many who owned St. Lawrence River islands that were part of his tours.

For all the references to his weight over the years, Edward carried it well. Unlike in modern times, well beyond 300 pounds was substantial for his era. Yet the consensus held that Phat Boy’s great bulk was dwarfed by his bigger-than-life personality. He was invariably described as congenial, obliging, and very funny.

Which all combined to make him a hit on the St. Lawrence River boat tours. He worked hard to learn the region’s history, an effort reflected in another, more flattering, nickname: the Bureau of Information.

By 1890, more tours and stories were added to his repertoire. From his storytelling perch in the bow, he often referred to his weight as 333 pounds. His wife, also very large, had died a few years earlier, and their daughter was heavy as well. Edward’s twin brother, Dr. Edwin Babbage, was said to have lagged behind him, weighing around 300.

At Alexandria Bay’s Marsden House, on the evening of June 30, 1891, Edward didn’t feel well after a full day’s work and told hotel employees he was retiring to his second-floor room to rest. Though he whistled a tune while climbing the stairs, pain suddenly overtook him. He called out for someone to summon a doctor, and then fell at the head of the stairs, dead. He was 51.

Mourning ensued up and down the shores of the St. Lawrence, and the flags of several boats and islands were lowered to half staff in his honor. Edward’s guidebooks, maps, and some great memories eased the loss, but nothing could replace the man who had spent 18 years on a job he truly loved. Eight months later, his twin brother Edwin, who had been ill, died similarly, collapsing in the streets of Rochester.

Photo: Edward Frederick “Phat Boy” Babbage; advertisement with “Phat Boy, Agent.”

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Champlain Area Trails Spring Travel-Writing Contest

Champlain Area Trails (CATS) has launched its Spring Travel-Writing Contest. “We invite people to write about using the trails, patronizing local businesses, and visiting New York’s Champlain Valley,” said Chris Maron, the CATS Executive Director. “The winner will earn $500. And People’s Choice prize is $250, so it is definitely worth the effort. The top entrees will be on our website and linked to many other websites, making it a good way to promote the Valley and give exposure to writers.”

CATS is coordinating a series of travel writing contests to boost the local economy through outdoor recreation based tourism. “People research vacation destinations online. We want them to see these articles about New York’s Champlain Valley and get inspired to come here, enjoy the outdoors, visit local businesses, and tell others about this beautiful area,” added Maron. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Depot Theatre Welcomes New Managing Director

The Adirondacks’ professional theatre company, the Depot Theatre, has announced the addition of Angel Wuellner as its new Managing Director.

“We are thrilled to welcome Angel into our theatre family,” said George Davis, president of the Depot Theatre Board of Trustees. “She was a standout in the executive team’s national search, with ample industry experience and terrific energy.”

Wuellner has worked in the theatre industry for the past twenty years, as an administrator, stage manager, director, and actor. Most recently, she worked at Actors’ Equity Association in the Auditions Department. She has also worked with The Vineyard Theatre (NYC), Clarence Brown Theatre, Actors Co-op, Tennessee Stage Company, and Smoky Mountain Shakespeare Festival. Wuellner is the founder of PromCon, an organization that collects prom dresses for underprivileged young women. She is a graduate of NYU’s Performing Arts Administration Masters’ Program and of Northern Kentucky University’s theatre department. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Sandy Hildreth: Exploring Adirondack Landscape Art

In 1997 I was fortunate to receive a Summer Fellowship for Independent Study in the Humanities from the Council for Basic Education, part of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For the next few months I will post excerpts from the research, writing, and painting I did for that project.

The broad, former jeep trail ran straight as an arrow, cutting a path through the massive beech and maples of a mature Adirondack forest. While the trail was clear, the woods were tangled with downed trees from the great “microburst” storm of July ‘95 and huge, scattered boulders, the ancient remnants of the last ice age. Soon the trail narrowed and passed through a grove of evergreens, their rusty brown fallen needles silencing my steady steps. To the right, the forest climbed; to the left, it dropped into a swampy area. Now and again the trail veered from its straight course as it followed the uneven contours of the ascent. The dense shade of the green canopy was occasionally broken where the force of the summer wind storm two years ago had snapped hundred year old trees off like they were toothpicks.

It was a hot, humid July day and I had just delivered two of my paintings to the Arts Center in Old Forge. Heading home, since I was in the midst of my Independent Study in the Humanities project, I checked my maps and chose an alternative route, a back road that would perhaps lead to some interesting or scenic place. My study topic was “A Personal Investigation of Contemporary and 19th Century Landscape Painting of the Adirondacks and St. Lawrence Valley”.

The basic question I was seeking an answer to was why had landscape painting suddenly become so popular in 1825, as well as why I have always personally felt so drawn to the land. On that hot July day, with the air conditioner working overtime, I’d actually driven past the small brown trail marker before I skidded to a dusty stop on the gravel road. Backing up, I found the small parking area of the trail head to Black Bear Mountain. While it was only two miles to the summit, it wasn’t even marked on the map in my booklet of short day trips in the Adirondacks.

I’d already made one climb that day, Rondaxe Mountain, but for several reasons, it had been quite uninspiring. It was only a one mile hike, located right alongside a major highway, and it had been crowded. Obviously a popular outing, there were many small groups and families on the trail, and what probably would have been scenic views of the Fulton Chain of Lakes were masked by the haze and humidity of the day. Much of the summit area was barren, open expanses of ancient Adirondack rock, worn down to its current level by eons of glaciers and tens of thousands of years of wind and rain and snow.

It is said the Adirondacks are among the oldest mountains on the planet, once surpassing the Himalayas in altitude. Now, Rondaxe Mountain was not much more than 2000 feet in elevation. The most disturbing part of the hike, however, were the scrapes and skid marks along those bare summit rocks, left by enthusiastic mountain bikers. It just seemed a shame that these rocks had withstood the forces of nature for so many million years, only to be scarred by humanity in less than a generation.

But the trail to Black Bear Mountain was quiet. No other vehicles had been at the trail head, and while it was evident others had used the trail, I met no one. Perhaps it was the threat of afternoon thunderstorms. The easy walk began to climb, twisting around tumbles of boulders and the tangled branches of broken or uprooted trees. Sometimes it went down, always to turn and climb even higher, following now what appeared to be a dry stream bed. I could imagine the rush of torrent crashing over the boulders during the spring run-off season.

Then the trail narrowed further, turned away from the rocks, and climbed steadily through dense spruce and pine. It was now just a foot path, worn through the thin fragile loam of the forest floor to the bedrock below. Gnarled roots grasped tenuously to the rock, and the air was noticeably cooler. Feeling the whispering breeze of open sky, I knew I was nearing the summit area. Is this what it was like for Thomas Cole, the young artist who had hiked into the Catskills in 1825, then returned with sketches to his New York City studio to produce his now famous paintings of the pristine wilderness?

I’d been wondering why it seemed like Americans had waited until then to notice the beauty of the landscape of the New World. My own heart was pounding harder, due to the increased altitude as well as the anticipation of what I would discover at the end of the trail. Winding through small, stunted spruce, I could sense the approach of the summit as there was now nothing but bare rock in front of me. Eagerly climbing it, my breath was taken away by the vast solitude that greeted me.

Directly ahead, across the valley that separated us, was another densely forested mountain, with additional peaks and ridges stretching back, one behind the other, all the way to the horizon. I supposed the tallest, distant ones to be the High Peaks of the central Adirondacks. To the right, the valley and mountains continued unbroken. To the left, the valley spread and opened up to a meandering stream and what appeared to be a beaver meadow. Further on was a second clearing, then mountains once again climbing to the horizon. Nowhere was there evidence of humanity. It was incredible to think this is what Verplanck Colvin had witnessed as he surveyed the Adirondacks for the first time in the 1830’s. A raven glided along the currents above the tree tops in the valley below me, arcing up to circle back towards the rocky cliffs. The silence was only broken by the gentle hissing of the wind in the branches of the pines clinging to the summit rocks. I could have been the only human being in the world.

This was the start of my personal exploration. The painting shown here, “View from Black Bear Mountain,” was based on a second hike up the mountain in late August of 1997.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pendragon Takes "To Kill A Mockingbird" on Tour

The Pendragon Theatre Company tackles yet another American classic with their performance of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” at View in Old Forge on Thursday, March 1st at 7:00 PM—one of several touring performances by the company, following the close of their 2011 season at their home theatre in Saranac Lake.

The Pendragon Theatre secured a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts with additional funds from the Lake Placid Center for the Arts to mount an Adirondack tour of this stage adaptation by Christopher Sergal of the 1960 novel by Harper Lee. The grants allow the company to offer reduced-price tickets to schools wishing to send their classes who may be already studying this classic American novel.

This riveting story of boiling racial tension in the 1930s South as white lawyer Atticus Finch defends a black man accused of raping a white woman in a small Alabama town has as much relevance today as it did when Gregory Peck gave his 1962 academy award-winning performance. The trial takes center stage, but we share the view from the ‘colored’ balcony with Atticus’ two small children, whose innocence magnifies the ugliness of the prejudice and violence around them.

Tickets for the March 1st performance at View, located at 3273 State Rt. 28 in Old Forge, NY, are $20 for adults, $15 for members and $10 for children. For further information contact View at 315-369-6411 or visit their website at www.ViewArts.org

The tour will then go to Main Street Landing PAC: Burlington, V.T. – Friday, March 9th @ 7:30pm, and wrap the following week at the Tannery Pond Community Center: North Creek, N.Y. – Friday, March 16th. Visit the Pendragon Theatre website for more information on these and future performances.

Photo courtesy of Pendragon Theatre from their home performances of “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Linda J. Peckel explores the Adirondacks by following the arts wherever they take her. Her general art/writing/film/photography musings on can be found at her own blog Arts Enclave.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Champlain Area Trails Writing Contest Winners

An independent field biology study turned out to be especially fruitful for both teacher and student. Every week since January 2011, Westport ninth-grader Peter Hartwell and mentor David Thomas Train have been exploring the Champlain Area Trails along shoreline, streams, wetlands, and woods near Westport. Those explorations eventually prompted them to enter the Champlain Area Trails Society Travel Writing Contest.

Hartwell attends the BOCES Special Education program in Mineville. To supplement the Mineville curriculum, he studies several subjects privately—including field biology with Thomas Train. “Peter and I spend time together every Wednesday after school in outdoor science explorations, and we wanted to share what we do and see,” Thomas Train explained. “He is an avid outdoors explorer, with great observation and drawing skills.” And Thomas Train is certainly no stranger to the trails of the Champlain Valley: He is the guidebook author for the ADK Guide To The Eastern Region. “I know the CATS trails well and am excited every time a new one is developed, more open space is protected, and I have a new place to explore!” Thomas Train said. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

RC Oster Historic Architecture Exhibit Opening

An opening reception will be held for “Drawing on our Past: Ink Darwings of New York State’s Historic Architecture,” an exhibition of drawings by David ‘RC’ Oster at View in Old Forge tomorrow, Saturday, February 4 from 5 ­to 7 pm. His works will be displayed from February 4 ­ March 3 concurrently with “Adirondack View Finders” a photography exhibition that showcases top Adirondack Photographers including Nathan Farb, Nancie Battaglia, Mark Bowie, and Carl Heilman.

RC Oster is a self-taught artist who specializes in free-hand ink drawings of regional landmarks and Adirondack scenes. He is particularly well known for his drawings of historic buildings. RC sees these landmarks as “proud reminders of where we as a society have been.” He carefully captures fine details of these buildings from sharp angles that show off the architecture of the building. He seeks to bring further awareness to these buildings
through capturing their fine details.

Stone sculpture by Matt Horner will be on display with both the photography and the ink drawings. Exhibition admission is $10/$5 members and groups of 6+/Children under 12
free. View is a multi-arts center located at 3273 State Rt. 28 in Old Forge, NY. To learn more about View programming visit www.ViewArts.org or call 315-369-6411.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Night of Art, Skiing and Music in Saranac Lake

Dewey Mountain is the subject and beneficiary of a show opening Friday at the Adirondack Artists Guild, in Saranac Lake. The exhibit is inspired by the 2,050-foot mountain southwest of the village. I’m eager to see what the artists come up with.

The north side of Dewey hosts a cross-country-ski and snowshoe center by winter. The rest of the year it’s an in-town place to walk, hike and mountain bike. The Saranac River flows around the mountain as it enters the village. Like Pisgah and Baker, two other low peaks bounding the village, Dewey defines Saranac Lake’s topography as well as our love of mountain sports.

Everyone is welcome to a reception hosted by Dewey Mountain Friends at the gallery 5–7 p.m. Friday, February 3. Then please visit Dewey Mountain Recreation Center to ski and hear the Blind Owl Band play at the free Friday Night Ski Jam. Food for the jam is being donated by Blue Moon Cafe.

Each of the Artists Guild’s 14 contributors is donating an original work celebrating Dewey and winter sports. Their show, called “Artés Ski,” will be in the gallery February 3–27. Oils, watercolors, pastels, fiber art, jewelry, ceramic art and photographs will be available for bid in a running silent auction. Seventy-five percent of the proceeds will be donated to a Dewey Mountain Friends capital campaign to construct a new base lodge (disclosure: I’m a shamelessly enthusiastic member).

Dewey is one of my favorite places on earth. In just a few minutes’ walk I can sneak away from it all and be alone on the trail. But I also love how Dewey brings people together–in this latest event, our local artists have found a creative way to celebrate what Dewey means to them. But musicians, civic organizations, schools, local government, restaurants and other businesses—-all work together every year to make sure this little mountain is more than just part of the scenery. The breadth of generosity is inspiring and a hallmark of Saranac Lake.

So if you can, please stop by the gallery, at 52 Main Street, to explore a mountain as muse. The Adirondack Artists Guild is a cooperative retail gallery representing a diverse group of artists in the Tri-Lakes region. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 12–3 p.m. Sunday. For more information see adirondackartistsguild.com or call (518) 891–2615.

Dewey Mountain Recreation Center is owned by the Town of Harrietstown and is located on State Route 3, one mile west of downtown Saranac Lake. Trails (16 km cross-country-ski and 5 km snowshoe) are open daily, and lower trails are groomed for skate-skiing and lighted for night skiing. For more information see deweyskicenter.com or call (518) 891-2697.

Photograph taken during a Friday Night Ski Jam by Burdette Parks, Adirondack Artists Guild.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Exhibits: Still Time for Social Faceworking

As odd as the name sounds – like it must be some kind of misprint from Facebook – “Social Faceworking” is a dynamic, exciting exhibit of the works of 19 creative individuals, with 170 connections between them, at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. It will be on display until February 11.

Organized by Nip Rogers, Lake Placid artist and designer, the main connection is that Nip is friends with all these artists and has created a unique portrait of each one. Each artist has their own exhibit area which includes their own work. The portraits hang throughout the gallery. It’s up to the viewer to make the connections.

Quoting from the exhibit program “with the advent of social networking, it has become easier for artists to come together and share work and inspiration online”. Just think of what these advancements in communication have done for artists. It wasn’t that long ago that working artists often felt they lived and worked in isolation – that’s the stereotypical image of the artist, working away alone in their studio. Probably with weird personality traits and anti-social behavior. When an artist attended an exhibit or hung out in a coffee shop, they might meet and interact with other artists. In between those events maybe they wrote letters or talked on the phone. Or not.

Fast forward to 2012. Artists have web sites where they post images of their work to share with the world – not just discreetly showing their friends at the coffee shop They write and illustrate blogs where anyone can go online and see just exactly what their favorite artist is currently working on. Or maybe you can find a YouTube video of the artist actually at work! Or a Tweet! When I am out plein air painting I often take a photo with my smart phone and post it directly onto my Facebook page – “here is what I’m working on right now”. Artists can have fans and patrons without ever having even met them in person! A finished work of art doesn’t have to wait for the paint to dry, the frame to be put on, and months or years for a gallery owner to propose an exhibit – it can go on display online in an instant.

The immediacy and world wide connectivity that artists have right now is both changing the image of the artist and is probably affecting changes in what they create. Artwork is no longer subject to being hidden away in a closet until the artist is “discovered” – or dies. For artists in the Adirondacks, there is no longer any reason to feel isolated – unless you want to be.

“Social Faceworking” taps into all this connectivity and instantaneous sharing that exists via the internet. There’s even a Facebook page for it! The variety in techniques, subject matter, and style are fun to see and surely will provoke some critical thinking. Participating artists are: Andrew Dehond, William Evans, Brooke Noble, Cal Rice, Carol Vossler, Charles Stewart, CJ Dates, David Fadden, Eric Ackerson, Jenny Curtis, John Ward, Ken Wiley, Peter Seward, Sandy Edgerton Bissell, Sara Mazder, Shaun Ondack, Susan Stanistreet, Vicki Celeste, and Nip Rogers.

The Lake Placid Center for the Arts is located at 17 Algonquin Ave. Gallery hours are Tues. – Thurs. 1 – 5, Fridays 1 – 9, and it’s usually open when there are other performances or events. 518-523-2512.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Adirondack Native, Local, Outsider or Stranger?

A few years ago I noticed a small sign taped to a cash register in a local store. It read “no checks from strangers.” Well, I reasoned, this is a quirky establishment so I smiled and went on my way. Sometime later I was talking with someone who asked me where I was from. I answered and she raised her chin, looked down and replied, “Oh, you’re an outsider.”

I live on a road that is closed this time of year but this morning the automated gate stood open in protest to the cold. Despite the impossible-to-miss “Road Closed” sign, a vehicle drove slowly through. When I stepped out to tell him that the road was closed, he assured me that he was a “native” just out for a drive. Strangers, outsiders, natives – have I stumbled into a National Geographic special about an exotic colonized land?

I’ve noticed that in conversation here in the Adirondacks it is advantageous if you can slip in your provenance,because like any commodity, identity is valued according to lineage, history and ownership. But when does a stranger or an outsider become a local, and where is the line between local and native? And what, in the name of homogenization, is the difference!

Are people subject to the same hierarchy of belonging when it comes to Adirondack identity that we argue over with respect to the plant and animal community? Are we one step away from setting up an invasive species task force to weed-out the outsiders before they take over the landscape?

In an interesting reversal, being “local” has a cache in certain situations but when it comes to weighing in on management and planning decisions “local” can be a liability. To that point, a recent conversation among colleagues (some of whom have lived here for 30 years) focused on how to encourage “locals” to participate in discussions about the future of the Park. The question was asked, “Who among us is actually from here?” As I watched the unanimous shaking of heads I tried to ask why it should matter, but I wasn’t nimble enough to work it in before the conversation got away from me. The reason for my inquiry was simple: I don’t actually think that the question that was asked, was the question that was meant.

After all, if you’ve lived and worked and belonged to a place for 20-30 years could it possibly matter that you were born in Jamaica, Queens? I submit that the intended question was too impolite and indelicate to ask. The honest question among this group of educated professionals was “Who among us is socially and economically disadvantaged such that our circumstances prevent us from feeling empowered to contribute to a discussion about the future of the Park?” Then, in response to what I’m sure would be another unanimous head shake, we could talk about why these types of conversations don’t feel inviting and why a feeling of being a “local outsider” prevents certain people from joining in.

A similar debate rages in the area of “environmental pragmatism.” In short it asks whether wildlife management decisions should be deliberative, inviting a range of viewpoints and perspectives from professionals and laypeople alike, or whether the decisions should be left to specialists with merely a back-end nod at the democratic process that invites comment from the unwashed.

I have heard it said that some opinions are worth more than others. I think that those of us who are empowered either by social or economic circumstance are obligated to do more than to rhetorically toe the liberal party line. And if our objective is deliberative and democratic then no, no single perspective or category of citizen is worth more than another.

Book cover image of The Stranger by Albert Camus

Marianne Patinelli-Dubay is a philosopher, writing and teaching in the Adirondack Park.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

24 Hour Adirondack Student Photo Contest

The Lake Placid Institute for Arts and Humanities is inviting all high school students in the Adirondack region to participate in a visual interpretation of their surroundings in the Institute’s program: “24 Hours – A Photographic Interpretation of Life in the Adirondacks”.

Photos must be taken within the Adirondack Park, from April 14, 2011 through April 15, 2012 and represent one hour of a day in the Adirondack Park. Each photo must be accompanied by a brief description of when, where and why the artist chose to photograph that particular scene or subject.

Entries will be accepted beginning March 1, 2012 and must be postmarked or submitted on-line no later than April 15, 2012. Entries must include the photographer’s name, age, grade, the hour the photo was taken, date taken, location of the photo, type of camera used, and the name of the supervising teacher. Photos must be able to be replicated in 11” by 14” formats. Entries should be sent to: LPI24Hours@gmail.com


Monday, January 16, 2012

Sandy Hildreth: Artist Maps of Saranac Lake

Artists find their way around the world differently than most people. This is clearly evident in “Mapping the Familiar: Artist Maps of Saranac Lake”, which opened last week at the Adirondack Artists Guild Gallery in that village. The exhibit was curated by Jess Ackerson, a young artist, printmaker who lives and works in Saranac Lake. Each artist was invited to interpret the concept of the show in their own individual way – and all the pieces in the show are very unique.

When I find my way somewhere, I am inclined to rely upon visual “signposts” – usually natural landforms. Even in an urban environment, I find myself locating the sun, when possible, so I’ll know which way is north, and I might mark my course by remembering to turn at the big tree on the corner where the road goes uphill rather than the name of the street intersection. This might be evident when a viewer examines my piece in the exhibit because I have no map in it, but I do have many of the views that one sees when in Saranac Lake.

There are several pieces in the show which are clearly maps – but maps interpreted through what the individual artists found interesting. Diane Leifheit’s map is a detailed ink drawing/silkscreen print that depicts the course of the Saranac River and the various bridges within the community, along with hand-scripted anecdotal notations. Peter Seward’s “The Resettlement of Saranac Lake” is “a whimsical depiction of the challenges faced inhabiting a wilderness”. It is reminiscent of the fanciful maps of drawn by early explorers and even has an area identified as “terra incognito”.

Mayor Clyde Rabideau, who once boasted of some interest in the arts, was also invited to contribute a piece. His cartoon style drawing of a map of the community shows the pride he feels in the village and looks like something you might have seen in a 1950’s tourism brochure! It’s title was derived from the locally known Dew Drop Inn and Mr. Rabideau wrote in his artists statement “for many generations, thousands of people have, indeed, “dropped-in” to Saranac Lake and never left, making it their permanent home”.

Some of the other pieces in the show have more emphasis on the “art” and less on the “map” although the village map has worked it’s way into the individual images. Jess Ackerson’s three color reduction lino-cut, silkscreen and colored pencil piece combines the map with other bold images like a rainbow, a compass star and a labyrinth. In her statement Jess wrote “This map is actually a maze. It’s an attempt to describe what it takes to be present while we navigate the transition from past, where there were so many other paths we could have taken, to the future.” Eric Ackerson created a labyrinth of intertwining map and snake forms titled – “A Ransack Illegal Fovea” – which happens to be an anagram for Village of Saranac Lake.

In addition to the 10 artist creations, there is also a large, interactive “Community Map” where gallery visitors are invited to draw and write upon it their special spots or trails in the village.

Find your own way to this unique and thought provoking exhibit – the Adirondack Artists Guild is located on Main Street in Saranac Lake and the exhibit will be up through January 29.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sandy Hildreth Visits The View’s Photo Exhibit

On my way through the Adirondacks, while traveling for the holidays, I stopped at View, the Arts Center in Old Forge, to see “Adirondack View Finders: Farb, Battaglia, Bowie, Heilman”. As I walked through the galleries of photos I kept waiting for one to jump out at me – to say “hey, this is new and different – look at me” and it wasn’t happening.

Don’t get me wrong, this is an outstanding exhibition of photographs. Nathan Farb’s work can take your breath away with the incredible details. Nancie Battaglia is exhibiting some striking sepia tone images. Mark Bowie has some low light nighttime exposures with amazing results and Carl Heilman’s panoramas pull you into the space so much you feel like you are right there with him on a mountain summit. All good – but all things I had seen before.

In adjoining galleries there are additional photographs: “Emerging Views,” featuring works by Johnathan A Esper – who sometimes climbs up big white pines to get some wonderful panoramic views; Leslie Dixon and Clark Lubbs, both of whom are showing lovely, intimate views of the natural world.

Finally, there are photos from an exhibit called “Teacher’s Turn: Instructors from the Adirondack Photography Institute.” Another batch of terrific images from Eric Dresser, Joe LeFevre, John Radigan and Carl Rubino. Here is where my inner spirit was moved. We’ve all seen cute bear cub photos, or monster buck images that make you wonder if the photographer was shooting animals contained on a game preserve. Eric Dresser’s photos seem to just take you to the place – you feel like you were stepping softly through the forest and chanced upon these animals without disturbing them. Not overly cute, nor dramatic, just a beautifully composed, captured moments in the life of wild creatures.

However the photos that made me stop and walk back to look at them again were some relatively small images perhaps in the 12×18” size, by John Radigan. Not dramatic, nor extreme in detail or view, but subtle, soft painterly moments in time. In fact they looked more like paintings than photographs – printed on lovely paper with torn edges. I thought they were something like polaroid transfer prints, but after contacting the artist, he explained that “the series of images for the View exhibit were made using an Epson archival inkjet printer on watercolor stock. The image edges were made manually using Photoshop to approximate edge effects like an acid burn, etc. The paper edges are hand torn. The images themselves were captured using various in-camera techniques such as multi-exposure, long exposure blur and image overlay. No computer tricks were used.”

This photography exhibit is definitely worth seeing for it’s breadth, depth, and excellence. And if the opportunity to wander through the Adirondacks via the captured images of all these photographers is not enough, then consider the sixty-eight pieces of native stone sculptures tastefully placed throughout the galleries by Keene Valley artist Matt Horner. Soft, organic forms of hard Adirondack rock! A final bonus is a slide show in an adjoining gallery of Nathan Farb’s striking images of the devastation of Hurricane Irene. Worth seeing as a reminder of the awesome power of nature. The overwhelming response to this natural disaster cleaned things up so quickly it’s easy to forget how bad it really was.

These exhibits will be on display until January 29 at View in Old Forge. Correction: “Adirondack Viewfinders” will remain on exhibit until March 3. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 – 4, Friday and Saturday from 10 – 5, and Sunday from noon to 4 pm. Admission is $10/$5 for members. 315-369-6411.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Adirondack Carousel: A Moveable Feast

When the Adirondack Carousel is completed it’s going to be a moveable feast for the eyes. Kids (and adults) will love to take a ride on it and surely will pick out their favorite animal. (I always had a favorite horse on the carousel I rode as a child at the Wisconsin State Fair). But besides the traditional thrill of the ride, this carousel is going to be an amazing work of moveable art.

First of all, the carved wooden animals are all unique and all native to the Adirondacks, rather than the traditional leaping horses. Talented wood carvers from all over the country have donated their time to create these animals. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sandra Hildreth: A Local Lesson in Art History

What follows is a guest essay by Sandra Hildreth, a member of the Adirondack Artists’ Guild. The Guild is a cooperative retail gallery with 14 member artists, located at 52 Main St. in Saranac Lake. Gallery hours are 10 – 5, Tues – Sat, and 12 – 3 on Sundays. 518-891-2615.

The current featured artist exhibit at the Adirondack Artists’ Guild in Saranac Lake could easily be a lesson in art history. Nancy Brossard is a well known local artist who lives between Tupper Lake and Childwold. Brossard primarily paints Adirondack landscapes in the tradition of “en plein air” artists, that is, outdoors, on location. Her works interpret the environment in wonderful animated brushstrokes, reminiscent of some of the French Impressionists, but faithful to the Adirondack views they portray.
» Continue Reading.