Tag Archives: Catskills

Clip: Essay after Visiting the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Written from a Skyscraper

5 Mar

41718963_2171406356451113_160624545479960816_n

In 2017, my friend Mark Chalfant, author of Devereux Emmet: American Master, invited me on a road trip up to Catskill, New York, to visit painter Thomas Cole’s home. It was a crisp autumn day, and with so many of the colorful leaves having dropped from the trees, we were able to get an incredible view of the landscape that the Hudson River School painter became famous for depicting.

Strewn around the Thomas Cole National Historic Site were quotes from Cole’s 1841 “Essay on American Scenery.” Take this gem for instance:

May we at times turn from the ordinary pursuits of life to the pure enjoyment of rural nature; which is in the soul like a fountain of cool waters to the way-worn traveler….

Cole’s way with words, his love for the American landscape, and his reference to travel reminded me of that great intrepid traveler Jack Kerouac, whom Paul Maher Jr. and I had written about in the literary biography Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

Visiting the painter’s home had a profound experience on my weary soul. It invigorated me. It inspired me.

I ended up writing about my experience visiting the painter’s home, and last year I had the great honor of my “Essay after Visiting the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Written from a Skyscraper” being selected for the Landmark exhibit, presented by the Albany International Airport and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. The exhibition, which was on view at the Albany International Airport, from September 29, 2018, to February 25, 2019, explored our relationship with nature and our ever-changing American landscape.

Here’s what the official press release had to say:

Landmark, at the Albany International Airport Gallery, features 10contemporary visual artists and seven writers whose works explore our relationship to the natural world, and share common ground with Thomas Cole’s greatest written work, Essay on American Scenery, 1836, which is among the most influential proto-environmentalist essays in America.

On view at the Albany International Airport Gallery September 29, 2018 –February 25, 2019.Opening reception: Friday, October 5, 2018, 5:30-7:30 pm.

Albany, NY (September 17, 2018)–The Albany International Airport Gallery will host the upcoming exhibition Landmark from September 29, 2018 to February 25, 2019. Developed through a partnership between the Airport’s Art & Culture Program and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, NY, Landmark considers the legacy of Thomas Cole’s paintings and advocacy for environmental stewardship as they echo the concerns of artists and writers today. A public reception to celebrate the launch of Landmark will be held on Friday, October 5, 2018 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the Albany International Airport Gallery.

Thomas Cole(1801-1848) is recognized as the founder of America’s first major art movement, the Hudson River School of landscape painting, and a proto-environmentalist who advocated for the appreciation and preservation of America’s landscapes. Kathy Greenwood, Director of the Airport’s Art & Culture Program, and Kate Menconeri, Curator at the Thomas Cole Site, invited 10 contemporary visual artists to participate in this exhibition, whose work has compelling connections to Cole’s, and engages the persisting resonance of the same issues and ideas from a 21st-century vantage point.

The 10 visual artists are Ellen Driscoll, Valerie Hammond, William Lamson, Portia Munson, Kenneth Ragsdale, Anne Roecklein, Lisa Sanditz, Kiki Smith, Darren Waterston and Susan Wides. The exhibiting artists have international careers and also maintain deep local ties to the Hudson River Valley, as did Cole. Artworks include works on canvas and paper, video, photography, new site-specific installations and sculpture, as well as woven jacquard tapestry.

“This exhibition is the perfect complement to this landmark year, as the Art & Culture Program celebrates its 20thAnniversary, which coincides with the 200thAnniversary of Thomas Cole’s arrival in America,” said Kathy Greenwood, Program Director and Landmark co-curator. “At its core, this Program seeks to showcase the outstanding cultural institutions and artists that populate this region, and it’s exciting and satisfying when we can accomplish that within a single exhibition.”

“We’re excited at the Thomas Cole Site to have this opportunity to work with the Albany Airport to create such an extensive project,” said Kate Menconeri, curator at the Thomas Cole Site and Landmark co-curator. “Thomas Cole was an advocate for living in harmony with the natural world and thoughtful development. What he saw happening to the landscape in the 19thcentury –new train tracks and industries expanding along the Hudson River –resonates with what artists and writers are responding to now. The project bridges art and ideas past and present but also inevitably is building new connections and conversations about how we might navigate today.”

Thomas Cole expressed his concern and regard for the American landscape through writing as well as painting and addressed the environmental impact of industrialization in his Essay on American Scenery, published in 1836. In the spring of 2018, the Thomas Cole Site launched its first call for writing and invited writers to respond to Cole’s Essay with their own writing and asked them to consider not only how the American landscape has changed but what should be preserved. The occasion sparked conversations between Greenwood and Menconeri that gave rise to the Landmark exhibition.

Among the contemporary visual artwork presented will be a selection of Ellen Driscoll’s large-scale works on paper from her recent Thicket series; Valerie Hammond will develop an iteration of her lyrical Forest installation; an immersive projection of William Lamson’s Infinity Camera will allow visitors a journey along New York waterways that defies a single viewpoint. Portia Munson’s Future Fossils will consist of an encased arrangement of common green plastic objects that both reflect and reject notions about ecology, resource consumption, and the persistence of plastics in the environment. Kenneth Ragsdale has produced a new site-specific installation for Landmark, titled Course of Empire. This work shares its title with Thomas Cole’s iconic 1836 painting series and expresses metaphorical cautionary concerns about the inevitable collision of expansion and consumption. Anne Roecklein’s panoramic vintage travel postcard collages are spliced-together landscapes both real and imagined; Lisa Sanditz’s vibrantly-hued paintings describe places in America that are both revered for their beauty and imperiled by human reach. In Kiki Smith’s 10-foot-high tapestry Harbor—jacquard-woven by Magnolia Editions—birds circle a rocky island amid star-studded sky and sea. A selection of Darren Waterston’s Ecstatic Landscape paintings reveals places habitable more by the spiritual than the corporeal form, and in Susan Wides’ I Kaaterskill series of photographs, relationships are drawn between Thomas Cole’s paintings of the Hudson Valley and those locations as they appear today.

The Essay contest, which was organized by 2017-2018 Cole Fellow Madeline Conley, received many outstanding responses. They were whittled down by a group of distinguished jurors: J. Jeffrey Anzevino, Land Use Advocacy Director, Scenic Hudson; Kathy Greenwood, Director, Art & Culture Program, Albany International Airport; W. Douglas McCombs, Chief Curator, Albany Institute of History and Art; Kate Menconeri, Curator, Thomas Cole National Historic Site; Nancy Siegel, Professor of Art History, Towson University; and Alan Wallach, Ralph H. Wark Professor of Art and Art History and Professor of American Studies Emeritus, Professorial Lecturer in Art History, George Washington University.

The seven writers whose work was selected for the exhibition are as follows: Sandra Dutton, author of six books for young readers, who resides in Catskill and teaches creative writing at Southern New Hampshire University; William Jaeger, a photographer and writer who lives in the Catskills and teaches photography and art criticism at the University at Albany; Jennifer Kabat, who lives in the western Catskills and teaches at The New School and whose essay “Rain Like Cotton” is in Best American Essays 2018; Herbert Nichols, a resident of Hudson, for whom this is his first published writing; Stephanie Nikolopoulos, a writer, editor, and writing instructor based in New York City; Justin Nobel, a magazine writer on science and the environment, who lives in Germantown and whose writing is in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014 and Best American Travel Writing 2016; and Sara Pruiksma, a resident of Albany County with a visual studio practice, who revisits her early passion of writing to further her creative voice. Their writings, alongside Cole’s original words, are a crucial component of the Landmark exhibition.

THE ALBANY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT’S ART & CULTURE PROGRAM: Since 1998, the Albany International Airport’s Art & Culture Program has sought to showcase the cultural vitality of New York’s Capital Region through exhibitions and installations throughout the Airport’s terminal. Such presentations enhance the experience of airport travelers and foster the advancement of a thriving creative community. The Art & Culture Program has become a cornerstone for demonstrating the breadth and quality of the arts throughout the Region as well as a resource for learning about local culture. Through exhibitions presented in the Albany International Airport Gallery and the Concourse Galleries, the Exhibition Case Program, free public programs and group tours, the Art & Culture Program has extended the reach of area artists and museums to an audience of more than 3 million people each year. Additionally, DEPARTURE, The Shop of Capital Region Museums –the retail arm of the Program –has become an important community service and a unique shopping venue lauded nationally and prized locally.

THE THOMAS COLE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE is an international destination presenting the original home and studios of Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of painting, the nation’s first major art movement. Located on 6 acres in the Hudson Valley, the site includes the 1815 Main House; Cole’s 1839 Old Studio; the recently reconstructed New Studio building; and panoramic views of the Catskill Mountains. It is a National Historic Landmark and an affiliated area of the National Park System. The Thomas Cole Site’s activities include guided tours, special exhibitions of both 19th-century and contemporary art, printed publications, extensive online programs, activities for school groups, free community events, lectures, and innovative public programs such as the Hudson River School Art Trail—a map and website that enable visitors to visit the places that Cole painted. The goal of all programs at the Thomas Cole Site is to enable visitors to find meaning and inspiration in Thomas Cole’s life and work. The themes that Cole explored in his art and writings—such as landscape preservation and our conception of nature as a restorative power—are both historic and timely, providing the opportunity to connect to audiences with insights that are highly relevant to their own lives.

I am so thankful for The Albany International Airport and The Thomas Cole National Historic Site, as well as my friend Mark Chalfant and his friend who did the driving, for making this experience possible.

Also, thanks to all the media outlets that covered the exhibition, including:

(By the way, you can find out where else I’ve appeared in the media here.)

You can read my “Essay after Visiting the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Written from a Skyscraper” here.

Discover my other publications here.

 

Advertisements

I’m Reading at WORD Bookstore in Jersey City

6 Aug

WORD

I am beyond excited to be reading at WORD Jersey City. I’ve been a fan of the bookstore since before the Jersey City location existed when they only had the Brooklyn location. I look forward to reading their newsletter, which always has inspired book recommendations. They also curate great literary events for readers, writers, and authors. It was a secret dream to read at WORD, and now it’s coming true!

It all happens August 18 at 7:30pm at WORD Jersey City (123 Newark Ave.). I’ll be reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” 

Here’s the official info:::

Authors participating in the 2015 Festival of Women Writers in Hobart, NY join us at WORD to share readings from their books. Performers include Evie Shockley, Cheryl Boyce Taylor, E.J. Antonio, JP (Juliet) Howard, Breena Clarke, and Stephanie Nikolopoulos. It will be hosted by fellow author Cheryl Clarke.

Evie Shockley, resident of Jersey City, professor of English at Rutgers University, poet and author of a half red sea  and the new black. Her essays and criticism have been featured in leading journals of African-American thought. She is a 2013 member of the Festival.

Cheryl Boyce Taylor, resident of Brooklyn by way of Trinidad,poet and author of Night When Moon FollowsRaw Air, and Convincing the Body. Founder of NYC’s Calypso Muse Series. She is an editor of the distinguished online poetry journal, The Wide Shore. Her poetry has appeared in numerousliterary and poetry journals. She participated in  the 2013 and 2014 Festivals.

E.J. Antonio, resident of New York City, poet and author of Rituals in the Marrow: Recipe for a Jam Session (cd) and two chapbooks, Every Child Knows and Solstice. Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals. She is an avid spoken word artist and Cave Canem  fellow. She is a 2014 participating Festival Writer.

JP (Juliet) Howard, a native New Yorker, originally from Harlem, poet and author of Say/Mirror. She is curator of  Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon, a monthly New York salon featuring notable women writers. She is a Lambda and Cave Canem graduate fellow and will be participating in the Festival for the first time in 2015.

Breena Clarke, a resident of Jersey City by way of New York City and Washington, D.C., author of three novels: River, Cross My Heart an Oprah Book Club Selection in 1999, Stand the Storm, named one of the Best 100 Books of 2008 by The Washington Post, and in 2014 Angels Make Their Hope Here.  She is a co-founder and co-organizer of the Festival of Women Writers.

Stephanie Nikolopoulos, a New Yorker and co-author with Paul Maher Jr. of the biography Burning Furiously Beautiful: the True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. She is a blogger, essayist, editor, and cyber journalist. Her essays on art and literature have appeared in a number of publications. She is a participating Festival writer this year as well as in 2014.

Cheryl Clarke, Emcee, a resident of Jersey City by way of New Brunswick and Wash., D.C., author of four books of poetry, the critical study, After Mecca: Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement, and The Days of Good Looks: Prose and Poetry, 1980-2005. She is a co-organizer of the Hobart Festival of Women Writers.

Facebook RSVP encouraged, but not required.

So, not only do I get to read at a cherish bookstore, but I also get to read with an impressive group of writers!

The event is just a mere taste of what what’s to come at the Festival of Women Writers taking place September 11-13 in Hobart, New York — a quaint town in the Catskills known for its many bookstores. These authors and many more will be reading and teaching writing all weekend long. I had such a blast last year and can’t wait to go again. I’ll be teaching a new class this year, which I think is going to be a lot of fun if you’re into experimental writing styles. You can register for the Festival here.

If you missed it, you can see the Festival of Women Writers spotlight on me here. Breena Clarke interviewed me for this one. (For last year’s spotlight, go here.)

Here too is a radio interview I did with Simona David while at the Festival.

Get all the latest announcements on my readings and teaching gigs in the Appearance section of my blog.

Breena Clarke Interviews Me for the Festival of Women Writers Blog

22 Jul

Festival2015

Novelist Breena Clarke — whose book River, Cross My Heart was an Oprah book club pick! — recently interviewed me for the Hobart Festival of Women Writers blog.

She asks:

Clarke: I’m of the generation that kind of took our counter-culture marching orders from the Beats. You’re a couple of thousand years younger than me. How did you fall under the spell of Jack Kerouac and the Beats?  

You can read my answer that question and her others here.

I’m super excited to be participating in the Festival of Women Writers again this year!

I’ll be reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” with Festival participants at WORD bookstore in Jersey City (123 Newark Ave.) on August 18 at 7:30pm.

Then September 11-13, I’ll be returning to the Catskills to teach a writing class at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers.