Visual Arts

Another Fine Foray in Beacon

Painter and master teacher Basha Maryanska hosted another excellent International Artists Residency at The Red Barn during May in Beacon, NY and, as always, it did not disappoint, displaying 13 artists with a broad range of superb talent. Maryanska, as curator and driving force behind the residency and exhibit, likens herself to an accomplished conductor who blends the visual aspects of each artist’s work into an integrated whole as a joyous cornucopia of artistic invention—an entire symphony of broad tone, narrative storytelling and emotional release. Selecting the artists is a six month process and choices of participants are partially based on her wide artistic knowledge, her own visceral reactions to the pieces, built on a deeply expressive foundation of brilliant color. Her philosophy, that art mirrors life in all its diversity and majesty is formidably displayed in this outing in this bucolic Hudson town.

Virginia Donovan, Kathryn Hart, Basha Maryanska, Neela Pushparaj, Mietko Rudek and Ilona Wojciechowska, returning participants, were joined in the show by newcomers Amanda E. Gross, Eva Lachur, Dorota Michaluk, Jack Rusinek and Esther Sternberg along with Maryanska’s students Arlene Robin and Annie Vallamattan.

Virginia Donovan’s painting boldly evolved from the last year’s work in an experimental stenciled piece, along with a wall hanging of painted canvas, where she intuitively applies multiple layers of sensuous blues and muted greens under scraped azure tinted blacks and bright yellows. She entitled it “Big Blue,” perhaps as a sly reference to her years working for IBM. Donovan lays down pigment on a large canvas placed on the floor like an athlete following through, using her whole body in the act of painting. The final effect is a vision of water rippling over the painting’s surface—Donovan expressing her emotions with new freedom and finding a fresh and exciting path in the work. Kathryn Hart lends her formidable talents to the show by exhibiting low-keyed abstract photographs of ancient animal bone; an extension of her “Searching” series of work on display in numerous galleries in New York City during May and June. The photos of bleached bones in these pieces are one-time occurrences, never to be repeated, where the sculptor transforms reminders of mortality into sensuous, unexpected, mysterious markers of eternal energies.

Floral watercolorist, Neela Pushparaj, currently participating in a one-woman show at Jadite Gallery in Manhattan, ventures into new areas in her watercolor, “Nature’s Flow,” with leaves floating in waves across the page, contrasting their warm fall colors with cool mossy areas indicative of the changing seasons. The painter’s splattering and splashing of water paint, a departure from her more tightly realized floral paintings, brings luminosity to the work, the dappling creating abstract passages of personal autonomy with color brushstrokes cascading across the work’s surface. Her piece, “Come Walk in My Garden,” painted in Poland, depicts green leaves as a frame for rich blooms, contrasting detail with dreaminess.

Photographer Mietko Rudek plays a key behind-the-scenes role in this exhibit, as his skills as a commercial artist allowed him to provide the publicity materials for the show along with giving us the opportunity to enjoy a series of New York and Paris photos of rich atmospheric color. This indispensable participant exuberantly interprets these two cities in all their beauty of metropolitan light.

Another returning exhibitor, Ilona Wojciechowska, presents her painted interpretations of Manhattan in new abstracts of the lower part of that island, juxtaposing delicate details of buildings with large abstracted geometric edifices. She also displays a significant wall hanging of the militaristic tragic history of Poland in collaged photo prints on the canvas with color choices as those found in the Polish flag. This piece’s seriousness is tempered by her inclusion of whimsical small fiber sculptures in homage to Picasso’s and Miro’s treatments of line and form.

New to the residency this year, Eva Lachur shares with us her prodigious talents in costume design and painting with examples of award winning work done for the Actors Shakespeare Company. At the Red Barn her costumes include dresses for a dark Queen Gertrude, a sweet Miranda and a simple Phoebe. Complementing her work as a designer of vision are three paintings in egg tempera on wood where swirling and beautiful thick natural dye colors are almost sculpted into the surfaces; the greens of the paintings glittering from subtle touches of gold leaf in sparkling celebration of nature.

Amanda E. Gross, also a newcomer to the residency, provides the viewer with a series of small paintings of birds in phantasmagoric colors, along with a tree almost scarily anthropomorphic where bark knots become intimations of a monster’s maw thus underscoring the beauty and terror of the natural world. The artist also shows her illustrative skills with psychologically tinged portraits of people, imbuing clever humor in them and presenting a worldview free of pomposity through a lens somewhat askew.

Dorota Michaluk, an artist residing in France, is inspired by myth and history while showing elegant graphics, as they are reminders of the age of chivalry where noble ladies were ensconced in medieval castles. There is a dreamlike quality to her work with fleet-footed winged Pegasus, jockey astride, urging the horse onward over the castle’s parapets. Could it be the rider is the lady’s Perseus charged with rescuing his Andromeda from harm? The artist leaves her work open to intriguing interpretations.

Also exhibiting first time at the residency is sculptor Jack Rusinek who came from Poland to the United States when he was ten years old and is now the scenic designer for the current Broadway production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The work shown here in Beacon includes large fantastical pieces, the results of his use of resins, polymers and paints in their construction. His tall indoor sculpture, “Ice Bloom,” made of urethane foam of rivers of blues and greens, is reminding me of a fantastic mushroom. He also displays a crazily realized credenza holding more of his sculptures in miniature.

Colorist painter Esther Sternberg channels Chagall, Monet and Van Gogh in the compositions and pigment choices of her luxurious pieces, applying paint directly from the tube, moving the viewer’s eye across the pieces’ surfaces in bright strokes of hue. Her rendering of a feather in her work has great significance for her as it is symbolic of her memory of her late husband whom she saw in a dream, after his death, where he was writing on papyrus with a quill pen. In real life, feathers float through the air quite often and randomly around her and she sees this as a spiritual sign that her husband still watches over her. Sternberg truly is an artist of deep awareness.

Basha Maryanska also showed artwork by two of her students, Arlene Robin and Annie Vallamatton. Robin, a nurse and art therapist, has been studying with Maryanska for one year and Vallamatton, four. Robin’s work is of small abstract expressionist studies, what her teacher calls art blueprints, assigned to Robin to free her up for larger works. Using a small palette knife and brushes, Robin creates small gems of which Willem de Kooning would have been proud. Vallamattan began as a self-taught artist, blossoming under Maryanska’s tutelage and resulting in participation in this residency by showing a striking India ink detailed semi-abstract portrait of a bearded man with glasses—the young artist successfully bringing out the serious demeanor of her subject.

The entire marvelous event would not have been possible without Basha Maryanska, an accomplished expressionist painter who at the residency provides the viewer with another dimension of her talents in large fiber wall hangings that she humorously names, “shmatas.” Maryanska uses eclectic materials for them—burlap, chenille, pearl beads, string, feathers and costume jewelry, exalting women’s prosaic every-day dress, elevating the garments into pieces of art. In one hanging she uses different transparent layers of fabric creating forceful, totemic art. One of the pieces combines painted canvas strips from other works with a swinging pendulum, the artist providing meaning to the piece by saying life is a continuous ebb and flow of the experience of living. Maryanska also includes an expressive abstract in tribute to her recent trip to the Hawaiian rainforest, depicting its beauty in saturated colors applied to the canvas in lashing, vertical strokes.

A potpourri of diversity and energy, this year’s residency champions creativity under a great teacher’s auspices. This is an annual chance for artists to explore new territory and display their broad range of gifts in a welcoming space. It is important that this residency keeps on at The Red Barn so that artistic expression continues to be nurtured and realized. I look forward to more opportunities to view such talented people in future exhibits in Beacon under Maestro Maryanska’s baton.

5th International Artists Residency, recently seen at The Red Barn – River Center, 8 Long Dock Road, Beacon, N.Y.