Saranac Lake has a unique performance space which features all kinds of different art, even at the same time. Music, photography, and painting were all on display during a special evening at BluSeed Studios. It had dogs and children dancing and people making new friends. It's an art opening in the Adirondacks.
This gathering was to celebrate the return of a local group from a recent visit to Ecuador, and about the art inspired by the sights they had seen. One of the group is a painter who was inspired by the vivid colors and rich mythology of the country.
Inspired by environment
The painting on the left, "Pelican and its Prey" by Brittany Harris, has elements which are reminiscent of the work of Alejandro Obregon. He is considered to be an important influence in Ecuadoran art, homaged here by the red and orange hues and surrealist juxtaposition of animal elements.
The painting on the right, by the same artist, is more representational, but it has a haunting history. Because of the beauty of the area, a luxury hotel was built, but never finished. Part of the problem was the difficulty of getting luxury support in a developing country.
The name of the show is "State of Walking" because that is the predominant method of transportation. Between the challenging terrain, and the lack of capital and infrastructure, the flow of goods and communication can only take place, at a slow pace.
This has also slowed the country's art development, despite the abundant talent there. It has only been the last few decades that Ecudorian artists have received the recognition their unique and extraordinary work deserve. This kind of cross-cultural pollination which inspired Brittany Harris will help get the word out about how much delightful art still waits to be explored.
"I've come out of the closet with my painting," she said, explaining the effect of the trip. "I was so inspired by the sights and the people we met. There's something about their art culture that really spoke to me."
There was excellent music by the bluegrass flavored folk group of County Line. We made sure we dropped a tip into their open guitar case. An area in front of the stage was cleared for dancing and then filled with enthused participants of all ages.
The conversation corner was hung with the Ecuadorian hammocks attributed to the Quichua tribe, native to the country. They are feather light and very accommodating to more than one person because of their unique design. Airy enough for a wam night, and amenable to multiple blankets on a cold one, they were also a nostalgic sight for me. I'd had one for my college room and really liked it. (As with all hammocks, make sure there are sturdy fastenings.)
There was authentic Ecuadorian coffee that had been hand-carried all the way back. From their mountains to ours! There were homemade empanadas, (as they would have to be,) a popular meat-filled pastry. The other members of the group were local Farmer's Market favorites, the farmers of Fledging Crow Vegetables. So the discussions ranged from metaphysical motifs in pre-Columbian pottery to the delayed gratification involved in an asparagus patch.
Our other featured artist was photographer Shaun Ondak. He had made eight by ten prints of the favorite pictures he had taken from the trip, and placed them on the walls. This gallery display was part of the informal patterns of the evening. The advances of digital photography meant Shaun left with about the same weight he carried back. Except all these wonderful sights had filled in the empty spaces.
surrounded by riches
We were given access to sheets of red dots. Placing a red dot near a picture reserved it for purchase after the show. It was very difficult to choose just one, so my husband did not; he got two!
It was a beautiful country, but all photographers know that is only part of the challenge. The right light at the right exposure means as much as the proper angle to view the scene from. Shaun found his feelings welling up to be written in his journal, and some of the photos had such thoughts inscribed on them. Part backstory, part philosophy, these writings put extra "depth of field" into the photos.
I was struck by the amazing color in the country. Not only in the rugged nature they hiked through, but also in the small villages where the people lived. People obviously loved colorful shawls and bright hats. Porches held pottery and brackets that were also sculptures. Every door was a different, stunning, color.
Bluseed's informal atmosphere and casually mounted displays make it easy to mingle with the artists, and find out more. In a discussion with the photographer, I mentioned that the art captured such a vibrant and rich atmosphere in Ecuador, especially in contrast with their humble belongings. He said this was part of how the place captivated him. "They have this little room with a few things in it, and they're happy." Like those of us who live in the Adirondack Park, they are also rich in how they are immersed in lovely surroundings, no matter their station in life.
The scenery, both indoors and outdoors, was incredibly textured and multi-layered. It reminded me of the art created by Ecuadorian master painter, Aníbal Villacís, who was famous for the way his inability to afford paint and canvas had led him to a different approach. He would use clay and nature pigments to paint on doors and walls in his hometown of Quito. It wasn't until he was 25 that his talent was noticed by people who could sponsor his formal art study. Before that, he had learned drawing techniques, and composition principles, from studying ad posters for bullfights.
This is also part of Saranac Lake's art ethos. It is all around us; both actual, and potential.
Every day I see mountains, trees, water, and sky. I was drawn to my choice because it was all my favorite things, only different. Shaun beamed in recognition when he saw my pick, and told me how long the shutter exposure was. So it came with a little bit of attachment, from the artist to me.
While I saw many lovely photos, I early on fell in love with the one I chose, and did not waver. After the show, everyone who saw my photo exclaimed over it. They wished they could have come.
Next time, maybe they will.