“When we chose our artists, we were pretty intentional about wanting people who were not just going to bring different work to the site, but would invite people to experience it in different ways,” says Jenny Lee Fowler, co-curator of “In:Site,” this summer’s outdoor site-specific art exhibition on the grounds of the Snyder Estate in Rosendale. The work on display by 15 artists from the Hudson Valley and other parts of the Northeast was created specifically in response to the unique location, home to the Widow Jane Mine and Century House Historical Society’s museum inside the former home of cement baron A. J. Snyder. The concept of the exhibition is to invite new or deeper reflections on the site’s natural environment and its connection to Rosendale’s industrial history.
Vast supplies of the limestone deposits unearthed in the region were used to create natural cement that formed some of the most recognizable structures in the country, including the United States Capitol, Grand Central Terminal, the Brooklyn Bridge and the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. But when natural cement was replaced by the use of newer materials, the mines were abandoned, leaving behind huge excavated spaces that suggest underground “cathedrals,” with huge limestone pillar formations holding up the mine roofs. The miners who once worked in the Widow Jane Mine would probably be amazed to learn that today the site is used as a place to host concerts and performances (with wonderful acoustics) and cultural events.
“It’s been exciting to hear the artists’ proposals for bringing their process to play in this space,” says Fowler. “We have floating islands, soot drawings on rocks, textile banners that hang in old kilns and dances that can be watched in light or shadow through the windows of the mine. And each place offers different opportunities: the abandoned mining cave with massive, roughly carved pillars and an eerie and tranquil lake, forest trails with rocky ridges, industrial stone ruins, pockets of open field and a meandering stream that spills into a pond.”
Visitors to “In:Site” will find the artworks dispersed throughout the woodland trails on the estate grounds, with a few pieces installed in the dark corners of the mine. The show opens on Sunday, June 26 from 1 to 4 p.m. Most of the installation will remain on view through September 10 – seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset – but a few of the pieces that are more ephemeral in nature will make an appearance only during the opening (and closing) dates, including Fowler’s piece in the mine involving shadow, light and artful papercutting. The show’s co-curator, Natasha Maria Brooks-Sperduti, will present a movement performance for the opening in collaboration with local dancer Teresa Smith. Kingston-based writer and poet Dorothy Albertini will do a reading of her work.
Admission to the opening and ongoing exhibit and grounds is free. The Century House Historical Society’s museum is open for self-guided tours through mid-September on Sundays only from 1 to 4 p.m. Entrance is by a suggested donation of $5 for adults, $1 for children. The collection includes cement industry artifacts and interpretive materials about Rosendale history, as well as the Snyder Carriage and Sleigh Collection.
The curatorial collaboration on “In:Site” came about when Brooks-Sperduti saw the open call for curators from the Century House Historical Society. She contacted former Bard classmate Fowler about working together on the summerlong project, and the two came up with the concept for the show, deciding to include artists that the Port Ewen-based Fowler knew here as well as artists from Rhode Island and Massachusetts. (Brooks-Sperduti currently lives in the Berkshires at Earthdance, an artist-run community that sponsors dance retreats, residencies and workshops.)
“We felt like we wanted a wider pull of artists, so that we have that local spark and also something different that people around here may not have seen before,” Fowler says. “That was part of the fun of working together on this. And the artists from out of the area have been great about traveling to the site and working with it.”
The local artists participating in “In:Site” include mixed-media artists Jayla Smith, Neal Hollinger, Lyle Bicking, Jeffrey Benjamin and Jessica Poser (the latter contributing hand-stitched screen and tulle portraits of miners and “the cement girls”) along with arts writer Beth Wilson of Habitat for Artists, basketry and natural materials artist Katie Grove, wood and ceramic artisan Kieran Kinsella and multimedia artist Keiko Sono, whose soot drawings in the exhibition are made using materials from the site.
Traveling contributors include Kelli Rae Adams of Providence, Rhode Island, who will install a clay work, and Sam Coren, also Providence-based, who is a writer, historian and artist. And photographs by Bruce Hooke of Plainfield, Massachusetts will be displayed in weatherproof casings along the trail in a way that the image in the photo lines up with the space where it was taken (with him in it).
Brooks-Sperduti uses materials and experiences from nature to make site-specific art installations and dances. She teaches yoga, embodiment and mindfulness, and has been producing professional and community arts events for nearly 15 years, contributing locally to Rhinebeck’s Sinterklaas Parade.
Papercutter extraordinaire Jenny Lee Fowler’s art is rooted in historic process, linked to the natural world by content and materials, including her use of cut bark and leaves. She specializes in papercutting commissions, illustration, exhibition, traditional freehand silhouette portrait cutting for special events and art and craft instruction.
The exhibition was made possible with funds from the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts, administered by Arts Mid-Hudson.
This is the third annual site-specific outdoor exhibition at the Snyder Estate sponsored by the Century House Historical Society (CHHS). The first show on the grounds was in 2014 with “Miners,” curated by artist and CHHS trustee Laura Moriarty. Last year’s curator for “Excavate,” Laura Johansen, took a broad view of interpreting the theme of excavation. The shows encourage visitors at the site, say board members, not only to “enjoy the unique property for its natural wonders, but to look at contemporary works of art that mine the historical relevance of the site.”
The Century House board’s interest in hosting cultural events at the site “is a direct result, I think, of the number of artists and musicians who have stepped up on the board there,” says Fowler, “which is great to see. It’s lovely that you have this rich industrial history, this natural environment and this cultural life all together: different strands of interests that can happen there and bring people in and get them excited to have an experience there.”
“In:Site” sculptural installation opening, Sunday, June 26, 1-4 p.m., free, Widow Jane Mine/Snyder Estate/Century House Historical Society, 668 Route 213, Rosendale; (845) 658-9900, www.centuryhouse.org, www.insiterosendale.com.