Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Nyack Art Scene and Bill Batson

Alissa Perretz

The work of Kerri Lee Green is featured on the poster...
 note her reference to Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon"
I live 30 minutes north of Manhattan on the banks of the Hudson River.  The village I call home, which is where Edward Hopper grew up, is Nyack, NY.  I love it here.  Close proximity to the city, tons of hiking and camping opportunities, the small town life where pretty much all that you need is in walking distance, and most importantly, a thriving diverse community with many cultured young and middle aged people.  

Every year Paulette Ross, owner of the clothing and apparel store P. Ross on Main St., organizes Nyack's Art Walk.  I can't say that the art on display gives me goosebumps, but then again most art in Chelsea and Bushwick don't either.  The obvious difference between the art scene here in Nyack vs that of Bushwick's (and keep in mind they're really not comparable at all in terms of scope and seriousness) is that Nyack's artists haven't graduated from Yale, the Art Institute, or Columbia and they have full time jobs... moreover, they're primarily hobbyists.  The Art exhibited at Art Walk is the type of stuff that an uneducated public can comprehend and enjoy.  Bushwick on the other hand is composed primarily of artists overly conceptual, self-conscious, and create art for an audience that thinks a lot about art, art history, and where art is headed.  Both art scenes (again, if you can even call Nyack an art scene) are lacking when all is said and done.  Nyack is too populist and Bushwick needs a bush wacking.  But wait a second... Nyack never made the presumption that its supposed to be "the shit".  Art Walk is a way to bring the community together and celebrate the creative minds we're living amongst... and it does that very well.  Put it this way, Nyack cares about art and has the community to support events like Art Walk, Bill Batson's Flash Sketch Mob and Kris Burn's Hopper Happenings, which took place last year.

The Art Walk went from Friday to Sunday.  But before I go into showing you some images from that weekend event I want to introduce you to Bill Batson's Flash Sketch Mob.  I'm not going to go into details about who Bill is, you can check out his website if you so choose to...

Kevin Zawacki of reported that... 
Batson's Nyack Sketch Log is an ongoing project that spotlights the village's character through captivating drawings, and was the initial catalyst for the Flash Sketch Mob.  "I wanted to single-handedly map the village," he noted. "But one person can't accomplish that."

 So at 10 a.m. on Saturday artists met at a registration booth in Nyack and were assigned a section of the village to paint or draw.  Bill placed approximately 10 artists per block.  At 11am, after the Mayor of Nyack Jen White gave the go ahead, the artists went to their assigned spots and did their thang until 1pm.  Then each artists work was scanned.  At 9:30pm that night Bill presented what was called the "High Avenue Project" with the help of many volunteers including Kris Burns and projected each drawing in slideshow format on the side of a building off of North Broadway.  Many people turned up for the event.

So why do something like this?  Whats the point?  Well, it seems that me and Mr. Batson have very similar ideas about why drawing and painting the world around us from direct observation is important. Here is an edited down version of one of Bill's blog posts I found on his website from October 2011 titled: The Nyack Sketch Log Versus Google Maps...

Copyright 2011 Bill Batson
Like John Henry, I am at war with a machine. My antagonist is not a steam powered drill, but Google Maps. What my nemesis accomplishes through satellite surveillance and cars equipped with periscope cameras, I endeavor to create with my humble sketch pad and pen. Just like the hero of legend Henry, I will never, ultimately, outlast the machine. What I hope to do is to complete a visual record of every inch, object, vista and structure in my village that will remind us that handmade, no matter how slower, shakier or flawed, has a greater intrinsic value than the synthetic alternative.
I will need to rival the computer generated version of reality. I am not yet a virtual cartographer however. I still select my subjects randomly and out of sequence.
Eventually, I wish to surrender serendipity and assume the methodical attitude of the machine. I may have contempt for the impact of the machine on certain aspects of our culture, but I also respect the cold logic of these devices that are ultimately, an invention and reflection of mankind.
But as the high fashion world knows all too well, imperfection is an essential part of human beauty. When my mother had a set of teeth made for her recently, the dentist warned that the final mold had to be imperfect. If a dental implant is composed of teeth that are too symmetrical, the human eye senses that they are false teeth. 
The Google Map will always be superior to my super-sized sketch log as a navigation tool. But as an archive of our collective time on the planet, I believe the artistic record reigns supreme.
Bill Batson
In a culture where machines do the physical work, will people become soft? In an era when machines perform all the mental work, will people become vapid? Could we reach a point in our society where we become as dependent on our machines as a critically ill patient is on life support? What would happen if our plug gets pulled? Will the dynamic eventually shift making the machine the operator and the human the tool?
Some cultures view the mechanical lens as at best an intrusive instrument at worse, a soul thieving contraption. But when you approach the very same party with a sketch pad, the results are radically different.
The act of drawing from life seems to soothe the jumpy modern soul.

Here are a few thoughts I have about participating in the Flash Sketch Mob...

-  Its not really a flash mob when people have to register and Mayor kicks the event off.
-  An amazing community success.
-  I preferred the children's art... it's more interesting to me than drawings that mimic what the eye sees.
-  The event was very controlled,  managed well and organized... perhaps too much so for the preferences of some artists.
-  Most, if not all, of the people who participated in the event were not professional artists in the sense of striving for or being able to make a living off their art.  But how many of us, if measured by finical success, would be or could be considered "professional artists"... not me.
-  There was no ego involved in the event.  And Bill did a great job giving credit to each artist by writing their name in bold letters underneath their projected artwork.

Flash Sketch Mob

My drawing from the sketch mob... if anyone knows Nyack
the bicyclists rule the road!

Selections from The High Avenue Project... 
FYI the names of the artists whose work is projected is below the projected image

7th Annual Nyack Art Walk

Olive's (restaurant/bar)
 A selection of images I was attracted to (FYI I made it to 20 of the 24 exhibits, so not all artists are accounted for).  Some work I found interesting according to its juxtaposition with the displays in the store... like Tracy Kachtick-Anders' brooding nude woman exhibited in a lingerie store, and Jeff Spindel's fauvist-like work presented side by side with bar stools and jukeboxes. The two artists that I thought had the most well rounded selection of work were Sue Stotsky and Alissa Perretz.
My Top 10 Picks

Alissa Perretz

Sue Stotsky


Sue Stotsky


Sue Stotsky


Kerri Lee Green


Tracy Kachtick-Anders
Owner of Vincent's Ear (art supply)


Jeff Spindel


Sandy Levine


Lisa Mee Doherty


Ron Wohlgemuth

Honorable Mention...

Edward Michael Gaffney

My Open Studio

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