Summer Vacation 8/18

In early August I took a road trip up north through the Hudson River Valley with a side track to Vermont. Along the way I visited with friends in Beacon, Newburgh, Brattleboro, Poughkeepsie and Peekskill. Since I cannot seem to just travel for the sake of traveling, but need to have an artistic goal in mind, this time around it was to research possible communities I would like to move to in the future, or at least find storage/studio space with enough room to install some of my old installations. The visit culminated with the opening of a group show I am in at the Barrett Art Center in Poughkeepsie titled Pushing Paper. As I made my way along the lush green parkways, under the guise of Bear and Beacon Mountains and the ever present Hudson River, I found myself comparing each city and town to past places I have visited, reminded of being present in a place and how memories can be stirred. I am not quiet sure I was ready enough to take Beacon in. I had a lovely visit with Jayoung Yoon, an artist I have shown with at the Affordable Art Fair through the Julio Valdez Project Space. Jayoung has a great studio in the old sprawling Beacon High School building with a range of other artists. She took me on a drive around town, showing me the Main Street, riverfront and entrance to Beacon where I went to years ago. I found Beacon quaint, but ironically lacking in affordable unique artist work spaces. Jayoung described the town as being made up of almost 80 percent artists, many from NY and especially Brooklyn, and I could feel this. The young owners of the airbnb I stayed in had just moved in a year ago from Queens. I found Beacon very low scale, mainly of small houses, but when I went across the bridge to Newburgh the next day I was completely blown away by the scale and architecture of city. I was reminded of Detroit, with its grand structures run down, but stately standing against time and economics. Marina, a Ukranian artist I knew from my days with chashama took me around to show me plenty of amazing buildings in various states of abandonment, renovations or just surviving. I even looked at some workspaces being advertised by Brooklyn Fireproof. What a contrast to Beacon. You could tell in the past that it was in Beacon where the workers lived, while in Newburgh there lived the factory owners and managers. But alas there is no direct train to Newburgh anymore, there are still tracks that separate the touristic waterfront from the rest of town, which reminds me of Portland, ME, but it is only freight trains that trundle by. Once again I was told by my friend how great Newburgh is and how many artists are living there. Marina had bought a small commercial building for a song, that was still filled with old organ parts that she was working on for a large eventual project. I only stayed in Newburgh for a few hours then made my way down to Storm King, which was not a easy place to visit in the heat. Afterwards I took off to Brattleboro, VT to visit with Gillian, an old college friend who had just settled into her first leased apartment after 2 years of moving around as an international house and pet sitter. Vermont is such an idealistic state, where plastic bags can be against the law and everyone recycles everything so much that you barely have any trash to throw out, and your compost/plastic and paper need to be picked up more often. This was my vacation spot. Gillian drove us across the border to New Hampshire to take a short hike and dip in a small lake, which was so refreshing that I did not even want to take a shower afterward and just remember the feel of the soft cool water on my skin. Unfortunately she did not quite have all her furniture yet and we were both sleeping on the floor on foam mattresses, which is really not for us older folk anymore. When I left I headed down to the Clark Museum, which again was too hot to roam the grounds, but at least enjoy a refreshing show of women artists working in Paris in the late 1800’s and an extraordinary installation of video pieces by Jennifer Steinkamp. My next stop was Poughkeepsie, which¬†thoroughly felt like an American City, with its cast iron train trestle turned into a Walkway over the Hudson, clap board row houses, and fighting spirit. My hosts, artist Suprina Kenney and her husband, who just settled into town this past winter after selling their brownstone in Harlem welcomed me with open arms and effusive support of the Poughkeepsie community, which is building its way back like Newburgh, but with what I feel to be a cohesive group of supportive artists, who meet regularly for daily discussions. I was hoping the juror Paul Wong would be at the opening for the Paper show, but I got to meet some movers and shakers in the community, especially a new arrival who spoke to me of the benefits of moving to Poughkeepsie over Newburgh. The issue?¬† Taxes. Apparently real estate may be cheap at first if it is run down or abandoned, but once you spruce it up and increase the value, so do the taxes increase. My last stop was to visit with Athena LaTocha in Peekskill, who was another artist in residence during the Winter Workspace program with me. She really lucked out with an affordable artist housing loft in town, which really felt more European to me. Not sure why, but it reminded me of the curvy streets in the German towns I visited, and something about the architecture had an older more settled in feeling. Gillian claimed that Peekskill had the best designed waterfront, but Athena took me to a smaller reserve a little ways up, which was more rustic. As we drove along the water, past small industrial buildings being used by artists and a sheer rock face, with the train heading right towards us, I was reminded of Italy, and a trek I took with my friend Melody through an old pitch black train tunnel to a secluded nude beach near the Cinque Terra on the western coast. A row of five cities only accessible to one another by train. Athena and I stood on a small boardwalk watching the sunset, and a faint rainbow appear, but in the not so far off distance this sense of peace was disturbed by the view of the Indian Point Nuclear Plant, which is supposed to close by 2021. We had dinner at a popular local brewery. It seems it is local breweries that keep small towns alive these days. After a breakfast of crepes at a nearby cafe that reminded me of an older Berkley, CA I made my way back to The Bronx and home again to the rough and tumble of finishing up renovations on my apartment so I can finally really move into my new home. Once finished, I am not so sure I will want to travel as much as I used to. As I look back, there has been a pattern of traveling every other year during the odd years to an artist residency. This was how I used to survive the onslaught of NYC. But since I moved further north in the City closer to Nature and away from most of the noise, I have been feeling so much more content and satisfied up by the NY Botanical Garden and The Bronx River. Once the renovations are finished and the studio area is fully up and running again, I am pretty sure it will be harder and harder to leave, even for the one hour subway ride down to anywhere…

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