MAG presents best 100 works by western NY artists
05:00 AM, Jul 28, 2013
Art is alive and well in western New York.
The 64th Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition, a juried show that features artists from Syracuse, Buffalo, Elmira, Rochester and points in between, opened July 14 at Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery and runs through Sept. 8.
Highly competitive, the exhibition is given an honored place in the gallery, the art flowing from room to room and offering something for everyone.
Rochester native Alex Nyerges, director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, this year selected 100 works by 81 artists. He chose from 623 works by 230 artists.
“There was such a great variety of media and also depth of talent, it presents an interesting challenge,” Nyerges says. “The tough part is all the works left behind. There are a lot of artists I would have loved to have chosen.”
Once a yearly show, but now held every two years, the exhibition began in the 1880s. Sponsored then by the Rochester Art Club, it moved to the MAG after that institution opened in 1913.
Nyerges, who attended School 28 and East High School while growing up here, says that he did not organize the show around a theme, as is sometimes the case in exhibitions like this. His number one criterion, he says, was the quality of the individual works.
The result of his efforts is an eclectic show that features a variety of media and a variety of artists, some new to the exhibition, others who have been chosen before.
Francis Noonan, 59, of Williamsville, Erie County, has a painting in the show for the second time, having been selected in 2011, as well.
“I have great respect for the MAG,” says Noonan, whose work this year is an oil-on-panel landscape. “It is especially gratifying to have a work in the same gallery as the likes of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, etc. Not that (my) paintings are on the same par, but it’s fun to think they’re hanging out together for a while.”
Thomas Insalaco, 71, of Canandaigua has won several prizes over the years at the exhibition and did again this year, winning the Oxford Gallery Award for his oil painting Arcadia: Homage to Thomas Eakins.
Retired after teaching at Finger Lakes Community College for 33 ½ years, Insalaco, 71, has another painting, The Swimming Hole, as well.
As often as he has been in the show, Insalaco is happy to be back.
“It’s really one of the most important exhibitions in the area,” he says, echoing what others have said for well over 100 years.
Some of the other artists in the show:
Kim is a graduate of School of the Arts in Rochester and the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. She lived and studied for several years in Italy before moving back to Rochester.
Kim, 34, is in the exhibition for the first time with Golden Morning, a glass and gold leaf sculpture of a young woman sitting with her arms around her legs.
Kim, who creates the human figure in many media, is pleased to have been chosen and perhaps a little surprised, as well, knowing that different judges can have different tastes.
“I am happy to share the room with so many talented and persevering artists,” says Kim, who also has an upcoming show at Ock Hee’s Gallery in Honeoye Falls.
Noonan took a somewhat circuitous route to the MAG. Born in Buffalo, he began painting as a boy, inspired by trips to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery there. After high school, he worked in construction for 15 years before going to the U.S. Postal Service, retiring from there after 27 years.
All the while, he painted.
“As a postal worker, the early hours meant time enough after work to pursue other interests,” he says. “Also, the time outdoors as a carrier was good for inspirational reasons.”
Sullivan, 56, of Elmira, who also had a painting in the 2011 exhibition, had jobs in television for many years, starting as a graphic artist in Syracuse.
She helped launch the Golf Channel in 1994 and worked in cable-television marketing until 2009, when she began to paint full time.
“Being in the Rochester-Finger Lakes two years ago gave my emerging career a leg up,” she says. “It garnered sales, and I’ve made lifelong friends with Rochester collectors.”
Her painting in the exhibit this year is an abstract oil on canvas titled The Cardinal. It’s part of her clothesline project, a series of paintings organized around clotheslines.
For years, Alonzo, 66, of Geneseo, Livingston County a woodworker who is appearing in the exhibition for the sixth time juggled his art with his day job as a lawyer and then as a Livingston County Court Judge.
In 2005, he decided not to seek a second 10-year term on the court so he could devote himself full time to his art. In his words, he was still “young enough and healthy enough and strong enough to sling boards around.”
This year’s piece in the show, Hawk and Stone, is a thin raised table holding a carved hawk and a stone, part of a series of environmentally themed works.
“Traditionally, the hawk is known as an observer and a protector,” Alonzo says. “He’s saying, ‘Don’t screw with the environment. I’m watching you.’ “
Lovers of photography might go for a small and arresting photo by Walker, 57, of Freeville, near Ithaca in Tompkins County. Titled Prom Nite, it shows a young woman in a prom dress. She’s holding two dogs, each on a leash.
The prom-goer does not appear to be happy. Which was the case, Walker says. The picture shows her daughter, Sidney, on her prom night, a night when she wasn’t all that happy with her mom.
Nonetheless, she reluctantly agreed to pose with her two dogs, and the picture became one in a series of photos Walker has taken of people with animals.
It’s Walker’s first time in the exhibition, and she feels honored to be included.
There’s a striking woodcut by Marino, 22, in the show.
A recent graduate of Nazareth College, he grew up in Pittsford and now lives in Rochester. Like most of the other artists, he’s adept at juggling his art and a variety of other activities. In his case, he works at the Regal Cinema at Eastview Mall; he plays drums in two bands; and he volunteers in a program that involves young people in the arts.
“I think it is important for me to stay busy doing things outside of art because they give me the fuel necessary to create informed art,” he says.
Livingston County artist Harrington, of South Lima, is appearing in the show for the first time.
His large oil on canvas titled Hot Summer Sky is part of a series of paintings he’s done of barns, a subject he approached with some reluctance.
“Why don’t you paint any barns? They are spectacular,” his wife, Darby Knox, once asked him when they were visiting his native Pacific Northwest.
Harrington remembers replying, “They’re kitschy, maybe the most overexposed subject in American painting.”
And he also remembers her reply: “She gave me a bump and a smile, and said, ‘They don’t have to be.’ “
Thus it was that he started the barn series, hoping to take the subject and make it new, as in his painting in the exhibition that shows a bright yellow sky framing a fiery red barn.
If you go
If you go
What: 64th Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition.
When: Through Sept. 8.
Where: Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Ave.
Cost: $12 ($8 for seniors, $5 for students).
For information: MAG.Rochester.edu.