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August 27, 2016
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arts & leisure

A month of firemen, pottery and silk paintings at the DVAA

Carolyn Duke
TRR photos by Isabel Braverman

NARROWSBURG, NY — The current exhibit at the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance opened on Friday, September 6 to a sizeable crowd. The “regulars” were there, viewing the dual exhibition by Jane Blake and Carolyn Duke, a display of paintings on silk and pottery respectively. Upstairs in the LOFT Gallery was a new crowd to the art gallery—firefighters. The exhibit is “Volunteer Firefighters: Heroes Among Us,” and is an exhibit of photographs and interviews by John Dzowonar and Ellen Bay. While downstairs the guests munched on light fare from Natural Contents, upstairs there was a big crock pot of “Fireman’s chili” stewing.

At the downstairs show, “Color,” by Blake and Duke, the juxtaposition of Duke’s metallic-like pottery with an earthy sheen and Blake’s pretty and colorful paintings worked very well. I commented on this complementary element to Duke, and she explained that she had not even seen Blake’s paintings before the show. I also asked her about the Raku process with which she makes her pieces. Raku pottery originated in Japan and the way it is made is by heating the pottery quickly to high temperatures and cooling it quickly. This process creates a certain unpredictability, and Duke said sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, calling it a “happy accident.” The intense color and shine that are in Duke’s works make the unpredictability well worth it.

Jane Blake’s paintings are wonderful swirls of color, that when looked at closely come alive with texture. Blake paints highly saturated color onto silk, a process that originated in Asia. Inside the main gallery, Blake’s paintings are displayed with Duke’s pottery. Many of the paintings are large. In the hallway, smaller paintings adorn the wall.

Upstairs in the LOFT Gallery, I could instantly tell it was the firemen show because many of the people were proudly wearing their respective town’s fire department shirts. Portraits of volunteer firemen (and women) from Callicoon, Highland Lake, Lake Huntington, Lava, and Narrowsburg hung on the walls next to quotes from their interviews. Each person had their own story about what it meant to them to become a volunteer fireman. Some were funny, some were heartbreaking and all of them were interesting and inspiring.

Bay said they had the idea about a year ago because they are New Yorkers who spent half of their time up here, and they realized that the firefighters in New York are paid but around here they are all volunteers. It’s not just our area; 70% of America is all volunteer firefighters. Bay had always wanted to be a fireman, and when her firehouse finally allowed women to join, she learned that she had missed the date by six weeks.

Bay said the sense of camaraderie and the acceptance of new people into the firehouse is amazing. “There’s something about being able to walk into a fire. Everything in my body says run from fire, go the other direction. And for people to train themselves to go into it is pretty extraordinary,” Bay said.

All three exhibits will be on display until September 28. The Alliance Gallery is located at the Delaware Arts Center at 37 Main Street, Narrowsburg. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 845/252-7576 or visit