In my humble opinion

When it rains

By JONATHAN CHARLES FOX
Posted 4/13/22

So, with Passover coming up this weekend, I just assumed that I’d write a column about it, but quickly realized that during my tenure at the award-winning River Reporter, I’m fairly sure …

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In my humble opinion

When it rains

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So, with Passover coming up this weekend, I just assumed that I’d write a column about it, but quickly realized that during my tenure at the award-winning River Reporter, I’m fairly sure I’ve covered the subject more than enough. Let’s just leave it at the definition I found on the Google, which states that “Passover, also called Pesach, is a major Jewish holiday that celebrates the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, which occurs on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, the first month of Aviv, or spring.”

In other words: matzo ball soup, Moses, plagues, a lot of food, more wine than usual, kids running around the house shrieking and blah, blah, blah. If you want more, by all means check out one of the many articles I’ve written about the holiday in the past, but for a good overall view, read my 2019 piece titled “Passover for Dummies” in the link below. ‘Nuff said.

Instead of doing the same old, same old, I made a deal with Dharma the Wonder Dog. “If it’s not pouring out Saturday morning as predicted,” I said, “we’ll go hear the artist talk and check out the Catskill Art Society (CAS) current exhibition at the Laundry King,” its adjunct space in Livingston Manor, NY.

She wagged in agreement, while I secretly prayed for rain, hoping instead to lazily stay home and just write another boring piece about Moses freeing the slaves and then spending 40 years wandering through the desert eating unleavened bread. Forty. Sounds “old testament” excessive, in my humble opinion.

Sure enough, the clouds parted just in time for me to give in, so I heaved a sigh and grabbed my camera, with little to no preparation for what I was about to see other than the info online, which informed me that artist Derick Melander “creates sculptures made from second-hand clothing that explores the intersection between global consumerism and the intimate relationship with what we wear.” Hmmm. “These works often take the form of columns, walls and enclosures,” the press release continued, “typically weighing between 800 pounds and two tons.”

Intrigued, I drove off under sunny skies, but as I pulled into the Manor the deluge began in earnest and I didn’t even want to get out of the car. I sat it out for a few minutes (we were early as usual) and ducked inside to ask CAS executive director Sally Wright if she was willing to provide (conspicuously absent) chairs for myself and the dog and if I could come in early and snap some shots, after moaning (for dramatic effect) about it being a 50-mile round trip.

“That is a schlep,” Sally commiserated, and was happy to arrange seating and early entrance. That seemed to encourage others to immediately follow suit, somewhat oddly with their dogs also in tow. That surprised me, as did the artwork itself—which is, indeed, intriguing.

In the words of artist Melander, who was on hand to explain his process and answer questions, the main installation, titled “The Witness,” is “made from wood and thousands of second-hand garments, sourced from New Yorkers. The title,” he said, “refers to the collective act of living through COVID-19 and is a tribute to those who perished. The installation,” he added, “asks the viewer, ‘What did you witness?’”

I was impressed to learn that Derick has shown his work in San Francisco, Chicago and New York City, along with international exhibits in Hong Kong, Paris and the Netherlands. The wall space allowed Melander to also display some of his drawings and paintings, but it was the gigantic ever-changing wall of fabric that held my gaze. I learned that it’s formed of many panels and that he changes the patterns constantly. So the casual observer can find it different each time one visits the CAS installation, which is housed at the Laundry King, 65 Main St. in Livingston Manor.

“The Witness” will remain on display through April 23.

I was glad that the change in weather had forced me to live up to my promise to the dog, and of course by the time I was ready to leave, the torrential rain had abated altogether.

“Well, that was interesting, wasn’t it girl?” I said as I flung her into the car and began the trek toward home. By the time we reached White Lake it began to pour once more, so I guess my trip was “beshert”—which in Yiddish (my sole tribute to Passover) kinda, sorta, means “meant to be.” At least it didn’t take me 40 years to find the house.

To learn more visit www.derickmelander.com or find him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Fun Fact: According to www.myjewishlearning.com the plagues referred to in the story of Passover are: “water turning to blood, frogs, lice, flies, livestock pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and the killing of firstborn children.” Also somewhat excessive, imho.

As promised: to learn more about the upcoming Jewish holiday, you can always re-read www.riverreporter.com/stories/passover-for-dummies.

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