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December 09, 2016
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No strings attached

CAS Executive Director Bradley Diuguid, left, and artist Kalika Stern discuss her huge mural at the Catskill Arts Center in Livingston Manor, NY.
TRR photos by Jonathan Fox

I would not describe myself as someone who’s afraid of commitment. In fact, there are times when I overextend and then find myself flailing about as I seek to honor the many promises I’ve made while my life unravels, creating loose ends that eventually need to be tied up, lest knots occur. Seeking to avoid such chaos in the weeks and months to come, there’s no time like the present to take stock as we prepare to change the clocks and spring forward into a season of warmer temps and the many events happening throughout the Upper Delaware Valley.

In the wake of the debacle known as Valentine’s Day, I went out on a limb and asked someone to join me at the opening reception of the Catskill Art Society (CAS) Arts Center’s ( “Near and Far” in Livingston Manor.

“That sounds cool,” was the response, “as long as there are no strings attached.” Sigh. “What could that mean?” I asked the wonder dog. “It’s not like I proposed!” She gave me a quizzical look and scampered off in search of the right outfit to wear to the reception, leaving me to my own devices. Apparently “no strings attached” means that it’s perfectly acceptable to bail at the last minute and (surprise) I found myself attending the art show alone again, naturally.

Three photographers—Judith Meyerowitz, Gordon Gilbert and James Carney—have joined forces at the gallery to create an exhibit of triptychs, which my dictionary defines as “a set of three associated artistic works tied together.” Having committed to arriving punctually to hear the artists’ commentaries, I made haste and arrived in time to meet Bradley Diuguid, the center’s new executive director. “It’s exciting to see such a great turnout for the reception,” he said, eyeing the crowd. “Is it always like this?” Assuring Diuguid that the community is committed to supporting the arts, I took my seat as each photographer addressed the crowd, illuminating their processes and explaining how each of the triptychs came into being. As they shared how, in setting up the exhibit, they discovered a common thread of form, color or emotion that tied their individual works together and the end result is (IMHO) a series that works.

In the adjacent gallery, internationally acclaimed painter Kalika Stern was also on hand to discuss her new installation at CAS, which includes her largest work to date, an enormous mural described in her own words as a “carefree, occasionally self-mocking humor in her drawings, watercolors and sculptures.” Stern, who is the founder of the Society for Folk Arts Preservation (, has taught, painted and traveled all over the world, and her unique vision is expressed in a variety of styles at CAS, featured alongside the triptychs through April 7.

Accepting my limitations and acknowledging that the best dates are kept on a short leash, I asked the wonder dog if she had enough “pawtographs” on hand to greet the kids before puppeteer Ramona Jan’s presentation of “Some Strings Attached” in Callicoon ( last Sunday. She nodded her adorable head and I held mine high while she did her thing, reminding me why dating a “good girl” is so rewarding. Jan, a founding member of Manhattan’s Reality Galaxy Puppet Theater and former member of the Puppetry Guild of Greater New York, had an arsenal of marionettes on hand, and the kids were so enchanted that a second show was spontaneously demanded, before the first even drew to a close.

Jan’s cast of marionette characters entertained both kids and adults alike. Lucinda Sparkle, Astro-Boy (the piano playing horse), ballet dancer Chantel and a pair of “wild and crazy guys” were introduced by her young assistants, Emma Switko and Lucinda Cantor, as the children sat rapt with attention and I found myself transported along with the crowd. Ramona’s initial fear that Dharma would “attack the puppets” went unfounded even during the appearance of Bubbles, “a somewhat bad baby,” which truth be told, I found somewhat unnerving.

Sticking with the dog, I’m once again putting dating on hold and steeling myself for commitment to an abundance of art shows, concerts and high school plays about to explode in the region. “I suppose there’s something to be said for the single life,” I groan (and grin) in her general direction, while making out my schedule for the weeks to come.

Lyricist Dickie Jones joins the voices in my head as his clever words reverberate, “Hi-ho the me-ri-o. I’m as happy as can be, I want the world to know... I’ve got no strings on me!”