The way Ania Aldrich puts it, the “Rokeby Show” opening at the Tivoli Artists’ Co-op on April 7 grew from her own observation that “It’s kind of lonely to have a solo exhibition…I wanted to involve the people who make me happy, who create around me,” she says of the seven artists who will be showing alongside her, making a portrait of the creative living and arts-oriented space that all share as a central force in their lives. “It’s not all art as we normally see it, but about the art of being creative every day of our lives.”
Rokeby is a 43-room mansion, its original portions built between 1811 and 1812, that was later owned by the Astor family and currently houses a host of Aldriches and friends, who have been shepherding the place for nearly a half-century now, keeping it in “the family” as a creative home for all.
Among the artists whom Ania Aldrich will be bringing over to show with her at the Tivoli Arts Cooperative, with which she has been working since its start, are the likes of Louis Munroe, who is showing some new landscapes and family portraits; Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles, best known for their work creating the puppets for each year’s Greenwich Village Halloween Parade (but here showing their own art); gardener Marina Michahelles, showing some of her garden journals. There will also be hosts of other creativity from Steffen Hyder, Tesha Zaloga and Val Shaff, the latter showing both portraits taken at Rokeby (including the above one of Ania on a table) and adaptations of such photographs.
“Anyone who has spent a long evening at Ania’s kitchen table knows firsthand the experience of genius loci. Conversations tend to veer into to unexpected territory; improbable plans germinate and as quickly evaporate; blasphemies, pieties and non-sequiturs fly; a black cat appears out of nowhere with perfect theatrical timing,” writes Kahn of the spirit behind the creative estate and this show. “The place itself, like an unseen director in an endless serial, seems to summon an ever-changing cast and then egg them on to carve ice villages, hunt for mushrooms, make labyrinths, dig for treasure or…”
The Rokeby Show plots the multiple interconnections among eight people chosen by Ania. In various combinations they live, work or play at Rokeby. Some use Rokeby as subject; others scavenge for raw materials or for raw inspiration. Meals have been shared, work has been shared, lives have been shared. The lines that criss-cross between them all pass through Rokeby, and, like light passing through water, Rokeby defracts them, bends them, focuses them, fragments them. The work here is less a portrait of Rokeby than a consequence of it: traces left on paper and cloth, or leaves and boards, or whatever else is called forth by the ‘tutelary demon of the apartment.’”
Aldrich herself, who came to Rokeby as the young Polish bride of Ricky Aldrich, the estate’s current patriarch and caretaker, explains how she didn’t take up art until several years had passed in the sprawling home partly designed by the likes of Stanford White, with grounds landscaped by Frederick Olmsted. Then she took classes at the community college before departing on her own explorations in ceramics, paint and other media. “It’s all play,” she says of her art.
She went on to describe the shoot from which the photo of her on a table came. The idea was to do something fun “and journey to our inner selves.” What Shaff captured, with Ania on a table, “was me turning my back on the mundane…looking to whimsy and beauty and lightness.”
“The Romans believed that every house had a spirit who affected, in a hundred subtle everyday ways, the lives of those who crossed the threshold,” Kahn notes, in his own explanation of Rokeby’s roots in a Walter Scott poem.
The Rokeby Show opens Saturday, April 7 with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Normal gallery hours are Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 1 to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. The Tivoli Artists’ Co-Op is located at 60 Broadway in Tivoli. For further information, call (845) 758-8693 or visit www.tivoliartistsco-op.com.