- Lauren Thomas
One of the most enduring topics of cocktail party conversation in the Hudson Valley is the region's relationship to New York City (and I don't mean Staten Island). The river itself serves as a useful metaphor for the general perception of this relationship: Powerful forces from the south flow north with the tide (of urban sensibility, of gentrification, of hipster migration, call it what you like), infiltrating life along the river all the way to the Federal Dam in Troy, like saltwater. We trade stories of the latest signs of Brooklynization—a phalanx of artisanally mustachioed gents spotted mid-week, the opening of yet another craft brewery—and debate whether this is for good or ill.
This obsession with New York City is due partly to the fact that many of us are recent-ish transplants ourselves (I've lived here since 1996 and I put myself in this category) and look south to measure just how hayseed we've gone. It's also about the anxiety of influence. While we like to enjoy some of the trappings of city life—culture, in its broadest sense first and foremost—we do not wish to ape it, which is a source of tension. How do we live an "authentic" life in the Hudson Valley? Is sushi in the country really okay? Shouldn't I be eating only locally sourced food? Should I grow my own artisanal mustache?
And it's about pride, too. When I meet someone who's up for the weekend, gushing about how great the Hudson Valley is (this typically means that they knew about the mountains and lakes but not about the smart and ingenious folks that live and work here), and how much they wish they could trade their $3,000/month studio that's still a five-minute walk from the subway for a place in the Hudson Valley, my first thought is, "Well, duh! Welcome to the amazing place where I live. Life is beautiful here. I don't need your validation."
Back to that metaphor about the river: I borrowed it from our erstwhile art critic, Beth E. Wilson, who spent 10 years championing Hudson Valley artists, is back this month with an examination of two artists, Chris Gonyea and Laura Moriarty, that are gaining notice in the city, but do not wish to run off to join the urban circus ("A River of Creativity That Flows Both Ways," page 92). Beth pulls no punches when defending the local artistic community, and her calling out the New York Times on its recent patronizing coverage of the region's art scene is a reminder that perhaps we're still not taken as seriously as we should be by the scions of culture in the great metropolis to the south.
Fear not, for we at Chronogram are working as tirelessly as ever to enlighten the world to the creative life in the Hudson Valley. Most recently, this has taken the form of our new web TV series, "ArtScene," launched in January. A collaboration with independent filmmaker Stephen Blauweiss, the monthly show focuses on visual art in the Hudson Valley. "ArtScene" takes the viewer into artists' studios, on tours of galleries and museums, and into centers of making and creativity. In our first episode, long-time Woodstock School of Art instructor Staats Fasoldt explained his watercolor technique. Photographer Carolyn Marks Blackwood and ceramics wizard Robert Hessler talked about their creative process. We followed sculptor Zev Willy Neuman from conception to completion on his Love Knot project. Steven Siegel, whose work appeared on the January cover, spoke from his Red Hook studio philosophical underpinnings of his work, which is influenced by the concept of deep time and the writings of evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould. The show gets deep, people.
The format is short form: Five segments of approximately four minutes, hosted by the charming and sagacious editor of this magazine. This month, our second episode features more of the torrent of art that flows around us in the Hudson Valley. Danielle Bliss and Joe Venditti of Wishbone Letterpress talk about their decidedly old-timely artisanal printing business. We tour the venerable Women's Studio Workshop in Rosendale. Multimedia artistic tsunami Wayne Montecalvo explains his latest constructions. Neil Trager of the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum walks through rich artistic legacy of Woodstock. Cover artist Werner Pfeiffer, who opens a retrospective at the Toledo Museum of Art this month, shares stories of his childhood in Nazi-era Germany and how it influenced his choice of primary medium: paper.
We've received some very positive feedback and great suggestions for future coverage in just the first couple weeks since launching the show. As well, a couple of the segments from our first two episodes have already been picked up by PBS affiliate WMHT in Albany for broadcast on terrestrial television, so we feel like we're on the right track. But you be the judge: please tune in Chronogram.com/TV and let us know what you think. The suggestion box is open.