in my humble opinion

Just call me artsy-fartsy

By JONATHAN CHARLES FOX
Posted 4/14/21

For those of you new to the area, have no fear. Art is alive and thriving here in the mountains. Granted, none of us have been visiting galleries recently, but they dot the landscape throughout the …

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in my humble opinion

Just call me artsy-fartsy

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For those of you new to the area, have no fear. Art is alive and thriving here in the mountains. Granted, none of us have been visiting galleries recently, but they dot the landscape throughout the Upper Delaware River region and are cautiously reopening their doors like the buds delicately greeting us as spring presents its first tendrils.

There, that sounds kind of artsy-fartsy, right? I don’t know all that much about art, even though I have studied it for decades and written about it extensively over the years. I was once even described as “an expert in my field” by someone on the board of the New York State Council on the Arts, but I won’t divulge their name to save any future embarrassment.

Truthfully, I don’t know any more or less about art than the average Joe, and as for what is good or bad? Well, they say that “art is subjective.” To that point, art historian, critic, writer and author of “How to Read Paintings,” Christopher P. Jones states that “subjectivity in art is the word we use to explain how different people can respond to a work of art in different ways.”

 He goes on to say that “it is based on personal opinions and feelings rather than on agreed facts. A painting might be ‘beautiful’ to one person and ‘ugly’ to another,” he claims, “but the material object remains unchanged.”

Little wonder, then, that I’m considered “an expert.” Literally anyone (even me!) is justified in their response, or lack thereof, to art as a whole, and that, in my humble (personal) opinion, is how it should be.

Wait, you want the short story? Well, I went to Narrowsburg, NY last week and looked at some art. My first stop was at the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (DVAA) on Main Street, which is showcasing the work of two very different artists. On the ground floor, Paul Plumadore’s exhibit, “Paper Trail,” comprises more than 70 pieces, the majority of them described as “hand-cut paper montage.”

I was simultaneously intrigued and unsettled by many of his images, all of which are insanely intricate in detail, meticulously crafted and somewhat darkly thought-provoking. I’m fairly sure that the ornate frames are a part of Plumadore’s artistic vision, and that one could view his pieces grouped from a distance, or individually, each providing a different “experience.”

How’s that for an artsy-fartsy opinion? When I looked at the program after the fact, I read that Plumadore describes his collages crafted from “found prints and photographs” as designed to “shock and disorient the complacent mind,” so I guess I wasn’t that far off the mark. And my mind is apparently “complacent.”

Upstairs, the paperwork describing Phyllis Bulkin Lehrer’s show titled “Inside/Out” states that Lehrer “envisions the local region in imagined and observed landscapes on constructed canvases.” She is further quoted as saying that “art has the potential to take the observer away from their usual self-conscious frame of reference and illuminate the perspective so that they see themselves in relationship to the world around them from a more holistic and universally inclusive point of view.” Sounds kind of artsy-fartsy to me, and I’m not sure that I grasped Lehrer’s intellectual interpretation, but art is subjective, after all. Go. See. Then tell me what you think.

I was relieved to feel slightly less challenged around the corner where the Narrowsburg Union “proudly exhibits art created by local and visiting artists on a year-round, six-week rotating schedule.” Curator Krystal Grow was putting the finishing touches on their newest exhibit, “Sullivan County Illustrated,” which “celebrates the work of artists and illustrators living and working in the area, and the debut issue of a quarterly ‘zine’ of the same name, produced by LJ Ruell.”

 Grow’s description of the exhibit states that “with artwork ranging from intricate scenery in pen and ink to vivid renditions of otherworldly characters, comics that celebrate the beauty and absurdity of daily life, and the sweeping fantasy of classic romance novels, the exhibition celebrates the art of illustration in all shapes and styles and features works by LJ Ruell, Rocky Pinciotti, Terry Milk, Sharon Spiak, Donald Belsito, Josh Kessler, John Terhorst, Tim Devereaux, Xeth Feinberg, Jane Axamethy and Julia Lenihan.”

While getting a “sneak peek” just prior to opening day, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Ruell, who was busily assisting Krystal, and we chatted about his zine, which I found to be utterly charming; it illustrates his everyday life with his dog, Marv, at his side, and their adventures in the mountains. I introduced him to the Wonder Dog, and she licked him in approval, something she never does with me. Each issue will cover “a few different stories of their goings-ons [sic] between the Delaware River and the Catskills Mountains” Ruell’s program notes explained. His illustrations made me feel all warm and fuzzy. Is that the definition of “complacent”? Maybe.

All in all, there’s a lot to look at, even more to contemplate and a little bit of something for everyone, not only in Narrowsburg, but in the vast array of art galleries that beckon on both sides of the river. With COVID-related restrictions firmly in place, and concern for artists and observers like myself, the galleries are making it possible for all of us to visit, peruse and safely view art in all forms, and for that I am grateful. I’m no expert, but I dare say a visit to your local art gallery will be time well spent.

What does the Google say? “Art, in its broadest sense, is a form of communication. It means whatever the artist intends it to mean, and this meaning is shaped by the materials, techniques and forms it makes use of, as well as the ideas and feelings it creates in its viewers. Art is an act of expressing feelings, thoughts and observations.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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