Sitting in the Chestnut Tree, January 2023
Short Series of Art Observation in Ithaca and Some Little Differences

End of the year was a mess. The storm hit Buffalo hard with the Biblical wrath. Family houses turned into surrealistic frozen sculptures; massive amounts of snow followed by rain. Travellers locked in. Some of them lucky to have a warm place to stay in, offered by local community. Buffalo was our bus connection to our friend’s place in Pennsylvania where we were supposed to go for a winter break. And we got stuck in Hasbrouck. And let me tell you, living on Cornell Campus during the winter break is like living in a Zombie Land. Or maybe, truer will be to describe it as living on a movie set. You are surrounded by buildings without life in them, everything nice and shiny but dead. On top of that, local bus lines just collapsed.

Then we got some shocking news from home. Our good friend and a neighbour passed away in a terrible accident. For 3 days I couldn´t move my upper body from the shock. The pain I felt from the loss of a friend joined with the last 5 months of the US experience got me into really dark place. The only way I could come out of it was to let it all go. I (we) cried a lot.

For the New Year´s Eve we had such an easy-going day, from breakfast at our friend’s place, to gathering at our apartment in the evening. And we got some new family goals, and I guess New Year’s wish – to go to South Africa.

Since I am going to be in Ithaca for the next 6 months, I have decided to do a monthly follow up on Ithaca Gallery Night and fine art events in general. At least the ones that I am able to visit. Just a little something to have my brain active, to keep me from going full Jack (Nicholson) from the Shinning. I’m sitting in the Chestnut Tree. You know where you can find me.

Gallery Night Ithaca, January 2023

I was looking forward to seeing a few shows – Looking Forward, Looking Back – State of the Art Gallery; Brian Cobb – Natural Things – Hilton Garden Inn- Seneca Place Gallery and Reid Palmer – Black and White – the Gallery at South Hill. And I successfully saw only one…

Looking Forward, Looking Back – State of the Art Gallery

From the entrance you can immediately sense how the overall exhibition was colourful and bright. Saturation on 200%, neon burning colours, like early spring. This is a group exhibition of 13 gallery members and it struck me how similar colour sensation can be found in the works of different artists. Is this reaction to grim, bleak and grey times that have been suffocating the States for the last decades or two with its peak in pandemic lockdown? it is like this urge for good news, for brighter tomorrow.

Now let me put some spotlight on my favourites. Ophelia I and II by Patricia Hunsinger is my first choice. It is uplifting to observe this well-balanced experiment of print, transfer, collage and colouring (all techniques belonging to one house – printmaking) with the theme that is so appropriately named. I like how on Ophelia I there is this pair of legs that gives us an illusion of looking at the triptych where the left panel is missing. Reminds me of Hiroshige and his tendency to cut the view to shift viewer´s center (or of Gustave Caillebotte´s Paris Street; Rainy Day), in this case a repoussoir, pointing to the middle figure. Lately, there has been a rise in the use of a decoupage transfer technique among painters, especially when doing portraits, often smudged with the covering layer of oil paint to be later presented as an oil painting. This just irritates me to the point that I usually leave exhibitions when faced with such artworks. On rare occasion there is a contextual justification for the use of one and those painting have usually deeper message than superficial decorative use of such. But let me get back to Patricia´s Ophelias. There is also a format (size) and the way that paper, both on surface and structurally, has been treated that gives visual pleasure in observing these two pieces.

Second is Patty L Porter and this is a tricky one. While paintings that she presented are basic landscapes, the sketches that she presented with them are fantastic. When you observe these energetic, descriptive, well composited works, with highlight accents of colour and compare them to the paintings next to them, it is like looking at the works of two different persons. These miniatures, almost like haiku, have an amazing charm, and I would love to see an exhibition of her sketch book.

Third is Daniel McPheeters with his new series of digital prints, and in this case, I would like to emphasise that what he did is that he thought of the whole presentation of new works. Unlike other artists who presented new experiments in their artwork, he decided to give an introduction to the viewer for a somewhat drastic change in this series:

“Looking back years ago I lived in Canada. While there I became familiar with a group of artists known as the Group of Seven. Their goal was to develop a uniquely Canadian artistic style. They used bold strokes and colors to express the Canadian wilderness.

Looking forward, after a recent 5000-mile road trip through the Canadian Maritimes, I remembered my fascination with their artworks. The incredible wild scenery inspired me to create these works as an homage to the Group of Seven.”

This beats any other artist statement I read in the last few years. Kudos. Now, the only thing I wish he did is that he used this iPod illustrations as a base for the paintings. I think that moving to canvas should be his new big step.

For Brian Cobb´s exhibition I kind of lost interest while standing in front of the Hilton Garden Inn entrance. And I went to Artist Alley/Gallery at South Hill on the day when no one was at their studio and there was some PowerPoint presentation going on at the Gallery. I wanted to go for Pop In Studio Night, but since there was no new poster invitation and with TCAT buses being unreliable, I didn´t want to take my chances twice. But I would definitely try to check in some new events and write about Artist Alley/Gallery at South Hill. I really like the concept and this should be more advertised since it is a bit out of the main suspects areas.

Annual Open Exhibition – Community School of Music and Arts will be on view through January 27.

Contemporary Mapping: We’re Still Here – the Corners Gallery

Contemporary Mapping: We’re Still Here is a curated group exhibition of 28 artists that I was really afraid of. The name of the exhibition was evoking bad memories of overly conceptualized, EU funded, brain washing exhibitions, where an artist is present and art is nowhere to be seen. You know, EU propaganda art hiding behind much nicer terms like socially engaged or responsible art. Those art shows where EU is saying, look we are sponsoring this artist to show you how we care about migrants, while many of our country members violate their basic human rights with impunity. I was afraid that I might be visiting something similar but in the context of the USA. To my relief and surprise, I was not.

This one was one of the best shows I´ve seen in the last 6 months. Selected artworks are almost on equal level of artistry making it really hard to pick your favourites. When asked what my favourites were, I could only reply in terms of the wall groups. So, the entire wall on the right from the entrance, featuring works in precomposed photography, paper cut-outs, shallow-relief acrylic paintings, ink drawings, collages; the left corner from the entrance, the wall on the left, featuring works of Werner Sun (I am only mentioning his name because I am planning to write about his work). An exhibition that is a MUST to visit if you are in Ithaca area. It is open until Feb 24, 2023 and working hours of the gallery are Tues – Fri 11-4pm, Sat 10-4 pm.

Coffee with Local Artists

After the gathering at Leslie Ihde´s studio, this time we had a meeting at Domenica Brockman´s. She is preparing for her Vivid exhibition at the Southern Vermont Arts Center, Manchester, Vermont. A big show that will run from 2/11/2023 to 5/7/2023. Charlotte Ghiorse was there with her new punk rock works. And this time I met Lindsey Glover, a Finger Lakes based artist. She is curating and preparing a group exhibition Farm+Auto at the Trumansburg Conservatory of Fine Arts (TCFA) that will run from February 11 to March 26. Also, she introduced us to some very interesting photography framing/presentation. Hopefully, I will catch a bus for the opening of this exhibition. For me, the highlight of the meeting was when Domenica showed us 3 paintings the she refers to as “blueprint” for her art. I actually wanted to make a photo of her with “blueprint” but I got lost in a discussion and forgot about it. Next time.

It’s the Little Differences

And this one is a huge one. Guns, especially Guns in Schools. No1 taboo topic in schools and in public. The rest of the World does not have Guns problem since the rest of the World has a strict gun controls and restrictions. In my country, the post-war country, there is an ongoing campaign to collect and destroy arms from the war. You can get gun in a gun shop, but you will have to obtain a licence, and even owning a gun, it doesn´t mean you can shoot trespasser in “self-defense” if he/she is unarmed. Even if you fire a warning shot you will be held accountable.

Now, I am writing this after reading the article by the Ithaca Voice – Teacher’s union presents report on morale as ICSD resignations continue that was published on January 5th.

“As indicated by the exit interviews, the most common reasons for leaving seem to be self- care and mental health, poor treatment by administration, burn out and lack of support, low pay, student misbehavior and lack of consequences for that misbehavior and frustration with building-level and administration-level leadership.”

This is something we could observe through our experience from our kids, that, I must admit, was mostly positive, but we also had very negative and absurd ones; and through experiences of our friends who are teachers, professors and educators. For the record, my son´s screen time went from 2hours per day to 24/7 since he was issued a Chromebook by the school where the time of usage is not controlled, he developed a behaviour of full-time corporate employee where he constantly checks for email notifications from his teachers about assignments so he could immediately “fix” what’s wrong. And this is also making teachers active 24/7 and they create a loop. Something that is widely forbidden in Europe. I understand that during pandemic a remote schooling was a problem to be solved. But now, we shouldn´t let school become breeding and battling grounds over future users of Google or Microsoft. Being here at Cornell, I wonder what message Cornell sent when they closed down the Department of Education 12 years ago?

And then, on the 6th of January this happened – Six-year-old boy shoots and gravely wounds teacher in Virginia school. While being absolutely shocked by reality that a 6-year-old child could handle a gun and shoot someone, I was more shocked by the reaction of people around me, or should I say a lack of reaction. A friend of mine even joked that now is the time for me to stay in the USA and become a substitute teacher (I have a degree in Fine Art Teaching), because there is such a great demand for teaching profession. Or that this kid set a new record of being the youngest. Actually in 2000, a 6- year- old- boy shot and killed his 6 years old classmate, Kayla Rolland, in their classroom at Buell Elementary School in Michigan over some playground quarrel. Or another friend who quit teaching for a better paid job (including better healthcare and other benefits) said that she got praised by her mom because “she was afraid that her daughter might get shot at school”. Or while talking to people they could not remember the details or mixed details from different schools or university campus shootings because there are so many of them. And what followed this news is – School downplayed warnings about 6-year-old before teacher’s shooting, staffers say. But again, how can you live “normally” in the country where a 6 years old child can have access to weapon or even younger – a toddler. Reading Washington Post article – A 6-year-old is accused of shooting someone at school. He isn’t the first I was terrified by the following:

“But in this country, almost no form of gun violence is unique. Since 1999, most shootings at K-12 campuses — 69 percent — happened at high schools, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. Among the 62 at elementary schools, 49 were committed by adults or teens. In at least 11 cases, though, the person who pulled the trigger was no older than 10. In nine of those shootings, children brought the loaded guns from home. In the other two, the children fired weapons police brought to campus…

…Who leaves a loaded a .45 laying around?” Poss asked.

Lots of people, as it turns out. As of 2015, as many as 4.6 million children lived in homes with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm.”

In early results of my wife’s research a gun control is a great concern for a lot of schools and educators. And I noticed it is also a taboo topic in public. Since then, I started developing a fear that my life and the life of my kids and wife is in danger from the possibility of being caught in gun violence. Reading the CNN report – Three weeks and 39 mass shootings. This is America in 2023. and discovering Gun Violence Archive website just left me frozen. In the US people might believe that they live in peace loving democracy, but the data on Gun Violence Arche basically shows that you are at the state of civil war and the US is losing.

After all this I don´t know how to end on a happy side or wish you Happy New Year.

With rising fear of AI, I would like to quote Ricky Gervais reply when he was asked by Stephen Colbert “Are you afraid of artificial intelligence taking over?”,
He replied: “I’d love for any intelligence to take over.”

I would really love that.

Maxi Jazz passed away last month and therefore I would like you to listen to Faithless – Reverence song. You might find some good messages there from the Grand Oral Dissemination.

Peace, Love,

Udon & Sake


Looking Forward, Looking Back – State of the Art Gallery

Ophelia I & II – Patricia Hunsinger 

Sketch/Painting comparison – Patty L Porter

Contemporary Mapping: We’re Still Here – the Corners Gallery

At Domenica Brockman´s atelier with Charlotte Ghiorse and Lindsey Glover