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October 02, 2014
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Music for the eyes, art for the ears


Here in the Upper Delaware Valley, variety is indeed the spice of life. This past week served up a perfect menu, since The River Reporter’s “Where and When” section was riddled with choices. Fascinated (yet horrified) by that woman known only as “Danielle” who spent $50,000 to clone her dog (www.andersoncooper.com), I realized that simply being called a dog from time to time does not qualify me for cloning. Yet. Therefore, schedule in hand, I made my selections and headed out.

Having missed out on one or two stellar (so I’m told) exhibits at the Catskill Art Society (www.catskillartsociety.org) over the winter months, I was determined to catch their newest installation, the annual Sullivan County High School Art Show featuring student work from participating schools in Eldred, Fallsburg, Liberty, Livingston Manor, Monticello, Roscoe, Sullivan West and Tri-Valley.

Meandering through the exhibit, I was reminded of Pablo Picasso’s words: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Chatting with a few students at the show, I became convinced that this should not be a problem for some of these budding geniuses. Seventeen-year-old Zac Parc, representing the Roscoe Central School District, had concerns that seemed (IMHO) very grown up already. In keeping with state and nationwide concerns, Parc expressed dismay over funding cuts and the effect they have on the arts. “Roscoe’s program has been compromised” he told me, while pointing out some of his work. “Without enough supplies to meet the demand, fewer courses were offered this year, which is a disappointment for all concerned.”

Tri-Valley’s Sidnye Orion was happy to report that although threatened, her school’s program was going strong “for now.” A senior with her eye on a career in fine art, Orion takes her work—and responsibility as an artist—seriously. As a visual example of that ethic, and solemn “music for the eyes,” Sidnye chose “Human Struggle” as the theme for a series of paintings for her senior year, and is grateful that her instructor, Mr. McAssey, “gives us a wide berth” in how students choose to express themselves through their art.

Looking at colleges and summer internships, Orion chose to exhibit work that speaks of eating disorders and domestic violence, believing these issues to be of prime importance in a world where “sometimes, things aren’t all that pretty.” Daring and admirable come to mind, and there are over 100 examples of this kind of thinking (alongside the whimsical and lighthearted) on display through May 6 at the gallery in Livingston Manor.

Inspired by the youth of America, I made my way to the Event Gallery at Bethel Woods for an opportunity to experience “art for the ears” in the form of guitar legend Leo Kottke. Again, my mind wandered to others’ words as I recalled Ludwig van Beethoven, who once declared that “the guitar is a miniature orchestra in itself.” Kottke, arguably one of the finest guitarists in the world, is the physical embodiment of Beethoven’s sentiment.

Taking the stage promptly, with no opening act and his beloved 12-string in tow, Kottke reminded the audience that we could have chosen a Justin Bieber concert over him, but promised to “do everything that Bieber would not” in his attempt to entertain. Charmingly self deprecating, Kottke shared stories about his youth, his career and some of the luminaries with whom he has shared a stage, but the focus of the evening was (and always will be) the music.

With over 20 albums under his belt, the guitarist has a vast repertoire from which to choose, and although he shared that he is “not always happy with what I do,” the sold out crowd was more than happy with Kottke’s signature and wildly innovative finger picking style, which “draws on influences from blues, jazz, and folk music, and his syncopated, polyphonic melodies” (www.wikipedia.org).

Polyphonic music is defined as having two or more parts, each having a melody of its own, and Kottke is the undisputed king of this intricate and difficult technique. With an emphasis on the music itself (“Later I might burst into song, but not right now”), rather than the occasional vocals, Kottke’s humor and intellect shone through when he did choose to address the crowd, but he allowed his instruments and talents to speak for themselves, inviting two standing ovations and demands for a rare encore. “There’s no place to hide!” he moaned in mock distress, before taking the stage for a final tune that can only be described as (please forgive me) finger-pickin’ good. Music for the eyes... art for the ears? Couldn’t have said it better myself.