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Artistic expression: a weekend of wow

The Catskill Art Society (48 Main Street, Livingston Manor, NY) continues to impress with its newest exhibition, “Body Chronicles,” currently running through November 15. Showcasing the work of Valerie Hallier and Joni Wehrli, the gallery hosted a reception on Saturday, October 3 to kick off the new show, and throngs of art enthusiasts were on hand for the event, which began with an artists’ talk.

It’s interesting to have the artists themselves on hand to answer questions and explain their process, but the gallery’s presentation is always consistent in its wide array of installations that speak for themselves, even if the creator is not available to personally describe what makes them tick.

According to the artist statement, Valerie Hallier’s “The Immortals” series “questions our relationship with the world of objects and with the idea of possession. The project catalogs every single object accumulated by the artist over 10 years. From mundane to anecdotal, each object becomes a subject of its own, its mere function transcended by its isolation and dramatization in front of a red backdrop.”

Floor to ceiling, wall to wall, these everyday objects do appear to take on a life of their own, and the exhibit is a fascinating (and visually arresting) peek into the psyche and unique perspective on the artist’s life. Wow.

In the adjoining room, painter Joni Wehrli has found new life for old work. Her statement expresses the ideas behind the exhibition by saying that “These paintings and watercolors are markers of another step in my thinking about bodily movement—and my efforts to get the body’s energetic sheath onto the canvas.”

The new works on display are comprised of older paintings that were originally on stretched canvas, and the artist explained to the crowd that she felt as if she was “liberating” the original pieces from their constraints, freeing them to take on new life, new form and new expression of her current thought processes. The collage’s freeform, fluid movement and vibrant color seem to take on a new life , just as the artist intended, and more “wow factor” was apparently in the air as spectators not only appreciated, but were spied purchasing as well. For more information on CAS gallery hours and exhibits, call 845/436-4227 or visit

Meanwhile, at the North American Cultural Laboratory (NACL) in Highland Lake, NY, more “wow” was awaiting, with the premiere of Mike Geither’s newest play, “Self Portrait at County Fair.” The NACL has produced a visually alluring, riveting and thought-provoking evening of theatre that (in my humble opinion) should not be missed.

It would appear that the stars were aligned perfectly for this production, since it boasts the many talents of performers Glenn Hall, Sarah Day Hirshan, Ker Wells and Tannis Kowalchuk. Director Brett Keyser leads the audience into the supernatural world of a psychic medium (Wells) who claims that he can speak to the dead—but it becomes increasingly clear that the messages from beyond are not always what the receiver wishes to hearů

What could be perceived as a metaphor for life in the earthly world takes many interesting twists and turns as the audience observes how this information is rejected, internalized, digested and (ultimately) accepted by the characters brought so vividly to life on stage. Each one of the actors had me so convinced, I actually thought that the medium would, at some point, approach me, or other audience members, with real-life messages from the dearly departed.

Supported by the lighting design and technical support of Josh Posten and Zoot (respectively), this play kept me mesmerized throughout, and the enthusiastic audience response confirmed that I was not alone. The play purposely addresses individuals and then brings those separate lives together in a way that binds the audience as well, creating the illusion that we have all truly shared this experience, yet walk away from the theatre with our own individual response.

Emotional, visceral, unique and well crafted, this production has “wow” written all over it and I heartily recommend catching this world premiere while there is still time. “Self Portrait at County Fair” runs through October 12, and one can make reservations by calling 845/ 557-0694 or by visiting their website at .