In my humble opinion

Back to back: Bethel Woods

By JONATHAN CHARLES FOX
Posted 4/6/22

It’s been a while. With the exception of driving through the holiday lights experience and a quick trip to the carved pumpkin display, I’ve spent virtually no time at Bethel Woods Center …

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In my humble opinion

Back to back: Bethel Woods

Posted

It’s been a while. With the exception of driving through the holiday lights experience and a quick trip to the carved pumpkin display, I’ve spent virtually no time at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (BW) over the past two years, mainly because of you-know-what.

Now that there is a bit of “normal” (fingers crossed) headed our way, I decided to take advantage of two events there in the last week alone, both centered on art, which always draws me in.

On Thursday, the folks over at BW held a preview of its newest installation, simply titled “& Art Fair,” which intrigued me. So I slung my camera ‘round my neck, threw my dog in her sack and headed over to find a members-only soiree, held prior to the doors opening downstairs for the newest museum exhibit. It will be on display through December.

I wasn’t expecting to find folks all dressed up, sharing cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, so I looked like a hot mess. But I mingled a bit regardless, and happily ran into some people I hadn’t seen for too long.

Thankfully, the curator of exhibits at the museum, Julia Fell, was on hand to explain what we were about to experience on the lower level of the museum.

“Back in early 2020,” Fell began, “the museum team was chatting, throwing around ideas for future exhibitions. One idea gained a foothold very quickly: a show featuring one of the forgotten aspects of Woodstock—the art. As you all are aware, the real title of our favorite festival was ‘The Woodstock Music & Art Fair,’ and so,” Fell enthused, “right there on the spot—the exhibit, title and all, was born: ‘& Art Fair,’ poignantly highlighting this equal and yet second, overshadowed part of the Aquarian Exposition. Just like so many aspects of Woodstock, the art has been lost to time and to the crush of an undeniably excellent musical lineup.”

Julia went on to explain the idea behind the newest display. “As we continue to work towards preserving Woodstock’s legacy post-50,” she said, “it is imperative that we provide diverse and dynamic entrance points into history for folks of all ages, backgrounds and interests for decades to come. We can do this by uncovering what has been too long in the shadows.

“It seems right, then,” she continued, “that we begin sharing this work with the public in an exhibition which is hard to overlook, being so full of color and pieces that are larger than life. In fact, this exhibit is remarkable in that so much of what is in it is literally huge. Everywhere you look, gigantic signs, banners, paintings, and installations illustrate the grand scale of Woodstock.”

I was fortunate enough to gain early access, before the crush of nicely attired guests. This let me photograph a good deal of the exhibit and read the accompanying signage, which is fascinating, making the exhibit of mostly unseen images truly come to life, illustrating Fell’s point perfectly.

Two days later, I went back to Bethel Woods, this time to check out the “Sullivan County Visual Art Show,” which  represented eight participating school districts, including young artists from BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services). I was fortunate enough to run into Eldred Jr./Sr. High School artist (and award-winner) Alexis Fredericks, who gave me a brief tour with her family, as we chatted with school custodian (“You get to know all the kids!”)Paul Foster plus Kitty Cirelli; they were beaming with pride over the students’ work as a whole.

Honestly, I was blown away by the range of talent beginning with pre-K, right through 12th-graders. I can’t even draw a stick figure, but some of those five-year-olds are freakin’ geniuses, in my humble opinion.

Even though that exhibit has left the building, you can still catch much of it during the month of April over at Gallery 222 on Main Street in Hurleyville, so be sure to check it out as you meander the county without a dog strapped to your hip. Meanwhile, I’ll stick to writing about how talented people do what they do, with the hope that it inspires you all to go, see and do. I’m no artist, but I know what I like, and there’s a lot to like at both of these shows.

Fun fact: “I used a catbird instead of a dove, because a catbird is fat, and a dove is like a pigeon. It has no shape whatsoever,” Skolnick said. “When you say the word peace, you think of a dove. It’s just a symbol.”

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