With all the talk of immigration in the news lately, Greene County Council on the Arts (GCCA) has chosen to highlight some of the many foreign-born artists who moved to the Hudson Valley. Artists were asked to submit work that speaks to their original homeland, the journey to their new homeland, thoughts about living in the US, the current immigration conversation, or simply expresses something about themselves. The fourteen selected artists present a collection of works ranging from painting, sculpture, prints, poetry, and installation that collectively provide fascinating insight into how artists integrate their past with their present. The opening reception for Resident Alien will be held on Saturday, April 28 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at GCCA’s gallery, 398 Main Street, Catskill. The reception is free and open to the public.
International artist Vahap Avsar designed Resident Alien’s poster image “Flags of Brooklyn” for his clothing and accessories company Brooklyn Industries, which he co-founded with his wife Lexy Funk in 1998. Vahap was born in Malatya, Turkey and lives in Athens.
Israeli photographer Alon Koppel has been photographing for most of his adult life and currently resides in Catskill, after moving to the United States in 1998. In his series of photographs titled “Middle Eastern Promises,” Alon juxtaposes photographs of Israel and Palestine taken circa 1900 with recent photographs, taken by him, of the same location. As Alon puts it, “Middle Eastern Promises reflects on the changing world and provides concrete evidence of that flux via the juxtaposition of two different images.”
Writer and filmmaker Annick de Bellefeuille submitted a poem to Resident Alien titled “Family Tree,” not to be confused with New Zealand-born Toni Brogan’s “The Family Tree.” In Annick’s “Family Tree,” she describes leaving her native Québec “for the big city where everyone was a transplant / who believed they were free / as uprooted citizens of the world.” Annick realizes she will never be free of her Québecois culture’s condemnation of her as a traitor for writing in English, “the language of our oppressors / as we used to say”.
Toni Brogan’s “The Family Tree” is a soft sculpture constructed with interlocking threads, entwined joints and spine-like pieces created by wrapping, binding and knotting which develop into a larger sculptural work that captures the dynamic, organic nature of the fiber itself are like the disjointed lives of displaced people and of a family that was pulled apart in all directions.
Canadian artist Nicole Lemelin’s painting “Reassurance in the Balancing of Apprehensions” was the last painting she made in Canada as she was in the process of selling her house and moving to the United States with her American husband, the artist Terry DiPietro. They currently reside in Palenville. Of her painting, Nicole says, “It is only here in Palenville, after unpacking and hanging it on the wall that I realized there was, in front of my very eyes, the allegorical version of my odyssey.”
The two installations in Resident Alien come from artists Maryna Bilak, originally from the Ukraine, and Suresh Pillai, originally from India. Maryna started her installation “Time to Gather Stones” in 2012, when she moved to the U.S.A. The stone-like objects are actually layers of found objects covered by Papier-mâché and hand painted with acrylic. Maryna says, “They represent time capsules of me living in America,” and the colorful patterns stand for memories about her family in Ukraine. She currently lives and works in Hudson, NY with her husband Maurice Haughton
Suresh Pillai’s contribution to Resident Alien is an object-based installation performance intended to create a participatory space where the question of “Who is Alien?” in our contemporary world is being explored. Inspired by a common street side practice in India, where people sit around a temporary peanut roasting fire set up, Suresh will roast some fresh whole peanuts in a clay stove using twigs from Catskill and sand from the Hudson riverfront. dia. The space will be surrounded by posters with texts and images depicting Suresh’s “personal encounters/dilemmas of being an American in India and Indian in America.”
Cuban-American artist Enrique “Kico” Govantes’ pieces in Resident Alien are a series of watercolors he painted in 1995 for the Magic Theatre’s production of fellow Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz’s play A Park in Our House (Mr. Cruz won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play, Anna in the Tropics, the first Latino so honored). Each watercolor represented a scene of the play and was projected on a screen as the play was read.
Maria Kolodziej-Zincio, a first generation Holocaust survivor, presents a portion of her twenty-piece photo encaustic documentary “The Forgotten Holocaust,” which depicts the journey of deportation, imprisonment and freedom experienced by her family and millions of others caught up in World War II. Maria was born in a Polish refugee camp in Leon, Mexico during the war, and today resides in Hudson, NY.
The Resident Alien exhibition is rounded out with works by printmaker Agnieszka Maksy, originally from Poland, whose work presents her body “as an oasis of art”; Chile-born artist Ana Maria Martin Valenzuela, who is showing “thought paintings memories” of land and transitions of leaving her country to reunite with her daughter and grandchildren; Japanese artist Itoko Kobayashi, whose “Himawari (Sunflower)” expresses her love of nature using traditional Japanese paper/origami construction; Sirpa Cowell, who just moved to the Hudson Valley from Finland and whose work reflects the Scandinavian bold colors and patterns; and Lauryn de Leeuw, a contemporary Abstract Impressionist artist who is Dutch and born in Indonesia.
The Greene County Council on the Arts Gallery is located at 398 Main Street, Catskill, NY. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. GCCA is closed on Sundays. For more information on upcoming exhibits, events, artist and grant opportunities, visit www.greenearts.org or call 518-943-3400.