Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Painted River

     "Glad I'm not an artist."

     I was at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester. There to view art, I found myself looking out the window at the lower slopes of Mt. Equinox instead. It was a gray, rainy day. Not exactly the crisp greens and blues typically seen in so many landscape paintings of New England. 

     Yet I was mesmerized by the scene before me. Misty fog wafting up out of the forest to mingle with lowering clouds. A lone White Pine towering above the surrounding canopy. The Art Center buildings adding scale and contrast. Tough for an artist to match the atmospheric mood Mother Nature had created.

     Two exhibits were showing on the day of my visit. Alberto Rey: Cultural Landscapes focused on the Battenkill River and the artist's interest in biological regionalism. Each large scale painting was accompanied by a quick sketch done at the site, a photo and a few notes. I found the approach quite effective, an interesting window into the artist's creative process. Less pleasing was a video installation of Rey painting in his studio. This consisted of rapid time lapse stills of a painting in the process of forming. It made me dizzy watching it.

Rey painting
(web image)

     Rey is incredibly prolific and an adjoining gallery showcased some of his other series including works focused on his native Cuba, on icebergs, on extinct species and on other rivers. I'ld like to recommend you see the exhibit but unfortunately it closed last Sunday, June 25. The best I can offer are a couple of links: here you can view the Battenkill paintings and here is Rey's website.

Alberto Rey
(web image)

     Up until July 16 is the Spring/Summer 2023 Members Exhibition. Hundreds of creations in a wide variety of mediums almost overwhelm. The artists come from all over New England and New York and a lot of familiar names from Washington County are here. I noted J. Metzger's assemblages because I always enjoy driving by his funky place in Battenville, where the very yard is an assemblage. Two moody landscape photos by Alex Baker also made an impression. If you go I'ld like to hear what sticks with you.

Jack Metzger

     Note that an upcoming show is a joint collaboration with the Bennington Museum. For the Love of Vermont is drawn from the Lyman Orton collection and opens at the SVAC on July 22. The image accompanying the exhibition announcement is a painting by Rockwell Kent. He used both the local Taconics and the Adirondacks as subject matter (as well as many other places) and you can see a big cross section of his work at SUNY Plattsburg. I hope to have more on that in the future.

Rockwell Kent

     Also at SVAC you might want to walk the Botany Trail or hike on the Equinox Preservation Trust trails that connect to the Arts Center. There are numerous performances scheduled in the Arkell Pavilion and an onsite restaurant called the curATE cafe with inside and patio dining. The complex is accessed by a long winding drive thru a sculpture park complete with flocks of wild turkeys on the day we were there. To get the whole picture visit their website here. 



Monday, June 12, 2023

Rock & Ramble

     Since farming is (marginally) more lucrative than blogging I've been spending most of my time working in the fields lately. But now, with several much needed showery days, I've found a few minutes to profile a couple of neat local places you might enjoy.

     'Local' is a somewhat amorphous concept but I think of it as places I can visit in an hour or two's easy drive. The classic day trip. From the upper Hudson Valley that includes a tempting smorgasbord of four distinct mountain ranges: the Adirondacks, the Taconics, the Greens and the Catskills. You could even make a case for the Berkshires being a fifth option. So many hills, so little time.

Marsh and open water at Inman Pond


     Inman Pond is like an old friend to me. We may go a few years without seeing each other but then there's a happy reunion. The pond is in the Adirondack foothills on the east side of Lake George. From Rt. 149 in the Town of Fort Ann head north on Buttermilk Falls and Sly Pond Roads to a parking area just past the trailhead. The  short hike follows a gradual ascent along Bishop Brook. In short order the trail splits near the swampy outlet of the pond. Taking the left fork will lead you to several shoreline campsites and fishing spots. Keep going until a seemingly impregnable rock face looms up. Follow herd paths around and up onto this outcrop for an airy vantage point high above the pond.


...and top

     This is a great place to picnic, read, nap, even indulge in activities that might make me blush. If you've got a geologist handy bring him along. At the base of the cliff, in an overhanging alcove, are a variety of rock types and features you can explore. Across the pond on the other side of a ridge lies Crossett Pond (recently sold to a wealthy developer). You may be able to skirt the upper end of Inman to go down the other side but it's boggy and I'm not sure where the line between public and private land lies.

          The only place I know to swim is on the shore opposite the high rock perch where a small ledge drops into deep water. I used to come up on short, brisk trail runs and it was always a delight to slip into the water after working up a sweat. I also remember hauling a rope and climbing gear to clamber up and rappel off the rock. Oh, to be young and foolish again! Now days I'm content to lay back and absorb the tranquility of this lovely spot.

     On our way back out we met a family from Granville - mom, dad, and three, maybe four kids. They were returning from an ambitious climb up Pilot Knob. It's worth noting that there are multiple destinations from the trailhead, including Pilot Knob and Buck Mountain as well as a popular climbing ledge in the col between them. Like I said, so many hills, ponds, streams and rocks...


The path to the park

     Want to stroll thru a Japanese Garden without enduring a very long (and expensive) flight? Let me suggest the Taconic Ramble State Park in Hubbardton, Vermont. Get ready for a unique and memorable experience.

     When Gwenne, Zia and I stopped by on a sparkling spring day it was a 'deja vu all over again' revelation. I had hiked here long ago but this trip felt like a fresh discovery. That first visit was prompted by rumors of an eccentric couple sculpting their own magical fairyland in the Vermont hills, while also inviting others to come and enjoy it. Carson 'Kit' Davidson and his wife Mickie were New York City creatives who wanted a country place to escape the urban hustle.They eventually purchased over 400 acres of meadow and ridge terrain and set to work enhancing it with trails, benches and the iconic Japanese Garden. While they were alive they welcomed anyone seeking peace and beauty. After their passing they left the land to the people of Vermont with an endowment for its upkeep. In a world plastered with POSTED signs, how inspiring is that!

     Today the land is a free state park with minimal facilities. It's a place to ramble, taking in the views and wandering thru lush fields and forests. The trails are divided into east and west areas and you could spend several days hiking all of them. We explored the Garden and then went up to Mount Zion Minor and Moot Point on short but rugged paths. The waterfalls trails to the east will have to wait for a return trip. And return we will. The Davidson's enlightened attitude of sharing their paradise makes this a 'feel good' place not soon forgotten.

Photo of Kit and Mickie at the entrance kiosk
(sorry about the reflection)


     * Here's a link to the park's website for more information.