Christie Scheele is an artist living in the Catskills, whose art is collected nationally and internationally by hundreds of private and public collectors. She says, "The single most distinctive aspect to what I do as a landscape painter lies in my ability to reduce a scene to its essentials. This gives the viewer what is important, without the distraction, or visual clutter, of too much detail. Both by providing this overview and by using soft, scumbled edges, these paintings can quiet a viewer's mind and evoke a more direct response."
In this episode, we catch up with Christie by phone to see how she's been handling art-life in quarantine, and then rewind 5 months to a conversation we recorded with a live audience at Albert Shahinian Fine Art Gallery, in Rhinebeck, NY.
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Welcome to cats cast, a biweekly podcast delivering interviews, arts, culture and history from New York's Catskill Mountains. In this episode, we check in with Catskills artists Christie, she'll then rewind to this past December when we recorded a conversation with a live audience. This episode is sponsored by Albert Shahinian fine art in Rhinebeck, New York, celebrating its 22nd year as one of the region's premier art venues and full service galleries, exhibitions present quality, original contemporary, regional, 20th century and Hudson River art. The gallery mostly represents regional artists, shows representational and non objective work, and offers curatorial installation, delivery and art consultation services. More at Shahinian fine art.com. It was just December that we met at Albert Shani and fine art gallery to record this public conversation on your Atlas project. That was just five months ago, and we were all crammed in this little room, which would be unthinkable now, how have things changed for you, in the past few months as an artist? Well, I have been remarkably lucky, I need to start with, you know, just the studio to house is my regular trajectory anyway. And so I do work in my in my home studio in my yard. And that part, of course, hasn't changed. So there's, that's like a baseline, you know, compared to people who have been, you know, radically in upheaval, or work like with individual clients, something that they just absolutely can't do now, even remotely. So in my case that that normal was already there. And then on top of that, I've had work. I've been doing a huge commission, since before the working it out before the quarantine. And I just finished it, it's about to go off to the framer. And I've also had business with my galleries. And so because as a full time, self supporting artists, that's part of the normal is that people are, you know, harassing you constantly for, send me JPEG, send me the artwork, you know, gotta have this right away. And it's been like that all throughout for me, whereas it hasn't been, I think, for most artists, I'm very grateful. I'm so happy for it. But one of the conversations that people have been having now is about what, what about not having that about the level of introspection and creativity that can happen, you know, when you don't have the outside motivation in that way, or deadlines, or whatever. So I have been thinking a lot about that, and also about writing, actually, coincidentally, was just getting ready to finish a short blog post about finding meaning meaning in this pandemic, I don't believe for a second that everything that happens, or everything that doesn't kill, you will make you stronger. And there are plenty of things that, you know, genocide and such that do kill people. And you could hardly say that that was meant to me. So I don't believe they're meant to be necessarily. But I do think that as long as we are living and thinking that we can find meaning in anything, or almost anything. So the meaning here would be what would be that the situation is making us have to really double down on our own resources, emotional, creative, optimistic. And I think the only way to go about that really is to double down on the things that you love, and maybe find new things. So something that I've been involved with, it might be more comparable to people trying new things, or related to things that they love, but that they haven't quite explored is that I'm spending time in my Creek, which runs through my backyard. And I've always loved it and love the sound of it spent most of my summers on my back porch when I'm not in my studio, which is right on the creek. But now I'm going to be folding in my new environmental project, this Atlas project show that I want to do next is Atlas watershed. So I don't have on the schedule. I don't know when it's going to be I don't know where it's going to be. I'm working with a curator will be pitching small museums, but there's no there's no deadline here. And so it's this kind of open ended. What do I do different Lee just because it's good to do things that are different but also what do I do differently because I'm staying home. So I've been sort of just mapping the little waterfalls, the little drops in elevation that are in this stretch of of Creek and looking at the boulder That are shoved sideways. I just love that, of course, we've lived through a number of high water events since 1990. With this creek and with the ones that it runs into the stony clove in the Scopus and also looking at roots, roots and the rocks within them in a different way. And that's the kind of thing that, you know, really anybody could do. I mean, yeah, it's a tie in for me with my work. But it's something that you know, living here in the Catskills, something like that, studying your own patch of turf, for whatever for maybe try for everything, the birds and the bees, and you know, all of it and the plants. One of my just kind of random little projects is that I've been tracking the virus very closely, actually, since January, early January, because I had saw all the red flags, you know, early on and had taken note of warnings about a pandemic before that. And so looking at the maps all the time that the New York Times is providing, and the maps and the numbers in the charts. And so with a map, I, one of my little projects that I'm just kind of poking along at is to memorize all the nations in the world. And there are a number of places I've lived. And so I kind of have them in the adjoining adjoining areas, pretty memorized, or I've done tons of reading of literature from India, where I've never been, and Southeast Asia and going north into Asia, kind of have those anyway. But Africa was a hard one for me. And, you know, the other day, I read something about Madagascar. And right away, I knew right where that was. I'm not done with it yet. But it's sort of random. And yet, it's the world we live in. And who doesn't love maps. And I'm also using maps in my work now. So I think that it's really a nice idea to try in the situation as in any other to not do the grass is greener, I could do the grass is greener, for all those people who are kind of retired right now. And finding these days, you know, totally, what am I going to do tomorrow creative outlets, or maybe when they wake up in the morning? What am I going to do today? And if I thought I was going to do this, I really don't have to do that at all. And maybe I'll do something else. And I love days like that I have them rarely, but I love days like that. So I could be envious of that. But it makes more sense for me to appreciate, you know what I do have? And so I hope that people who have that are finding, you know, ways to celebrate it. See, I knew I only had to ask you one question, we'd be all set? Well, I have been thinking about it. But let me ask you, though, so while creativity has flourished, or at least not been hampered by the quarantine? What then about getting the art into galleries and interacting with collectors and things like that? Where do you see that going? In the near and long term? Well, it's really scary. I mean, in the near term, people are, you know, have that little bit of, it's stressful. But it's also that that kind of creative jumpstart that that stress can can do for us, that's the way that it can function as a motivator. And so, you know, galleries are trying to do very creative things, of course, lots of online things, and dangled the work in front of collectors. And I've actually been talking to some of my galleries in order to get back to others of my galleries to share ideas, because they tend to not talking to each other as much. And so I've been kind of collecting some of those ideas, that can be really small ones, but it can be something like put out on social media, that these pieces are in your window today. And then switch it up in a few days. And you know, do the same thing all over again with different artwork, because most of the galleries you know will do curbside, you know, drop offs or curbside pickup. And soon with the reopening, there'll be more opportunities for appointment for by appointment, and even for allowing small numbers into the galleries. And we don't know how many people are going to feel safe doing that. So another idea that somebody had had was to put a big table across the front of her gallery on the sidewalk and put artwork there and interact at that at the table between her and the customers. But in the long term, it's Yeah, it's terrifying, because, you know, brick and mortar galleries were already struggling. And the one thing that they have over strictly online is that people can come and see the work in person and also people can interact with the the gallery is then sometimes with the artists, or often with the artists. And if we can't recapture that there is not going to be any reason for those galleries to exist. I mean, in addition to the question of how many of them will survive financially The galleries that I have are holding out for now. But in the long run, if we can't get back to face to face encounters and in person looks, the galleries won't survive. But I imagine we will, at some point get back to being able to have in person encounters, but just will it be in time. And I know that in addition to the Catskills that Cape Cod is also a major source of inspiration for your work. Do you think that you'll be able to get there this year? Well, that is my own little personal entitled heartbreak is that in early May, I would have been on Martha's Vineyard, delivering work. And in September, I'm supposed to teach a workshop in Provincetown in October on Nantucket. So I would have been and probably on Martha's Vineyard for an opening in in July. And of course, all of that is just on hold. And probably even a September, things aren't going to happen. And I do miss the ocean. I do miss the ocean, but it will be there. And meanwhile, I have my Creek. And in the meantime, where can we see your work and keep up on everything that's happening in your world? Well, follow me on Instagram. You can just put my name in. It's under sealord if you're on and of course there's always Facebook. My website is simple. Just Christy she'll and on my website, there's a link to my blog. So subscribing to my blog is a nice way to to kind of get more thought out information on I've been writing art life and art in the time of Coronavirus series and soon I'll do one that's on this commission piece that had so many complicating aspects to it and even more complications. Because of the pandemic like just getting the stretcher just getting the stretcher up to the framer is the frame or open will yes under certain conditions. You know all of that has made it more difficult. But those are all the places where you can can see my work and follow it. Thanks Christy and with that we're going to now rewind five months back and revisit our conversation Albert Shahinian fine art on Atlas project seems like ages ago now. I know thanks a lot Christy absolutely
conversation and q&a with Christy she'll on her Atlas project forms of water recorded live at Albert Shahinian Fine Arts in Rhinebeck, New York, December 8 2019. Welcome to the final event for this wonderful exhibition that's been running for about two and a half months. This year's luminous landscape was a solo exhibition of a major project called the Atlas project. It's the second version, which is a regional forms of water topic that encompasses environmental issues, personal stories, musings about artistic relevance and place and a lot of things rolled into one. And so it's a three year in the making project up to this point, the first version was about the Hudson River and immediate surrounds. And this one, of course, covers a much larger area, we have Brett Barry, who's going to be the moderator and running the questions afterwards. And Christy she'll who's the featured artist, and I will now pass over the mic to both of them, and they will introduce themselves and then the program. I'm Albert Shahinian, this is our gallery, and we're celebrating at least a 20 year relationship with Christie. So it's an auspicious exhibition. Thank you. Great, thank you. So Christy and I have known each other for a while we're kind of neighbors, and our paths cross pretty regularly, whether that's through art, or through her attempting to teach me yoga, or any of the other things we do together, or my daughter buying a piece of art from her. And so it's a pleasure to be here and moderating this discussion. I have a mix of questions more general about where you've chosen to live and where you've chosen to practice, your craft and also more specific questions about this show. So I want to start with the fact that your native New Yorker always been in the state I think, but not a native cat skillion. So when did you settle on the Catskills and what brought you here? Well, I kind of grew up in Oneonta, New York, and we were familiar with the Catskills from there. I went elsewhere for college, although in New York State and I also spent some time in Europe, a year in Madrid a year in Bolivia, some time in Washington DC with my family when I was a child. And then after college, I moved to New York City like everybody else does, pretty much and spent a decade there. And then moved up from to here from there. And so sometimes people in the Catskills see me as like this short jump transplant from Oneonta, New York to the Catskills, but I was actually part of that kind of migration of young, you know, 20 something or 30 something people deciding that it was time to get out of the city. I never felt like I was fleeing the city. I love living there. But I was just ready for more nature. Having fled the city, or having relocated, loving both places, how has rural living changed your process and or the art itself from what you were doing there? Kind of weirdly, I had just started doing landscape painting, my last year in New York, and I work from photo reference. So that's really relevant. I was never, I actually never loved landscape painting ever. I found it full of convention, it was one of my least favorite forms of art up to that point. But when I was in New York, I was working on bringing memory more tangibly into my work. And first I was doing it with this this figurative work that I was doing and it kind of got more self conscious and and then I was on my honeymoon with my husband in in St. Maarten, and the weather was bad. And so I was doing these little paintings under an awning of the clouds and everything, went back to my studio in New York, did a landscape painting of Nebraska where I was born. And it was the best thing I'd done and sort of clearly and then so I did five more, still better and better than the figurative work that I'd been doing. And it had everything in it. It had the compositional force that I look for. I look for a big strength there. It had the open shapes had the color. And it also had the the the narrative with the memory, moving up from you know, to a place where you see this every day, even though I'm still working from photographs because I work in layers, and so I can't really work plein air. And I've never I just come from a contemporary background. Nobody ever told me that you have to be outside to paint a landscape. I would never have dreamed of that in a million years. So I you know, I because I'm creating the piece that serves the painting. I love the place I need to be in the place often, too, which is moving up here. It's relevant to that. But But I'm always thinking about serving the painting while I'm working even more than that. So I eliminate detail, I sometimes make things up. Sometimes I don't, you know, it varies a lot. But just being able to have the studio, my timberframe studio in the woods with the stream out back and drive around and see the mountains in the sky. And then from here also the time I spend at the shore, teaching or showing. And then I also do some urban views, but not as many because it's hard to get the open ness in an urban setting. So they have to be like sunset or light altered in some way. I've done a whole quite a few of the West Side Highway number another reason why I couldn't paint plein air. But, but I need I need some openness in the work. And so the urban ones are rarer, but I do those as well. So it's just been a good place and proximity to New York still. So we have the benefit of seeing your art. But for someone who's listening for a radio audience, how would you describe your style, I call it minimalist. There's a word that's used in sort of art speak that is reductive, which might sound not nice to people who don't know the word, it sounds like, you know, we love stuff, we love lots of stuff, you know, our whole culture is based around more ideas, more food, more music, more furniture, more tchotchkes, you know, whatever it is more activity. And, and so the word reductive kind of sounds bad to a lot of people, I suppose. But in the art world, all it means is that you're reducing detail. And so that could include, for example, Rothko, who was literally my biggest influence of any painter, or, or it could include the way I'm doing the landscape, which is to reduce the number of elements in it, and also the number of types of elements in it. So I tend to forego a lot of foreground interest. And I've learned some of the, the kind of rubric of traditional landscapes from my students, because I never learned that was never interested. So they tell me things like, well, you're supposed to do foreground, middle ground background, but I don't do foreground, I'm not, I feel like the eye gets snagged on the foreground, I want the eye to sail into the piece, and then to the major, like the horizon line, or the cloud bank or, and then circulate, you know, so the eye kind of goes to the major lines or elements of the piece and then circulates around and can slowly take everything in. So every inch of the painting, as open and simple as it might be, has to have significance. And that's something I learned in my 20s. With that figurative work in the city, that you have to be very careful about looking at this part of the painting and loving it so much that you neglect the other parts of the painting. So every inch of the painting has to have the I really linger over it while you're working before you sign off on the painting. So the shapes are pretty bold, lots of atmospherics, I love clouds, I'm still trying to describe. And I don't do like kind of fuzzy trees or fuzzy weeds in the foreground, that's part of the eliminating the foreground. And, and if I have more detail, it tends to be like detail. So this painting here of just an ocean and wave surf waves coming in, there's actually quite a bit going on there, there's a lot of detail because every single one of these little shapes, and where it narrows the negative shape, as well as the positive shape. And even the really low contrast shapes, all of them has been tweaked and adjusted so that it's just so at least to me, but these are kind of like shapes because they're a bunch of waves. So instead of doing sand, pebbles, crabs, ocean waves, and so on and so forth. I've eliminated like sort of a whole category of detail. And to me this, this, this elimination of fuzziness is the way I think of it for myself is a way that you can get the deep breath. So it's a big like is what is the response I'm looking for, and also to create that experience for the viewer. Of course, I feel like plein air painting, the thing about is often that there's a lively brushstroke. And that's what unifies the surface of the canvas. And that's what makes it persuasive when like that brushstroke is used in the clouds, when clouds don't look like that they don't have brushstrokes. And that so it's important that brush Enos is important, and it's lively and it's juicy, and it's expressive, and it's fun. And it's very much about the artists hand and in a way about the artists personality. And I'm sort of trying to take myself out and have it be have it be about the work and the viewer. How do you pair ideas with format so you work with Canvas and linen and boards and multi images. What comes first the idea or the material. Usually sometimes I have a canvas of a certain format and then I look for the image but a lot of times I'll choose an image and then pick the format. So the the mote the really multi formats, the multiple panel images, all those things, they came slowly over the many years I've done this. So at the beginning, I kept a very limited rubric for myself, because I didn't want to go melodramatic, and I didn't want to go fussy. So I didn't even do a sunset for like 12 years, I think when I was really confident that I could do a sunset in my way. And early on the paintings were probably fairly standard, horizontal formats. And I remember the first time I did a vertical, and this was pre internet minute, so it wasn't looking up what anybody else did with a vertical landscape. And it was just like, so much fun to figure out why that painting needed to be a vertical, instead of looking at it and saying, why is this painting vertical? And now I do them frequently. But I still ask myself that question and needs to it's not that easy, it needs to be very persuasive, needs to be sort of clear compositional elements that make make the vertical, persuasive. And then moving on to to boards and linen, the frayed linen series, the affinity, multiple panels, all of those things were things that I brought into the work when I when otherwise, it might have become too easy for me to fast style. And so then they those things create continue to create challenges. And also, some of them hark back to my very contemporary art education, so that our comfort art at the time had a lot to do with grid and serial imagery. And so I was looking for ways to to loop that back in once I was really in my saddle. And could do that still using kind of my signature style. Is all your work created to be part of different series? Do you intentionally create all the work for an exhibit like this one? Or does the exhibit do exhibits pull in work that lend themselves to that topic or that theme little of both, I probably almost never have a show that has all new work. I work constantly and so I don't, I never really liked the idea of you know, a lot of a lot of artists that I've watched to kind of fall off the horse and they don't work for six months. And then all of a sudden somebody says, Hey, you want to put some work in the show, and then they start working. It doesn't feel authentic. To me, it doesn't feel like it's really part of your practice. So I'm always working. And I'm always creating work. And sometimes it goes here and sometimes it goes there sometime not even for a show specifically, but just for the gallery to have it in inventory. Every spring work goes to Martha's Vineyard and stuff like that. And so sometimes it's what the the galleries chooses, and for but for a show like this. I mean, every show that is a solo show, I try to compose it at least somewhat along with the galleries, so that there's a range of color. And there's a range of formats and sizes and the types of things that I do. Or if it's a new gallery, maybe I don't do all the types of things that I do, I have a new gallery in New Jersey, and we didn't do the monotypes. And we didn't do that we did some pastels, but we didn't do the monotypes. And we didn't do the little vintage boxes. And I didn't do the new collages because I'm just gathering my audience there. And I don't want it to look too scattered. And eventually I'll introduce those things if the relationship continues. But this show, which I may be jumping ahead was very different. And since I had this umbrella of water, and I paint water a lot, and a lot of things are water, like the clouds in that hillside that was actually put up to replace some soul work. And it's really regrouping that looks great. And, and is very atmospheric, so it passes this water. But actual flowing water or water waves, I paint frequently. So some of these piece so this serves as almost a retrospective in that some pieces were brand new painted for the show, we definitely needed this in there. The little squares were all painted for the show, I wanted a series that worked together and the flood painting was very much pain for the show, not my first flood painting by any means. But I needed that imagery in here with a discussion of climate change. And then some other pieces are quite 1012 years old. So the work since I'm working in this recognizable style is hangs together later on as well. So it can be shuffled and reshuffled, reorganized for different things and it doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter in terms of it having fresh audience or looking completely different, hung with new things. So let's talk about this project. This is the second installment of the Atlas project called forms of water. So can you tell us about the genesis of first of all the Atlas project, how that came about? And then tell us specifically about about the before have water. Right? So I was in the summer of 2016. And going into fall, I had scheduled a residency in Nantucket, it was my first residency, I have a beautiful studio in the woods with a stream behind. So I don't have that that pressing need that, like the urban artists has to get out and do residencies. But getting away from your life, for your residency, can be really nice. And things had kind of stabilized in my life and with my family in such a way that I thought I could plan this this month long residency. So to me, that meant what else is going to happen there. I wasn't interested in going and painting or working exactly the same way I do in my studio, and the residents have scheduled for February, the next year 2017. So thinking about that. And then I was also thinking about along with that, like, what do you want to do that you haven't already done was partly because I knew that the next year in August, I was going to turn 60. And I have a lot of energy I always have. And I still have a lot of energy, but I have a little bit less than I did. And so I want to I just wanted to tap it, you know, wanted to tap it. And I've had this base of doing these kind of landscapes since 1990. And you know, switching it up and adding things but like, let's, let's blast loose here. So that was my thinking. Still, though, I wanted to incorporate the paintings that I do in some way into whatever this new rubric was going to be. And then the 2016 election happened. And many of us in this country were devastated. And I just my mind kept snapping back to the climate change issue. Because of all the things that we could potentially lose, and we have been losing in the last several years, the going backward on the climate change issue is possibly disasterous. And that you can't recoup that time. And that that has turned out to be the case that we've been moving backwards when we should have been moving forwards. And we don't know exactly what those consequences will be. But the prediction is accelerates like every 10 minutes, it seems like what we'll see what level rise be in 2050. And it just, it's up and up and up and up all the time. And so I was researching that when I did get to my residency and decided I wanted climate change to be a major factor in my new body of work. I was researching sea level rise a great deal and also storms and all kinds of things. And so I can actually track what has changed between February 2017. And now and the the news has gotten so much worse just in that amount of time. So that that was what to me was the one thing we couldn't get back there were things that we might lose that we could probably get back with a change in government. But this one didn't seem like we were going to be able to get it back. So I still didn't know what that was going to look like. But I did start I did come up with the Atlas project name in the fall. And then my first one was never was not a full fledge installation or show but I just called it Atlas Island because I was in Nantucket. And then I went on to do Atlas Hudson River Valley. That was a full fledged show. But I didn't quite have my site map together. So I had a sitemap concept already. And the idea of it that was in Nantucket, or even in the fall before, and I came up with forms of water Atlas forms of water then as well as a concept. But first, I love the idea of site map being able to fold up and like a map. And so the first two I did were like that. But then the idea of the sitemap was that it's a map of the show. So all of my Sitemaps had these little mini monotypes. These things along the side here you see in this one are of the pieces in the show their interpretations of the pieces in the show, of course they're all circulars, so are started out maybe square so they don't, you know look like this long horizontal. So that was that I started that in 2016 the otherwise the sitemap shifted a great deal. The next one I did, I also folded it up and it it was messy, it was just too messy. There was no way that it was going to be able to hang on the wall and be really readable with all those lines. I did have a residency show in Nantucket. And I was so excited to put together all the little pieces of the sitemap I'd done my paintings, some pastels, I by then I was monetizing. So that was another new thing that I brought into the mix in fall of 2016. And they have a studio there at the artists Association. And so I was doing some of those and I saved putting together the sitemap for the last. And I was so excited. I spent the last two days standing at this kind of high table in the print studio and putting together all these little pieces including some writing that I had done about some of the just amazing things about what our ecology does, and in particular in that case Nantucket, exactly how a dune grows itself. It's amazing exactly how Marsh grasses trap sediment and stay up with sea level rise until sea level rise gets to be too much, they're going to be over overwhelmed eventually, but so far, they're keeping up with sea level rise and protecting our our shores. And so that, you know, the mechanisms are very particular. So I was writing about all those things, and also some interesting tidbits about Nantucket history. And I put those on the map as well. So I got this whole thing together. So excited having so much fun. It's finally together, and I look at it and I go, Oh, it looks like a really good middle school science project. Oh, no. So I had my show, and people, you know, we enjoyed those who are on Nantucket in February, a bunch of the artists from the island came, but I knew I had to do something else with the sitemap. So that's been the constant redesign. This one is a gives me I think, a better template for moving for because there will be more Atlas project shows. So in it, the top is like a kind of an abstract version of of contours, because the mountains, of course, are the start of the running water. And then we're talking about climate change and water issues. So the left is Hurricane Irene, the right is Nantucket Island from a lineup type that I did, they're showing what sea level rise will be to the I mean to the island, I think that's six feet of sea level rise. And that's misleading, actually, because that's almost as if you had like this little plastic, you know, like those tapo, plastic taco mat, and you poured water in. And that's how far it would come up. And in fact, if it got up there, it would erode the whole island away, the island is very low. It's totally Sandy, it has no major trees really. So and I did that on Nantucket. So I brought I thought that was a good illustration of sea level rise. And then at the bottom, this is stream flooding. And those were one of the Midwestern floods from last fall, I forget where exactly, but it was more about the point of the flooding. And then those map tacks that you see are identifying the places or the types of water that the the little monotypes and the paintings are of. So it all relates to the show, but it also relates to our world. That was the site map concept. So I feel like I can move forward with any future Atlas project shows, with some variation on this template. And the main map is collage with hand dyed rice papers, and many other things, including like wasp weeding and little bits of tomorrow's. On top of an actual roadmap of the coast, is the Atlas project, the beginning of you getting into collage more seriously. No, I had done a few collages. Two of the older ones I've done a handful of them are in this other room. Oh, and there are a couple here. So these are all 10 years old or something, I learned some techniques from my friend and regional artists a low bar. So I had a lot of fun with those. And then I just kind of left them for a while. This ripping up of paper and using the small shifts of color was kind of inspired by these pieces that my daughter had done. with low bar. That's how I got to know lols collage techniques was I brought my 16 year old daughter and a bunch of friends over there for classes every so often until one day I had to sit down and do it. So Tessa had developed had just come up with this idea of ripping up little pieces and creating things out of them. And that's kind of what gave gave me the idea of doing the maps that way. And now I'm also doing other landscape collages. There's some small ones over there. I'm working up a little bigger, where I'm working more extensively with the rice paper and creating effects on it with the paint before I even get going with the collaging. So it's a lot of it's there's some accidental, and even simpler and more abstract effects going on there. Do you have an idea of how many more installments will comprise the Atlas project? I have no idea. I have no idea. I don't have the next show on the schedule. I am looking at a collaboration with two other artists looking for small museum shows, and potentially other gallery shows. I'm starting on another site map of using the Hudson River Valley and I think this one I think will probably be not just Atlas Hudson River Valley, but Atlas river, or rivers and streams. And so to go more into the ecology of that as well. I wanted to ask you about your relationship with this gallery because you've been working with this gallery for a number of years. So what is that? How do you compliment each other and Albert, if you want to say something to you, I'd be happy to hand the mic over to you. Well, I think that we work in in this really ideal way of back and forth and I Artists often try to kind of grab business for themselves out of their studios. And that just comes from a sense of, you know, this is my work, you know, Why do I always need to loop somebody else in. But when you have a gallery in your area that's really featuring you, or that you want to really feature you, you want to bring business to them, the old saw that you know, the gallery, the artists brings the art, the gallery brings the business, that doesn't work anymore, if it ever did. And so you really need to be working hand in hand. And when people approach you, if people approach me, I will often say who came from nowhere that like neither of us, I'll just say, if you're in the area, you're welcome to come to my studio. But you should also come to my gallery or if I have a show like this up, then I'll just say go to my gallery, if I have an idea for something, Albert is very responsive, because we have that kind of interlocking relationship. It's unfortunate to me that quite a few artists have a slightly hostile attitude toward galleries and people who don't understand the business or kind of outraged by the Commission idea. But this running a gallery is so much work. It's so much work, and there's high overhead and somebody has to be here all the time and draw a salary. And so I've never begrudge that. And I think that attitude right there has led to better relationships in general with my galleries, and more understanding ones. And in particularly with Albert, who is my oldest gallery, and we just we do we bad things. You know, we're on the phone all the time. How about this? How do you want to handle that? What should we do here? One? December a couple years ago, maybe three? I called him up and said, you know, Albert, I don't have anything on the schedule for the first part of the year. How about we do a show with you know, a nice discount, Incorporated? He was like, Okay, well, um, yeah, February, it looks good. I mean, it goes very much both ways. I feel very, very well treated. And I also feel like I treat my gallery. Well. Albert, did you want to chime in on how Christie's work kind of dovetails with what you're attracted to as a gallery owner? Well, I think the relationship that she mentions is important. And one reason is that I'm not all galleries run the same way. And gallerists are, I mean, you could be a used car salesman, or you could really know something about what you do. And I'm a very capable generalist, and especially in this, I guess, the area of aesthetics. And this work fits into something that's a spoke to me, even before I had a gallery, I saw her work at the Barrett Arts Center, oh, my God, maybe. When were you there? I was 25 years ago, on the board, I spent six years on the board and I bought a piece of hers. My first pastel, and I had no idea I will eventually be running my own space. And so this is a relationship that begins there on a purely an aesthetic connection to a work of art, and then develops from there. Can I just say, that's fundamental to me, too, I did not mention really the most important thing is that he loves my work. And, and I, that's just that's the springboard, you know? Yeah. And, I mean, I think the the studio and the gallery kind of run like extensions of itself. And that kind of seamless relationship is really hard to cultivate, because it takes a lot more know how from the artist to understand how a gallery works. And I've, over the years, I've been surprised at how many of the artists I've worked with really have no understanding of how a gallery works, even the most fundamental ways that things go down. So I'm grateful to have a real education coming from someone else. I think I learned as much about how things work because you don't, there's no how to run a gallery guidebook. And, and I don't have that. Previous to running this, I didn't have much of an experience. But projects is what I did in my musical background. And I think organizing a concert, a symphony concert is no different than organizing a show. So sort of just fit into the process. Well, that's something that happens also is that a lot of times galleries are maybe in a given area working is the same hours, essentially. And maybe there's a little bit of a spirit of competitiveness, and so they're not always talking to each other. As he said, there's no guidebook. And for whatever reason, I guess, because my mind enjoys applied problem solving as well as the intuitive side of being an artist. I've tracked and remember A lot of the information I've learned from showing all these years and all of my galleries, and I find it interesting and I try to process it and make some meaning out of it. So there are times when a gallery is that I have good communication with, like Albert can say, what are your other galleries do about this? And because they're talking to me, but they're not talking to each other. And they're talking to me, because I'm curious, they're probably not talking to all their artists. I mean, it really means communication is very nice. An important thing. I'd like to open it up to some questions, but beforehand, there are some stories that you incorporate into these shows. And you have one that I thought you might read for us, if you wouldn't mind. So these stories are about water. And I did some for the Hudson Valley one as well that were about the region. And that I call them mapping memory. And these were these were stories that in my last site map I actually had written in a little drop down for people to open up an envelope and read, but it was just sort of too clunky. I don't have the right solution to this yet necessarily. This is one of the problems I'm solving that this seems to me to separate from everything else. I'd like to find a way to get it into the space more. But this one is actually a rewrite from a blog post that I wrote, called Eagle above fish below. The surface of a body of water is a reflective moving open expanse. beneath it the water Royals with life routed or crawling or burrowing or swimming, life forms going about their business of feeding off of each other and reproducing and eventually dying. above it. Life also carries on. One day last July while staying on at seagull lake near Cooperstown, New York, I headed to the dock to sit and gaze at the water for a few moments. Looking down at the edge of the dog to find my seat. I heard a throaty loud honk squawk. We've been enjoying visits all week from a mama duck in her nine ducklings. So my first thought is I turned my head was that was not a duck. Nothing behind me but as I straighten to face the side I was now seated at I saw an adult Eagle taking off from the water about 25 feet in front of me. It had been addressing my intrusion. Shortly after I decided to make a call to my friend Jenny with whom I've been playing phone tag. I got her voicemail and the message went something like this. Hi, Jenny. We're playing phone tag, but I'm around today so give me a oh my god that is the biggest effing fish I've ever seen la gotta go by. The fish was directly below my dangling feet at least two and a half feet across lit up by slanting sunlight. I know they're efficient these waters despite an altered ecology due to zebra mussels. My husband has caught some other years from our small boat and I've seen them feeding off of bugs at sunset. And yet, it was as if this big fish had crawled up on land and join us on the deck for cocktails such as my sense of colliding worlds. I'm puzzling out ever since what was so startling about this fish sighting. After all, I've been among whales and our 16 foot boat off race point in Provincetown, including a pod of killer whales frolicked with a Mola Mola, and some dolphins in the harbor snorkeled off St. Thomas among all sorts and sizes of sea life. I think my jolt of surprise was about expectations as is so often the case, I had for days been low by surface reflections, and I lost track of the awareness of how much is going on, on underneath, and that during my daily swims, I was intruding upon a busy world. Seeing this large fish directly under my feet brought that crashing back. as artists were concerned with both surface appearance and deeper function and meaning. The surface is mesmerizing and ever changing, feeding our appetite for beauty and the soothing our quotidian emotional bumps and bruises. The complicated term beneath however, mirrors life in all of its day to day demanding a nuanced and dedicated attention. Can we open it up to some questions? Anybody? When was your first show here? My first show with Albert was when he was in Poughkeepsie. And I don't even I've lost count of how many either solo or dual shows I've had with him. Because a lot of times when he's offered me a show, I said, let's have a duo. It's more dynamic. You know, I didn't need any more solo shows on my resume. And I like the idea of of having another artists to cross pollinate with. So the first one was probably a Duo or a trio and it was probably 2008 with Andrew frog crate. You were the first show in 2000 at the end of 1999 into 2000. It's my second first full year in Poughkeepsie. There you go. And then there were more and I mean there's every other year there's something either a solo or do exhibition, and then waves and Hudson we've had one there, at least Yeah, at least Yeah. And, and, and Christie is correct in that given where we are in the valley in the small villages and sort of semi rural area, we do better when you pair an audience. I mean, are artists. And it's not just do shows, I think of them as two small mini solo shows. And then this gallery, if we had done that, I would have maybe split one gallery per artist. So there's a real kind of connection within the space and or chosen people that might work well together, even if their styles are disparate. But something about that works. And that's part of what makes it enjoyable here or else. It's a lot of drudgery. And that's the creative part of of what I do. And it's funny because people ask me if I'm an artist all the time, or if I'm the artists here, the number one question I get with a visitor is, Oh, are you the artist? And I have to say no. But in a sense, my art is in in creating a space for the art. And that feeds my interest here. And I want to find out what do we do as we go forward to get younger people engaged. And part of it is to try to get work like this seen and people used to that kind of interaction. So if you have time to take a close look at the show after this talk, consider the juxtapositions. Some of the pieces that were in the opening show have because we extended the show have gone out to buyers. But the re installations are just as gorgeous. And just there because some of the elements here that not everything goes with everything, even among the paintings themselves. And not to mention the collages and the monotypes. Not all of them go together. And not just it's not just about color. Albert likes to use a word that I just love. And the word is an effect, that the effect can be different from one piece to another. And the effect is kind of everything. It's the surface and the composition and the mood and the whole feel of the painting. And so an average is brilliant at the at these juxtapositions. So, if you want to take that into consideration when you're moving around the show, you'll enjoy it even more. When I look around, most of what I see is a little fuzzy, not clear. And I know you did it on purpose. And I'm curious to hear, I have a few interpretation of why you did it. But I'm curious to hear you first of all, the fuzziness, which I call atmospheric, but a lot of people call fuzzy. That that evolved out of my the, my 20s in New York where I was working in figurative work and they were big open shapes like this, I was using some patterning at the time. And I'd read a quote from Milton Avery, whose figurative work is some of my favorite in the world, about edges that you can tell a great painter by their edges. Now, that doesn't mean that I just have to be any particular way they just but they have to be considered, they have to be considered, and mindful edges. And I started to like the the embedded look more and more, and especially when I moved into landscape painting, I love atmospheric, I love the feel of the blend, as I'm painting, it's so much fun. But also, since I'm working with these flat ish shapes, that I have to do several things to have it not looked like a construction paper cut out. One of them is that within the flat ish areas, I shift the color so that it's not really flat, there's a gradation there that's wider, it goes up to bluer, not even to mention the cloud. So that's part of what makes it it's something that may be the not everybody's even reads but the brain is taking it in. There's a subtle pleasure in that. And then the other thing is the the atmospheric and some are more and some are less and the cloud is softer than the horizon and things like that there's an adjustment, it's not often will follow the kind of the rules of atmospheric perspective where if it's further away, it gets a little fuzzier, but not always, sometimes I just reversed that because I there is a very abstract element to what I'm doing all the time where I'm always considering the abstract or formal elements of the painting. And so the fuzzy the fuzziness or the atmospheric, the softer lines. They make it so that it doesn't feel harsh those juxtapose shapes or simplistic, simple but not simplistic underneath message about the deployment to well, nowadays I would Yeah, I mean, I started doing this kind of look at it. Some cases even simpler and softer back around 1990. But now Yeah, absolutely. I mean, especially living here, the wetter places are getting wetter and the drier places are getting drier. And we are definitely lucky enough to be in one of the wetter places except them we deal with flooding. So So yeah, that's that's part of it. There's a lot of there's a lot of wet here in the sky as well as on the ground. What was your most challenging piece that you've done? And what did you learn from creating that? Hands down the sitemap? No question. That this the sitemap and this was true for my last show as well. And the sitemap was okay, so this is the first sitemap that I've done that I decided to consider a work of art. The other ones before I wanted them to be a map to the show, I wanted them to be almost like a reference and you know, map is to help you find your way. But this one I wanted, I decided I wanted it to be both. And so I didn't put any, any words on there. And each all of these decisions had there's so many design choices and backtracking to all of them. And then there were some things that were very serendipitous, like this was the first time I did that that little printed, deco wi looking window for the for all of the the mini monitors, and then therefore made them round. And that was very serendipitous moment where I had this stamp thing that I had bought from somewhere and have been looking at in my studio for three years. And finally one day decided to roll it out when I was doing some little mini monitors and stamped it and then taped it up and then looked at it for another year. And then when I got ready to do the shows like oh, maybe I'll do them all the same size. And with that around it. And but then other things like those two maps up above, and the contour map, they were several revisions and trying things that didn't work. And until the very last minute, I wasn't sure if I was going to write Atlas forms of water at the top there where I put the contours and decided to leave this without words. So yeah, this, this sitemap took as much time at least as probably this whole room full of paintings. There's a lot of ingredients, a lot going on with it, a lot of ingredients and a lot of problem solving this different from creating a painting in a way that I'm familiar with. Thank you for sharing all of this with us. Regarding the pricing of the works of art in this room here. Is there a dialogue between you and Alberta to determine what sort of pricing you have on them. And as any bond over the 20 years you've been here, it's totally evolved and an artist prices in general evolve. I do a little coaching of artists, for their career development like emerging artists. And the ones that really haven't gotten very far in the process at all, in their understanding will say things like, they'll bring artwork to a meeting that I have. And they'll say how much is paying look like it's worth. And that is that's just it is a completely irrelevant question. And so my The first thing I have to ask is, what's the most you've ever sold a painting for before, and you build on that. And then when you sell more of them, you can raise your prices. And when you sell more of them, you can raise your prices. And you also generally speaking really you cannot walk into a gallery that's interested in your work and say, How much should I charge for this? It just it shows that you don't have a track record. And so basically start low, move higher. So does Alberta encourage you to increase or reduce the prices? Well, that's interesting, because different galleries, I have some galleries that always seem to want to be muscling me lower or giving great deals, but my prices have to be consistent throughout through all my galleries. So there's only so much give or take in it. The other thing that has happened is that since the recession is that small, what I call mom and pop galleries are having a harder and harder time of it. And that's internet related. It's spending habits related, it's all kinds of things related. And so since the Great Recession, the market for mid level, which is what these prices are, has not really come back up to what it was before. And so I would in a different time during these last 10 years. I really should have gotten my prices up higher than they are. But I haven't done that because of the climate. Yes, there's sort of a muted, delicate quality to the light in your paintings, even on what are apparently bright blue sky days. And you've spoken a lot about the thought process behind your work. But I was wondering if you could speak a little bit about the physical process, the maybe techniques that are unique to you that you've discovered over the years of working that enable you to you know, capture the images the way you want to color is so personal and for me subtle and nuanced color invites me in, makes me want to linger and take my time, you know and wears really bright color as this is a huge generalization. So again, it depends on the artwork, but really bright color. Oh, and subtle color also moves my heart, it moves me. And bright color might give me a little jolt of like, you know, but it doesn't move me it doesn't as much generally speaking, it doesn't make me want to linger and stay. And I also I teach color mixing and color composition. And it is much harder to get solid subtle color than than bright more primary color. Anyway. I mean, that said, I understand that Ellsworth Kelly mixed for like weeks to get that exact shade of looks like right out of the tube, emerald green. So you know, he had different parameters. But for me, I like subtle color. And it fits in with the atmospheric and so the technique is to I work on dark jesso I kind of that evolved out of some early underpainting. So I paint the canvas dark on off black and then it and then I work in layers and have to dry in between one of the reasons I don't work at plein air. And that creates a luminosity that is it's counter intuitive. But you can see that there's a glow to these like subtle glow, but there's a glow. And I often the blue goes as blue as I want it that day. And that's how high how blue it goes. But it's never like a failed blue out of the tube or an Ultramarine Blue out of the tube, which I like even less. So I kind of developed this technique right after I left the city or right before and after, I was just starting to do the landscapes and I was having a hard time getting it to the pink to spread in a way that wasn't too brushy I didn't want it to be too brushy. And I was taught nothing about materials or techniques in college, like a little bit in Madrid. But I was had sort of leapfrog to your for the year I was there on fellowship, so not even really there. So I really had no idea wasn't really using mediums and again, no internet. And one time I was walking by a shelf in New York Central art supply shopping. And there's a shelf just the eye level. And I saw these cans that said d'Orleans wax medium, and I looked at me, okay, I'll try it, and it solved my problem, I've had to spread the pain. Now I use a different wax medium that I like even better. And that's what I have my students buy as well, it kind of thins the paint in a way that doesn't make it runny. So you don't have to get involved in to work in layers. You don't have to get involved in like kind of tedious glazing. But it creates a semi transparent layer. And then you layer up on that. So some of the wider areas may have three layers a lot, this may only have one in sections, this darker area. And most to I was just thinking about your clouds a I'm sure almost everyone when he was a child imagine shapes and figures in the clouds. And this is international, of course. But I'm trying to absorb what you're explaining and telling us so I'm trying to understand which cloud is actually more complicated to draw, which cloud has more layers more that I can meet because the sun clouds are really like but I started thinking Wait a minute, what was harder for her to preserve? That's a good question, because they are really different. To me, this kind of a cloud that's kind of a hot, you know, serious, high altitude cloud, I can like draw those freehand, I might have even drawn that freehand, I might have not even been looking at a reference. And it's almost like doing an abstract painting. And then but those fluffy clouds that have the heavy bottoms, and sometimes they're kind of squared off at the bottom. I have made sure over time that I painted like every kind of cloud, but that's the kind that I don't really enjoy much. So I don't go back to it that much. So I would tend to you can see over there that painting which is called forms of water. It predates the show, it's from about three or four years ago, when you I'm looking at a cloud bank, that's all they're also a little fluffy. I kind of go in that direction instead of doing the highly detailed you know clouds that are floating in the sky and have the white on top and the heavy bottom. And I also avoid having them look like something if possible. I joke with my students all the time about the you know the the risks of the crocodile mouth, in the in the marsh that's a big one and various things that you can see in the clouds. I prefer for them to be abstract, or just clouds. Do you Will you do the same painting more than once. Occasionally I'll do the same image more than one different size different format, I will do it that for a commission that's going to directly go into somebody's collection. But not really, on the whole. Yeah, there is so much I have in my studio I have reference for like, my basket that is is just the first tier like paint tomorrow, I would probably take me 100 years. And that's really different from the pre digital era as well that I mean, I remember, you know, maybe 1992, or three or something having like, five photographs in my studio that I was interested in for my next painting, you know, and then something else might come along. But it was really, it felt hard to find the imagery at that time that that suited me. And now I just I've liked it, so much of it. Almost all of these have the same framing is that because you don't want the frame to have anything to do with the picture or because they do very nicely with these particular frames. framing is always a huge issue and galleries are often kind of more on top of it then, in certain ways than artists. I was delighted when I found the floater frame I was one of the early ones to use it and because it doesn't squeeze the painting, I found that a traditional frame that comes up and over the painting, I mean it literally reduces the painting. so so happy to find these. And I use something that looks a little bit similar for the pieces on glass, like the the prints. These days, there's a lot of people objecting to the black. And that's a dilemma for me because it's the only thing that goes well really on everything. There might be the occasional piece that would look better in something else, but then it would look Higley pigley on the wall. So that you know the frames are trendy like everything else. But you really if you're an exhibiting artist, and also you're moving work around potentially to different places, you need to be consistent with it. So have you noticed any of your collectors having reframed or displayed the art in a way that was contrary to how you would do it? Occasionally Yes, more often I've noticed a spot like I always ask for install pictures and they might send me one of my painting over this you know nice whatever brass bed and this like incredibly garish bedspread. Oh well, usually when people refrain sometimes it's something from way long ago like I worked with some corporate consultants and they might have sold something to an office space and and then they update the frame like 20 years later or something. I haven't seen anything that I've hated too much so I don't think thanks to our sponsors, Alberta honey and fine art and the 52 mile Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway following New York State Route 28 through the heart of the central Catskills for maps, itineraries and links to area restaurants, shops and accommodations. Visit scenic catskills.com cats cast is a production of silver Hello audio. Please don't forget to subscribe, and we'll see you again in two weeks. I'm Brett Barry. Thanks for listening
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