A breath of fresh art: con[temporary] • video • installation • performance
August 7 – 29, 2015
Located along the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail (WVRT) in Rosendale, New York, Women’s Studio Workshop (WSW) has been pioneering artistic innovation for the past forty-one years. With the au•gust art festival, the studio expanded beyond its studio space to present a month-long celebration of video, installation, and performance work by local, national, and international artists. More than thirty artists were selected to present their work at the festival.
Shoulder Land, a video festival curated by Dani Leventhal, kicked off the festival on August 7th at the Rosendale Theatre. The program featured experimental film and video work by six artists: Peggy Ahwesh, Nancy Andrews, Carolyn Lambert, Jeanne Liotta, Rachel Stuckey, and Deirtra Thompson. Leventhal writes, “Using animation, found footage and live action, [these artists] communicate complex ideas and deep emotional states of humanity’s impact on the land and on each other. Alternative versions of past, present and future yield dystopic geographies. Something is being birthed out of this, something like a warning.” Leventhal brings us an evening of visceral, visual experience by focusing on the urgency of climate change and the depletion of our natural resources.
Work by Joy Taylor, Toisha Tucker, Chris Victor, Sue E. Horowitz, Kristen Rego, Melissa Jay Craig, and Matthias Neumann anchored the event with physical installations that remained up for the duration of the festival. These works used the WVRT as their conceptual basis. Joy Taylor’s Seeing Far, Seeing Deep incorporates man-made materials and natural objects, altering perception of the trail by wrapping tree trunks in metallic foil. She creates shimmering groves along the trail, catching the light and the viewers’ attention–even from a distance.
In the sky is falling and it’s fireflies, Brooklyn-based conceptual artist Toisha Tucker creates an immersive installation with hundreds of twinkling lights strewn throughout the foliage of the Rail Trail. As night descends and Taylor’s altered trees fade from view, another work emerges: Tucker’s whimsical installation, a visual interpretation of one of her short stories.
Matthias Neumann’s Chaise (basics) functions in a different way. The covered bench structure, in the form of a bisected three-dimensional cube, exists as both an abstract sculptural piece and a usable, interactive object/environment. In contrast, Chris Victor and Kristen Rego utilize objects that are no longer functional, such as mailboxes and plastic bottle caps, to create three-dimensional, aesthetic drawings. They will use the found materials to create a visual dialogue between seemingly disparate elements of nature and man-made objects.
Much of the festival’s work focuses on interactivity. Workshops designed to encourage audience involvement and engagement accompanied performances by Cave Dogs, Rah, and Barbara Westermann.
In the Wayfinding Series, A Work in Progress, Elena Sniezek and Emily Puthoff traverse the country with a custom-made teardrop trailer, having conversations with people about their ideas on Progress. At night, the trailer transforms into a mini theater, where Elena and Emily screen a diverse selection of short, contemporary videos on a large solar-powered HD TV. Their 2015 summer tour culminated at the au•gust art festival.
Similarly, SPURSE—a collective of ecosystem artists and designers—created a temporary scavenger’s shack and a series of foraging workshops to engage the public in exploring the complex entanglements of nature and culture along the Rail Trail. The foraging workshops encouraged participants to interact with their environment as ethical shoppers and consumers, shifting perceptions to instill a new sense of the local economy.
Tatana Kellner, Emily Speed, and Margeaux Walter engaged the viewers in a more nuanced manner. For her Golden Rule, Kellner wrote phrases across the WVRT using white sand. As the hikers and bikers traverse the trail, they are unwittingly forced to disperse the sand, distorting thirteen “golden rules” from different religions and cultures.
Speed and Walter created works that are both sculptural and performative. Speed’s Inhabitant series separated the performer from the viewer with architecture-based costumes that act as both a physical and a metaphorical barrier/shelter. Walter’s costumed performers are aesthetically similar to Speed’s, but their place in the festival is altogether different. The carefully camouflaged performers blend into the scenery of the trail, disappearing from sight until a slight movement or sudden action reveals their presence. The disparity between Speed’s enormous, unwieldy costumes and Walter’s subtly disguised performers highlights one of the most exciting parts of the festival.
WSW also presented a range of excursionary events: a poetry walk with Susan Chute and the Next Year’s Words poets, a walk with the Town Historian Bill Brooks to learn about Rosendale, and walks with artists and docents that aim to start dialogues about the festival’s work. In addition to the opening night video festival, there will also be video screenings around town, and at the Catherine O’Leary Pavilion (Rosendale Community Center). The screenings feature young artists from Flick Book Studio, Spark Media Project, and local artists: Carmen Lizardo, Jan Nagle, Adie Russell, Keiko Sono, Lizz Thabet, Tona Wilson, and S B Woods. These events brought together our community to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and active creative forces at work in the Hudson Valley.
View the complete list of participating artists and check out more images from the festival from photographers Robin Holland and Richard Smith and on our Flickr.
august art festival was made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WSW was awarded matching funds for the festival through the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town program. Additional funds for artists’ residencies came from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Our Town and the NYS funds aim to assist cultural organizations in contributing to the livability and economic vitality of their communities.
We extend a special thanks to our Program Director, Heige Kim, and our local sponsors.
The Rosendale Cafe
The Big Cheese
Rosendale Wine & Spirits
The Alternative Baker
ImmuneSchein Tea Haus
Shop Little House
bluecashew Kitchen Pharmacy
The Rosendale Theatre
Church of St Peter
Wallkill Valley Rail Trail