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Arriving at Byrdcliffe: Whitehead, Steele, Avery, Guston, Winters, Dylan, Van Rijn . . .

Updated: Nov 5

Labels by Bruce Weber and Maria Yeye


On the occasion of the exhibition ARRIVING AT BYRDCLIFFE, co-curated by Henry T. Ford and myself for the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts in Woodstock, the blog this month features the longer labels written by Maria Yeye (MY) and myself (BW). The introduction is also a longer version of the opening text panel, and the text is lengthier in this blog for works by Wilhelm Hunt Diederich, Harriet Goddard, Milton Avery, Herman Cherry, Denny Winters, Philip Guston, Edward Millman. Richard Crist, Eva van Rijn, Bernard Steffen, Bruce Dorfman, and Bob Dylan. ARRIVING AT BYRDCLIFFE runs through Novemberi 20th, 2022. Henry T. Ford and I will ill be giving a gallery talk at the Kleinert/James on Saturday, November 5th at 3 p.m.


INTRODUCTION


Arriving at Byrdcliffe celebrates the history, nature, and legacy of the Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts colony, and highlights the presence of a group of artists and craftsmen who have prospered as residents, visitors, students and builders of Byrdcliffe over the course of over a hundred and twenty years. Concurrently, the exhibition reveals the continued art and craft connection between the Byrdcliffe of yesteryear and today.


In 1902, the Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony was founded by Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead and Jane Byrd McCall Whitehead on the south facing side of Mt. Guardian above the village of Woodstock. Byrdcliffe’s original mission was to produce beautiful handmade furniture and objects that, when sold, would finance the colony; offer classes in all the crafts so that the colony’s success would go forward for future generations; and lead a healthful life by supporting the agricultural work on its farm, which would help support the needs of the inhabitants, and provide the best of a rural environment in terms of beauty and simplicity of lifestyle.


Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead searched for qualified artists of like-minded temperament to teach, work and colonize Byrdcliffe. Many came to work and reside in the colony’s rustic cottages, to study or visit and stay at the Villetta inn, as special guests of the Whiteheads at their home of White Pines, or at a group of cottages including Larks Nest, Apples, Pergola and others on the southern fringe of the property along the Glasco Turnpike. By 1910, Whitehead sold large land parcels to his like-minded friends who built homes in the Byrdcliffe style including HiLoHa, later owned by Bob Dylan. Artists as they left Byrdcliffe settled in the area eventually founding The Maverick, Woodstock Artists Association, and The Woodstock Guild of Craftsman.


Following Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead’s death in 1929, Jane Byrd McCall Whitehead sold off bits of Byrdcliffe land to provide an income for herself and her son Peter. She rented out buildings, favoring tenants with artistic inclinations. In the late 1930s, Byrdcliffe came alive culturally with the organization of summer conferences known as Byrdcliffe Afternoons, where well known speakers discussed the arts, international relations, history and other subjects. In the 1940s and early 1950s, young painters, craftsmen, writers, and musicians, were drawn to Byrdcliffe by its quiet and beautiful location, and reasonable rents. The arrival of refugees from Europe during World War II also played an important role in keeping Byrdcliffe alive as an intellectual and arts center.


When Jane Byrd McCall Whitehead died in 1955, her son Peter ran Byrdcliffe alone for two decades. Due to financial necessity he sold off land to pay taxes, and minimally maintained the property, but held onto ownership of the heart of the original colony. During this period there was a scarcity of actively known artists renting in Byrdcliffe. Things changed dramatically following Peter’s death in December 1975. He bequeathed Byrdcliffe to the Woodstock Guild of Craftsman (now known as the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild), a not-for-profit cooperative of local craftsmen and artists founded in 1938 with the mission of promoting the study and development of the arts, crafts, literature, drama, music, and as an art center where classes were offered in weaving, ceramics, carving and other areas. Peter Whitehead’s cousin Mark Wilcox, Jr. of Philadelphia inherited the Whiteheads home of White Pines, which was acquired by the Guild in 1997.


With Peter’s death the Guild came up with the idea of establishing Byrdcliffe as a national historic district and rebirth as an art and craft center. The Guild envisioned today’s lively, creative arts program, including the annual series of exhibitions at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts and the flourishing artist-in-residency program, and established a rental program of cottages to working artists. The organization aims to be faithful to the Whiteheads goal of preserving Byrdcliffe “for the purpose of promoting . . . the study, practice and development of skill in the fine arts and crafts, as well as a true appreciation thereof,” within a multi-disciplinary artistic community.


Bruce Weber and Henry T. Ford,

Co-Curators

Eva Watson Schütze (1867-1935)

Jane Whitehead Holding Peter, c. 1905

Platinum print

Collection of the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild

Eva Watson Schütze (1867-1935)

Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead, 1905

Platinum print

Collection of the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild

Jessie Tarbox Beals (1870-1942)

Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead on Porch of White Pines, 1908

Gelatin silver print

Collection of the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild


Jessie Tarbox Beals was one of the first notable women photojournalists in America. Beals documented American life for four decades. In October 1909, her pictures of Byrdcliffe were published in American Homes and Garden, accompanying an article on the colony by the writer, publisher and adventurer Poultney Bigelow, who lived in a hamlet of Saugerties. Also photographing at Byrdcliffe was Eva Watson-Schütze, who spent time at Byrdcliffe from 1903 to the time of her death in 1935. She photographed the people who lived, worked at and visited Byrdcliffe, among them Jane Byrd McCall Whitehead, Bolton Coit Brown, Carl Eric Linden, Birge Harrison, Wilna Hervey and Charlotte Perkins Gilman.


THE EARLY DECADES AT BYRDCLIFFE


Among the early colony artists represented in the exhibition are painters Hermann Dudley Murphy, Birge Harrison, and Bolton Coit Brown, and craftsmen Marie Little, Helen Buttrick, Edward Ned Thatcher and Wilhelm Hunt Diederich. The multi-talented Zulma Steele is represented by a cabinet of her design, a painting, and a ceramic bowl.


During the early decades of the 20th century, Byrdcliffe attracted leading lights in a wide variety of fields, including the lawyer Clarence Darrow; feminist Charlottle Perkins Gilman; naturalist John Burroughs; educational reformer John Dewey; New Dealer Harry Hopkins; violinist William Kroll, playwrights Robert Elwyn and Richard Aldrich; writers Will Durant. Elizabeth von Arnim, Owen Wister, and Heywood Broun, poets Wallace Stevens and Sara Teasdale, musicians Aaron Copeland and Benjamin Britten, actress Helen Hayes, and political economist Thorstein Veblen, among them.

Hermann Dudley Murphy (1867-1945) The Shower of Sunset (Woodstock), 1904 Oil on canvas New York State Museum,

Historic Woodstock Art Colony,

Collection of Arthur A. Anderson


Hermann Dudley Murphy was the first teacher of painting at Byrdcliffe, and also taught a class in frame making. Whitehead chose him to be among the initial group of instructors following his introduction to him in Boston in late 1902 or early 1903 by the art collector and art educator Denman Waldo Ross. He painted landscapes in Woodstock, Cape Cod, Ogunquit and Mt. Monadnock, as well as in Europe, which reflect the influence of Whistler’s subtle harmonies and carefully formatted compositions. Following his one season stay in Byrdcliffe, Murphy set up a frame shop in his house in Winchester, Massachusetts with Charles Prendergast and W. Alfred Thulen. Murphy named the shop after the Celtic name he had given to his house - Carrig-Rohane.


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Birge Harrison (1854-1929)

Untitled (View of a Stream), 1904

Pastel with touches of graphite over wood block print

Collection of the Douglas C. James Charitable Trust


In 1904, the Tonalist painter Harrison accepted his friend Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead’s offer to come to Byrdcliffe and take over Murphy’s position as the painting instructor. In 1906, the Art Students League of New York decided to move their summer school to Woodstock, and hired Harrison to lead the Woodstock School of Landscape Painting which was in operation from 1906-1922. Harrison typically liked to include a stream or waterway running back into the distance, where forms are vaguely defined, utilized warm colors to enliven cooler hues, and favored asymmetrical compositions. Harrison settled in Woodstock for the remainder of his life. In this view of a stream illuminated by moonlight the artist worked with Vivian Bevans at the print shop at Byrdcliffe to create his unconventional technique of combining printmaking and pastel. The contours of the landscape were printed in wood block, and colored in pastel with touches of graphite.


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Hermann Dudley Murphy (1867-1945)

Portrait of the Painter Dawson Dawson-Watson, c. 1925

Oil on canvas board

Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, Museum Purchase Fund, 2019-06-01


In the summer of 1903, Dawson Dawson-Watson had the opportunity to work as a furniture designer at Byrdcliffe, and to learn the craft of frame-making from Hermann Dudley Murphy. On departing Woodstock after that summer, he moved to Boston to assist Murphy with a commission to paint decorative panels for a well-known businessman. The two remained in contact into the 1920s when Murphy painted this portrait of his old friend.


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Bolton Coit Brown (1864-1936) Valley and Sky (Tonalist Mountains), 1904 Oil on canvas New York State Museum,

Historic Woodstock Art Colony,

Collection of Arthur A. Anderson


Painter and printmaker Bolton Coit Brown formed a friendship with Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead in California. He was recruited in 1902 to help find a site for Whitehead's dreamed of art colony and discovered Woodstock in the course of his rambles. The future colony was then located in the middle of cultivated fields with few patches of forest, and had spectacular views down the mountain. Brown succeeded in buying 1200 acres of land for the Whiteheads, and was the principal architect, foreman and designer of the art colony. Brown also created designs for furniture, was active as a landscape painter, and became a leading lithographer and lithographic printer. Founders Brown and Hervey White spent only a brief time at Byrdcliffe. Their departure was primarily due to Whitehead’s complete oversite of the colony, taking all responsibility for decision making.


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William Emile Schumacher (1870-1931)

The Woodchopper, 1920

Oil on canvas

New York State Museum,

Historic Woodstock Art Colony,

Collection of Arthur A. Anderson


William Emile Schumacher was responsible for revitalizing the painting department at Byrdcliffe. He taught painting from the summer of 1913 till shortly before his death in Woodstock in 1931. The Boston-bred artist was impacted by Art Nouveau, the work of Post-Impressionist Georges Seurat, and Nabi painters Maurice Denis and Edouard Vuillard. Schumacher maintained his belief in the importance of the unity of color and form, and the significance of the imaginative mind. In the early 1920s, he created genre paintings, such as The Woodchopper, which evolved out of his growing interest in the work of Giotto, Duccio and other so-called Italian primitive painters of the 14th and 15th centuries.


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Zulma Steele (1881-1979)

Autumn Landscape, 1914

Oil on canvas

Collection of Jean Young, Woodstock, NY


Originally trained in Woodstock as a landscape painter by Tonalists Hermann Dudley Murphy and Birge Harrison, Zulma Steele eventually adopted more modern currents. By 1914, she was creating landscapes featuring bold, pure colors, simplified shapes and strong rhythmic patterning, and over the next few years she occasionally applied paint in tiny dot-like strokes, which harken back to the Neo-Impressionist canvases of Georges Seurat. At Byrdcliffe, William Emile Schumacher may have influenced the direction of her new work.


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Zulma Steele. Designer (1881-1979)

Drop Front Desk, Green Stained Cherry,

With Three Iris Panels, c. 1904

Collection of the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild


In 1903, Zulma Steele became one of the first artists to receive a scholarship to study at Byrdcliffe. She eventually resided in the Angelus with her former fellow Pratt Institute and Arthur Wesley Dow student Edna Walker, and during her initial two years there she designed furniture alone and alongside Walker, emulating examples produced in the studio of William Morris. Steele and Walker followed Whitehead’s dictate to draw on local flora as source material. They transferred their life-size drawings of the various flora to the wood panels, which were carved and stained and incorporated into oak chests and cabinets.


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Harriet Goddard (1880-1979)

Urn, c. 1940s

Collection of the Carlson Family


In 1913, the artist and teacher John F. Carlson married his former Woodstock student, the painter, children’s book illustrator and textile designer Margaret Goddard, and the couple settled in a house on a 26 acre property located on a hillside slope of Overlook Mountain, close by the Glasco Turnpike.


Margaret’s unmarried sisters Harriet and Elsie made their home in the summers at The Meadows (located down the road to the west at 2417 Glasco Turnpike), on a parcel of land acquired in 1924 from the Whiteheads. Originally, The Meadows was the carriage house of the Larks Nest, the complex of buildings next door which was later owned by artists Richard Crist and Eva van Rijn. The Meadows burnt to the ground in the 1980s, and was rebuilt almost identically. Goddard was one of a number of artists who lived at the edge of the Byrdcliffe tract, among them the painters William Emile Schumacher, Frank Swift Chase, Henry Billings, and John Carroll.


Harriet and Elsie were active for many years in cultural and community affairs in their native Plainfield, New Jersey, and Woodstock, where they fit in comfortably with the Byrdcliffe crowd, and made good friends with Peter Whitehead. Harriet was a ceramicist and gave pottery lessons in New Jersey and her Woodstock studio.She created a great variety of original designs for flower and fruit containers, plates and tea sets, vases and garden jars, wall fountains, bird baths lamps, book-ends, inkwells, and tile-table tops. She exhibited pottery at her studios as well as at the Woodstock Guild of Craftsmen (now the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild), and the Woodstock Library Fair.


Goddard was known for the lively colors, striking glazes and undulating contours of her ceramics. A writer for the The Courier-News of Bridgewater, New Jersey remarked that both “in respect to glazing and form, Miss Goddard avoids the absolutely undeviating evenness of manufactured articles, which gives her work an individual character.”


As a young woman, Goddard studied salesmanship in Boston, and later advised retailors on setting up mail order businesses. Her great niece Barbara Carlson (grandaughter of Margaret and John Carlson) recalls that Harriet and Elsie “were very social all around Woodstock. We knew the Aunts very well and [my siblings] spent time with them. They knew everybody and introduced us to everybody.” The sisters led a play reading group at their home in Woodstock, and during World War II, Goddard was membership chairman of the Woodstock chapter of France Forever.


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John Duncan (1886-1945) designer, and Vivian Bevans (1881-1947), modeler

St. Francis, 1904

Plaster relief

Collection of the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild


John Duncan came to the United States from Scotland in 1900 to teach at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1903, he was invited to Byrdcliffe to help set up a lithographic press, which, unfortunately, never came to fruition. Duncan spent time in Woodstock and produced this collaborative piece with Vivian Bevans. The relief design foreshadows the work he created upon returning to Edinburgh, including stained glass, altarpieces, and church murals executed in a traditional Celtic style.


Vivian Bevans attended the Art Institute of Chicago, where she studied with Duncan. She was invited to Byrdcliffe to teach wood-block printing. She was a friend of the Byrdcliffe metalworker Bertha Thompson, and was briefly married to Byrdcliffe and Maverick art colony founder Hervey White. Following her separation from White in 1908, Bevans worked at Herter Looms in New York City.


MY

Helen Buttrick (1887-1972)

The Pear Tree Garden, n.d.

Tapestry

Collection of the Historical Society of Woodstock


Helen Buttrick came to Byrdcliffe in its early years, and remained in Woodstock for the rest of her life. She may have come to Byrdcliffe with her childhood friend Bertha Thompson, who came to study metalwork. Buttrick studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and taught clothing design at the University of Chicago and Michigan State Colleges. She was interested in textiles, fashion, and clothing selection, and was a skilled seamstress, weaver, and needle worker. Buttrick studied at Pratt Institute in 1912, and authored the popular clothing and costume design textbook, Principles of Clothing Selection, published in 1923.


MY

Edith Penman (1860-1929), Elizabeth Hardenburgh (1858-1934)

Byrdcliffe Pottery, 1903-22

Urn, n.d.

Ceramic

Collection of Sam Freed


In 1903, Elizabeth Hardenburgh and Edith Penman set up the Byrdcliffe Pottery as part of the Whitehead’s plan for the colony to achieve financial self-sufficiency. It is believed the women originally met while studying with painter Henry B. Snell. Penman emigrated from England to the United States as a child, then attended the Cooper Union School of Design for women from 1879-1880. Hardenburgh hailed from New Jersey and was involved in the New York scene as a floral still life painter.


The style of pottery originally produced at Byrdcliffe is reminiscent of Colonial Wares from centuries earlier, being hand formed instead of turned on a potter’s wheel. The wares were exhibited throughout the early 1900’s. Penman and Hardenburgh maintained the operation at Byrdcliffe until 1922, when they left to set up their own kiln on Glasco Turnpike near Lark’s Nest and potter Harriet Goddard, who lived at The Meadows.


MY

Wilhelm Hunt Diederich (1884-1953)

Nymph and Satyr Charger and Stand, 1930

Glazed terra-cotta charger; hammered wrought iron stand

Private Collection, Courtesy of Conner-Rosenkranz, N.Y.


Wilhelm Hunt Diederich achieved renown as an exponent of decorative wrought-iron sculpture. He lived intermittently in Woodstock from 1917 through the early 1930s. He first arrived in the summer of 1917, when he and his artist wife Mary de Anders Diederich rented a house on the Maverick. Diederich was especially active in the art colony in the late teens and early 1920s, and in the summer of 1929 and early 1930s,Diederich made pottery at Byrdcliffe. Ralph and Jane Whitehead already owned some of his metalwork.


Byrdcliffe and Maverick founder Hervey White remarked how Diederich “always remained about Woodstock, interspersing [his stays] with serial residences [in] Spain, Germany, Mexico, Paris or Long Island.” The Woodstock Bulletin announced in 1929 that Diederich “has recently returned from some unknown world pilgrimage, and is settled for the season in ‘The Apples’ in Byrdclife, where he will work in cahoots with one C. R. Morris to make pottery.” The potter, builder, Inventor, collector of concert grand pianos, and real estate broker Claremont Robert Morris, was primarily involved in art and music circles in New York, and lived for a period in Kingston.


Diederich concentrated on making things that were useful and beautiful. He believed that there could “be as much aesthetic joy in making a candlestick or designing the leg of a table as in the treatment of the nude. . . . “


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Zulma Steele (1881-1979)

Bowl with Oak Leaf Border Design, n.d.

Earthenware

Collection of Jean Young, Woodstock, NY


During World War I, Zulma Steele served in France with the Red Cross. Following her return to Woodstock in mid to late 1919, she concentrated on pottery, and created a line of pots that she called Zedware, which were produced with local clay and incorporated local floral motifs. During the course of the summer of 1922 she taught advance classes in pottery at Byrdcliffe along with Bertha Thompson. She ran the Byrdcliffe Pottery from 1923 to 1928, and served as the first president of the Woodstock Guild of Craftsmen (now the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild). Steele also produced tiles and lusterware.


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Blanche Lazzell (1878-1956)

Untitled, The Plowshare, June 1917

Woodcut

Woodstock Libarry


Among Schumacher’s students at Byrdcliffe was painter, printmaker and designer Blanche Lazzell, who learned color theory under his aegis in the summer of 1917. The printmaker Ada Gilmore accompanied her to Byrdcliffe, where the two mingled with other artists, including Mathurin Marius Dondo. Lazzell and Schumacher met in Paris in 1913 when Schumacher recommended she study at the Académie Moderne.


Lazzell is best remembered for the colorful Cubist-inspired white-line color woodcuts she created in Provincetown. At Byrdcliffe, Schumacher viewed her early white-line prints, “and right there he gave me as much criticism as [Charles] Hawthorne [had in my studies in Provincetown].” While studying in Woodstock, Lazzell created a woodcut for the December 1917 issue of Hervey White’s periodical The Plowshare, which was published intermittently from 1916-1935. During its early years the magazine frequently featured prints by artists associated with the Woodstock art colony.


Among Schumacher’s other students was Elsie Viola Moll Stevens, wife of poet Wallace Stevens, who often visited his wife at Byrdcliffe in the summers of 1915-1917.


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Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead (1861-1955)

Woven Runner, c. 1915

Silk

Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, Gift of Mark Wilcox, Jr., 1998-08-01


Like many of the other crafts produced at Byrdcliffe, Whitehead took an interest in learning ceramics as well as weaving and dyeing. Jane Byrd McCall Whitehead was also an active craftsman, as revealed in three vases in the exhibition that she crated in collaboration with her husband. Unlike Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead’s likely instructor, Marie Little, he was open to using manmade and synthetic dyes and fabrics, as exemplified by this silk runner. He produced this work in the Loom Room, one of the various production rooms installed in his home at Byrdcliffe, White Pines. Whitehead submitted his work to a number of exhibitions across the country. His scarves were sold in craft shops, including the Handicraft Society in Boston where he was listed as a master craftsman.


MY

Marie Little (1866-1949)

Weaving (Striped), n.d.

Cotton

Collection of Lawrence Webster


Marie Little was among the first group of artists to arrive in Byrdcliffe. She was brought on to head the weaving department, and also taught furniture design. The resurgence of handcrafted textiles produced during the Art and Crafts movement led Whitehead to believe selling textiles could become an income stream for the colony. The philosophical emphasis on function over form as the basis of true craftsmanship was epitomized by Little's work as a weaver who produced her own dyes from natural materials and then hand wove each piece. Little created bags, rugs, hangings, cushions, and other textile works on her old-style carpet loom, and formulated bright dyes from local berries and tree bark. After arriving at Byrdcliffe, she remained a lifelong Woodstock resident. During her years at Byrdcliffe, she lived at her home, named The Looms, which was destroyed by fire in the 1940s. Around 1925, she moved into the town of Woodstock where she settled on Plochman Lane, recreating the living and work rooms of The Looms.


MY

Edward Ned Thatcher (1883-1933)

Chandelier, c. 1905

Wrought Iron

Collection of Jean Young, Woodstock, NY



Attrobuted to Edward Ned Thatcher (1883-1933)

Pair of Latches, n.d

Wrought iron

Collection of the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild


Thatcher was among the first group of artists to arrive in Byrdcliife in the summer of 1903, just after earning a Certificate of Design from Pratt Institute. While at Byrdcliffe, he taught metalwork and designed and crafted metal fixtures. After departing Byrdcliffe, he built a studio on Striebel Road in Bearsville. Thatcher served as an instructor in decorative metalwork at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, and ran his own school during summers in Woodstock. In his later career, he became a toymaker and taught wounded World War I veterans how to make toys and other objects out of tin cans.


MY

MID AND LATER CENTURY ARRIVALS


Arriving at Byrdcliffe includes work by mid-century arrivals Milton Avery, Sally Michel Avery, Herman Cherry, Denny Winters, Philip Guston, Edward Millman, Bernard Steffen, and a group of contemporary artists who had, or currently, make their home full time or for part of the year on Byrdcliffe property, including Bruce Dorfman. Freya DeNitto, Ronald DeNitto, Ellen Levy, and Bob Dylan, whose serious interest in creating visual art began at Byrdcliffe. Eva Hesse was also active in Byrdcliffe in the summer of 1969.

Milton Avery (1885-1965)939)

Landscape 1, 1939

Private Collection – In Memory of Nannette N. Kelekian

Milton Avery (1885-1965)

Landscape 2, 1939

Private Collection - In Memory of Nannette N. Kelekian


Milton and Sally Avery first visited Woodstock in the summer of 1939 when they stayed at the painter Adolph Gottlieb and his wife Esther’s rented cabin. Milton Avery originally met Gottlieb in the late 1920s through the Opportunity Gallery in New York. Gottlieb was strongly influenced by Avery’s style of composing flattened shapes of varied textures in muted colors, which achieve an exquisite harmony and balance of pictorial elements, and connote depth, space, mood and atmosphere. The canvases in the exhibition date from the summer of 1939, and were apparently painted during Avery’s stay in the area.


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Milton Avery (1885-1965)

March at Byrdcliffe, 1950

Pencil on paper

Private Collection


Over the course of their lives together, Milton and Sally Avery took summer holidays in numerous places in quest of fresh inspiration. In the summers of 1950 and 1951 they resided at Eastover in Byrdcliffe, which was built in 1904 as faculty housing. It was rented for the Averys by their Woodstock artist friends Arnold Blanch and Doris Lee. This drawing pictures the couple’s daughter March seated near the porch at Eastover. A photograph dating from 1950 is known of Milton smoking a pipe on the porch.


The early 1950s was a time of recuperation for the artist, who suffered a heart attack in 1949. Revitalized by his time in Byrdcliffe, Avery painted over twenty good sized oils over the course of the summer of 1950, among them Clear Cut Landscape (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). The Averys regularly painted side by side. They commonly sketched in the mornings, afternoons and evenings. Sally remarked that “we sketched the hills and plowed fields [of the Woodstock area]. We followed the cows to pasture, drawing them endelessly.” During their winters back in the city they devoted their time to translating their summer works into paintings.


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Sally Michel (1902-2003)

Deck Sketcher, c. 1950s

Oil on board

Collection of Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation


Sally Michel Avery worked as a freelance illustrator for decades, enabling her husband to paint fulltime. Following Milton’s death in 1965, she devoted greater time to her own work, and had solo showings in Woodstock at the Jarvis and Bell galleries. Earlier she worked mostly on a small scale, and on paper. Deck Sketcher dates from the 1950s, and is based on a sketch made during the course of the Averys stay at Eastover. Sally’s art is full of warmth, intimacy and gentle humor. Her approach was more fragmentary than that of Milton’s, and she favored a thinner and looser application of paint. Following Milton Avery’s second heart attack in 1960, the couple purchased a house in Lake Hill, near Cooper Lake. A few years after Milton’s death, Sally acquired ten acres of land in Bearsville, where she lived and worked during the summer months till her death in 2003.


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Herman Cherry (1909-1992)

Pictograph, c. 1947

Wire, paint, paper and metal

Woodstock Artists Association and Museum,

Gift of the Estate of Karl E. Fortess, 1994-01-15


Herman Cherry and his artist wife Denny Winters left the West Coast in 1945 and settled in Byrdcliffe. In Woodstock he would be reunited with California artist friends Philip Guston and Fletcher Martin, and artists Ethel and Jenne Magafan, whom he had known in Colorado. The couple quickly became entrenched in the art colony. In 1947 and 1948, Cherry served as chairman of the national art conferences held in Woodstock.


After World War II, Cherry’s art shifted from figuration into cubist abstraction. While living at Byrdcliffe he gave up painting for three years and created what he termed pictographs, in which he employed a technique combining painting and mobile construction. They were made from pieces of found materials – broken pieces of glass, chicken wire, tin cans, or anything else he found around, such as balls, and buttons, which were constructed to suggest the plastic effect of three dimensions. The works were the subject of a spread in Life Magazine in June 1947 titled “Sculpted Doodles: Artist Makes Strange Objects,” which reported that Cherry “made them mostly because they are fun.”


A group of eight mobiles were exhibited at the Rudolph Galleries in Woodstock in June 1946, including Pictograph No. 1 and Pictograph No 2. These multicolored works formed the basis for successful exhibitions in 1947 and 1948 at Weyhe Gallery in New York. Works were purchased by his fellow Woodstock artists Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Fletcher Martin, Doris Lee and Karl Fortess. Fortess owned the work on view, and was a close friend of Cherry. In the winter of 1947 1948, Cherry and Denny Winters stayed at Karl and Lillian Fortess’ home during the winter months.


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Herman Cherry (1909-1992)

The Bug (Preying Insect), 1946/7

Wood, Iron, hemp, and oil

Collection of Regina Cherry, New York


Cherry’s solo exhibition at Weyhe Gallery in New York in 1948 included pictographs and constructions on plastic and wood boards, such as The Bug (Preying Insect), which includes iron and hemp strings. Cherry shared an interest in picturing bugs or insects with his close friend Edward Millman -- an interest also of later Byrdcliffe resident Ellen Levy. His second wife Regina Cherry notes that he liked to observe insect life, and “was always interested in nature . . . and explored caves and talked about the blind, albino creatures he encountered while

spelunking.” Cherry’s interest in picturing insect life preceded Milliman’s by a few years.


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Denny Winters (1907-1985)

Chickens Eating in the Snow, 1946

Gouache on paper

Woodstock Artists Association and Museum,

Gift of Richard Jordan, Jr., 1985-17-01


Denny Winters was a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan. From the late 1920s through the mid-1930s she lived in Chicago where she studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and worked as a puppeteer with Bill Baird. In 1939 she moved to Los Angeles, where she was on the Works Progress Administration, and met her future husband Herman Cherry at a meeting of the local chapter of the American Artists Congress. Among the couple’s artist friends in California were Fletcher Martin and Philip Guston, who later joined them in Woodstock.


Winters and Cherry moved to Woodstock in 1945. They were drawn to the art colony by the artists Jennie and Ethel Magafan, whom they had met on a trip to Colorado. Winters related that the Magafans were the first ones to move to Woodstock from the West and “sent back word how much fun it was to be east, and what exciting artists were east, and how wonderful it was to be close to New York. So Cherry and I got the idea that it would be fun to move east, We had been long enough in California.”


Cherry and Winters settled at Byrdcliffe, where they found the rent inexpensive. They lived at Skylights (which had skylights in all seven of its rooms). Winters reported that Peter Whitehead had taken over from his father Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead and “was not quite as much an idealist as his father was. But still, the buildings had all been built by artists . . . . this was a great studio. It was crude, but it had marvelous light, and I loved it, and I went back every year.”


Winters and Cherry were part of the new artistic climate that developed in Woodstock following World War II when an influx of artsts arrived from the West and Midwest, including the Magafans, Martin, Guston, Edward Millman, and others. Winters related that “Woodstock was probably the best place for an artist to be at that time. At least we felt so. There were so many congenial spirits, and we all believed that art was all important, and we all backed each other up. . . . [Artists] have a great sense of fun . . . and play, and we had marvelous parties and balls and everything there. . . . And picnics, and swimming, and everything. Woodstock had wonderful terrain. Rivers to swim in, and places for picnics, and – good times.”


Winters and Cherry separated in 1949. Winters lived alone at Skylights through 1950. In future years she occasionally visited Woodstock, and in 1956 she settled permanently in Rockport, Maine. Chickens Eating in the Street was painted during Winters time at Byrdcliffe. She described her art as “abstract romantic,” and at the time favored swirling linear movement, and a heavy paint surface.


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Philip Guston (1913-1980)

Ref’s Back Porch, 1947

Ink on paper

Woodstock Artists Association and Museum,

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Karl E. Fortess, 1985-14-01


Philip Guston and his wife Musa first came to Woodstock in 1940 in quest of a quiet place to complete various mural projects. After completing his commissions, Guston created Martial Memory (St. Louis Art Museum), a street scene of boys playing, which he considered his first mature work. In the spring of 1947, the Gustons returned to the area, and initially settled in Byrdclifffe before moving the following year to the Maverick art colony in West Hurley. Guston was drawn back to Woodstock partly by the prospect of reestablishing his close friendships with Fletcher Martin and Herman Cherry, whom he knew in California.


Gustons drawing Ref’s Porch dates from his time at Byrdcliffe, and captures the relative shape and physical character of the diverse array of objects that cluttered the porch of his artist friend Anton Refregier, located on the Glasco Turnpike just outside the village of Woodstock. At the time of the drawing Guston began to feel that the “forms I wanted to make couldn’t take the shapes of things and figures. In other words, a sort of split occurred.” In the following year the artist would fully embrace an abstract style.


Ref’s Porch relates to Guston’s 1946-47 painting The Porch (Krannert Art Museum), which was exhibited in the summer of 1947 in the center of the main wall of the gallery of the Woodstock Artists Association, and was accorded high praise in the local paper by artist and town official Marion Bullard.


Evidently, Guston was drawn to the association at this time due to the involvement there of his artist friends Cherry, Martin, Edward Millman, Karl Fortess and Wendell Jones. In the years ahead he limited himself to the company of a very few friends and associates in town, among them the artists Bradley Walker Tomlin, Raoul Hague, Walter Plate, Rollin Crampton, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Arnold Blanch, Doris Lee, Rosemarie Beck, and Wendell Jones The artist Eva van Rijn became the Guston’s daughter Musa’s best friend. Also living nearby were his wife’s sister Jo and niece Kim. Guston moved full time to the Maverick in 1967, and died in 1980 of a heart attack while dining at the home of his physician friend Fred Elias and his wife Sylvia, who owned several of his paintings.


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Philip Guston (1913-1980)

A Lion, 1947

Crayon

Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, Woodstock Artists Association and Museum Purchase Fund, and Gift of Musa and Tom Mayer, Arthur A. Anderson, Heidi and David Frelich Family and Douglas C. James, 2016-05-01


A Lion dates from Philip Guston’s time at Byrdcliffe in 1947, and is drawn in wax crayon on a piece of Woodstock Artists Association stationary dating from the previous year. The drawing first belonged to Woodstock artist Howard Mandel. According to artist Peter Jones, Guston was introduced to the organization in early June 1947 by sculptor and board member Tomas Penning. Guston was drawn to the WAA at this time due to the involvement there of artist friends Herman Cherry, Fletcher Martin, Edward Millman, Karl Fortess and Peter’s father Wendell Jones.


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Edward Millman (1907-1964)

Aquarian, c. 1950

Mixed media on paper

Private Collection

Edward Millman (1907-1964)

Sea Bird, 1949

Pastel and watercolor on paper

Collection of William Lanford


A native of Chicago, Millman was active as a painter, draftsman, muralist, lecturer and teacher. He taught at the Art Students League’s summer school in Woodstock, and from 1956 he served as a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic in Albany. Millman first came to Woodstock in the early 1930s when he visited several artists he had known in Chicago, including Tomas Penning and John Nichols. Following the end of World War II, he and his wife Norma rented a house in Byrdcliffe, where they resided till purchasing property in January 1949 on Meads Mountain Road, which had a magnificent view of the Ashokan Reservoir and the surrounding countryside. Millman played an active role at the Woodstock Artists Association, where he served as president of the board on numerous occasions. In 1949, he was recording secretary, and Denny Winters was membership chairman of the board of directors.


In the late 1940s and 1950s, Millman concentrated on drawing, and created numerous drawings in pen and ink of insect life, animal skulls and bones, shells, flowers. and related bits he discovered in nature. Millman explained that “objects of all sorts . . . interest me because their forms and textures and colors are exciting. I live with these objects and record my observations in many drawings. From these drawings a painting slowly emerges. . . . Like all artists, I invent forms. I start with the idea (object, event or fantasy) and as the drawings and the painting take shape, the identity of the objects obtained in the idea is destroyed and reborn through a process of design. I am then solely concerned with form for form’s sake. In the end the content has fused with the form, and the form has shaped the content."


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Bernard Steffen (1907-1980)

May, c. 1955-1960

Oil on canvas

Collection of Ira Brandes


Bernard Steffen was active as a painter, printmaker, musician, folk singer and storyteller. A native of Kanas, he studied with Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League of New York, where he formed a friendship with Jackson Pollock. Steffen was one of America’s preeminent silk screen printmakers, and authored the authoritative book on the subject, Silk Screen, which was published in 1963.


In 1955, Steffen was on the verge of a nervous breakdown when he learned about the availability in Byrdcliffe of Bottega, a building that had been used early in the century as a workshop by woodworkers, potters, weavers, and silversmiths. Steffens occupied Bottega for over 20 years, and became a close friend of Peter Whitehead, son of the Byrdcliffe founder Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead, who left the cabin to him in his will. Among other things it was the scene of a weekly poker game that included artists Fletcher Martin and Walter Plate.


In March 1978, Bottega burned down, destroying the majority of the work that remained in Steffen’s possession, as well as art by Benton and Pollock. Following the destruction of Bottega, he moved into the adjoining cabin Chipmunk, and created swirling assemblages from the wood remains. He also created a silkscreen edition featuring a symbolic image of a strong tree trunk standing in front of a serene body of water, which he gave as a gift to those who had lent him support following the disaster.


In Woodstock, Steffen was closely involved with the Woodstock Artists Association, and for a period ran the institution’ Graphic Workshop, where he gave instruction in silk screen. He also taught at the Art Student League’s summer school in Woodstock, and various other places in Ulster County. Steffens was well known in town as a singer, and harmonica and dulcimer

player.


In his early work, Steffens specialized in painting and making prints of rural scenes and landscapes. In the mid-1950s, he began to engage with abstraction. First working in oil and then acrylic, his canvases of the time are filled with muted pastel forms floating in space, which are instilled with a fluttering, rhythmic sense of movement.


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LARKS NEST: RICHARD CRIST

AND EVA VAN RIJN


Located on the Glasco Turnpike, the Larks Nest is a group of buildings constructed about 1800 which were converted for use by Byrdcliffe upon its opening. The property is part of the Byrdcliffe Historic Site. Larks Nest originally was managed by Byrdcliffe founder Hervey White, and his friend and associate the painter Carl Eric Lindin. Historian Alf Evers related that the Larks Nest was “planned as a kid of sorting-out place for people who might, if they passed inspection, be invited to join Byrdcliffe. Residence was by invitation only.” Among the early visitors were feminist critic and writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and artists Charles Walter Stetson and Warren Wheelock.

Richard Crist (1909-1985)

Tickseed, c. 1960

Acrylic on canvas

Collection of Beryl Goss


Painter, printmaker, illustrator and writer Richard Crist was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He lived for periods in Pittsburgh and New Hope, Pennsylvania before settling in Woodstock in 1955, where he lived at the former Larks Nest. He first came to town in 1953 when he had an exhibition at the Zena Gallery. Crist found Woodstock a stimulating place to work, and in 1960 remarked that he hoped to paint there for “ninety years or more.”


Early in his career Crist worked in a style indebted to the influence of Precisionism, and favored depicting landscapes featuring barn and mountains. In New Hope in the 1940s he developed an interest in non-objective painting under the influence of Lloyd Ney. By the 1950s, he was committed completely to abstraction. Crist began to compose by following chance methods, such as dropping torn bits of colored paper onto sheets of paper, and copying the patterns which were formed onto his canvas. The artist frequently created textures by scraping half-dried pigment into clumps.


Crist favored a muted pastel palette of rugged blues, pinks and tans, in which some of the hues appear highly saturated, while others appear to be stained. His compositions are full of movement and energy. A writer for the Kingston Daily Freeman remarked that his works are filled with “rugged shaped which swim, move and gyrate in seas of complimentary hues.” Crist remarked “I think color is the thing that moves me most, and the end that I pursue is beauty.”

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Eva van Rijn

The Overlook Mountain, c. 1985

Oil on canvas

Collection of the Woodstock School of Art


Eva van Rijn grew up in Woodstock, and the artistic milieu of the town influenced her early ambition to become a painter. Among her parents friends were the painters Philip Guston and Rosemarie Beck. As a child van Rijn took art classes in Shady with Louise and Frank Brockenshaw. In the late 1950s, she rented the Byrdcliffe house Morning Star. In 1984, she bought the Larks Nest from Richard Crist. Over the course of her 35 years there she made major improvements to the house, studio and grounds. On moving to Colorado she sold the property to the graphic designer Milton Glaser and his wife Shirley.


The Overlook Mountain was painted about 1985 as a protest against the addition atop the mountain of a 299-foot tower to transmit a television signal to pre-cable sets in the valley below. The artist painted the triptych from the vista of Bradley Meadows, behind Sunflower Market on Mill Hill Road, which was a prime spot to picture the mountain prior to its development. Van Rijn felt the beauty of Overlook Mountain was “being trashed [by the tower] and maybe even its history as an icon.” “If you could have seen the mountain in the ‘early days’,” she relates, “with the old hotel at its top – now that was beautiful! It was a mountain like no other, with the village of Woodstock at its base.”


Van Rijn has aspired to restore the qualities of the Hudson River School to contemporary art. “Modern paintings tended to be flat surfaces,” she relates, “It’s always been my goal to imitate the Hudson River painters by introducing depth. I want to lead the viewer’s eye into the painting in a kind of search.” When the side panels of her triptych are closed the viewer sees a narrower view of Overlook Mountain pictured at night.


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Bruce Dorfman

The Woodstock Poster, 1969

Lithograph

Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, Gift of the Artist, 2017-04-11


Bruce Dorfman has been active as a painter, printmaker and collagist. He came to Woodstock with his family as a teenager, and in the early 1950s studied with Arnold Blanch and Yasuo Kuniyoshi at the Art Student League’s summer school, where he became a protégé of Blanch. From 1964-1972, Dorfman and his wife and children resided in a small house they built in Byrdcliffe next to HiLoHa on land they acquired from Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead’s son Peter. Dorfman began teaching at the Art Students League in New York in 1964, and left Byrdcliffe and moved into the city when the commute became too difficult.


The Woodstock Poster was created in 1969, and originally was commissioned by the Woodstock Book Shop and Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, as an advertisement for one of a series of folk concerts held around town, He was assisted in his studio by his friend and neighbor at HiLoHa, Bob Dylan. Dorfman explained: “That summer, we had discussed the upcoming festival which neither of us would attend. After I finished the art on the separate color screens, Dylan joined me in my Byrdcliffe studio and assisted in the printing of each poster as well as the hanging of each, for drying, on clothes lines strung around the studio.” The Woodstock Poster relates to Dorfman’s creation of dreamlike images of women of the time, and reflects his admiration for Kitagawa Utamaro’s prints of beautiful, slim bodied women, with exaggerated, elongated features.


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Bob Dylan Bruce Dorfman, 1968 Ink on newsprint Collection of Bruce Dorfman, New York

Elliott Landy

Bob Dylan in Living Room of HiLoLa, Byrdcliffe, 1968

Silver Gelatin Print

Collection of Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, New Acquisition,

Gift of Douglas C. James


Bob Dylan first visited Woodstock in 1963 when he came to stay in a two room hut in the woods close to the village that had been owned by the musician Peter Yarrow’s uncle. Dylan considered Woodstock to be “the greatest place,” where he could “stop the clouds, turn time back and inside out, make the sun turn on and off.” During the course of early visits with his girlfriend, the artist Suze Rotolo, he met the artist Arnold Blanch, and sometimes slept on the floor of his house on route 212 just outside the village, which Blanch shared with his partner and fellow artist Doris Lee. Bruce Dorfman recalls that Dylan loved Blanch. The musician associated with other painters in town, including Anton Refregier, but according to Dorfman he was generally uncomfortable around the older artists of the colony. In later years, Dylan had a room, and then a cabin of his own, on his manager Albert Grossman’s property in Bearsville.


From mid-1966 to mid-1969, Dylan lived with his family at HiLoHa in Byrdcliffe. In the morning he walked his daughter Maria to the school bus stop on Upper Byrdcliffe Road. There he met his neighbor Bruce Dorfman, who was five years his senior, and his daughter Lisa. Dylan and Dorfman formed a close friendship, and shared ideas and experiences. Their sense of playfulness and good humor is reflected in Dylan’s ink portrait of his friend.


For his 27th birthday, Dylan’s wife Sara gave her husband a box of oil paints, and Dylan asked Dorfman how to use them. Dorfman recalled that he “was very, very attentive, really wonderfully attentive and absorbing it all very carefully.” In turn, Dylan took a keen interest in Dorfman’s pictures of women, and aided him in printing The Woodstock Poster, featured in this exhibition. Dylan continues to be productive to this day as a visual artist.


In an interview of 1968 for the magazine Sing Out, Dylan compared his method of writing songs in relation to the work of an unnamed landscape painter of the area: “It’s like this painter who lives around here-he paints the area in a radius of twenty miles, he paints bright strong pictures, He might take a barn from twenty miles away, and hook it up with a brook right next door, then with a car ten miles away, and with the sky on some certain day, and the light on the trees from another certain day. A person passing by will be painted alongside someone ten mlles away. And in the end he’ll have this composite picture of something which you can’t say exists in his mind. It’s not that he started out willfully painting this picture from all his experience . . . That’s more or less what I do.”


In May 1969, Dylan and his family moved to a 12 room Arts and Crafts house on 39 acres of private land high up on Ohayo Mountain Road, which once had belonged to the writer and speaker Walter Weyl. The art collector Asher B. Edelman owned HiLoHa in the early 1990s, and during the period it was used for half a year by the Italian artist Sandro Chia.


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Freya DeNitto Study for Stained Glass, c. 1970-1976 Stained glass

Collection of the Artist, Kingston, NY


Freya DeNitto, whose focus throughout her life has been her family, began working seriously in stained glass while living in Byrdcliffe. She sold her pieces in the shop which later became the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts. DeNitto studied stained glass making in Rockland County prior to moving with her husband Ronald to Woodstock in 1966. The DeNittos currently live in The Lace Mill, an artist living community space on Cornell Street in Kingston, where they have been closely involved with the residence’s multiple art galleries.


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Ronald DeNitto

Byrdcliffe, c. 1972-1973

Oil on canvas

Courtesy of the Artist, Kingston, NY


Ronald and Freya DeNitto resided in Byrdcliffe from 1970-1976. Bruce Dorfman was their next-door neighbor. Ronald attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, where Dorfman was a fellow student. At Byrdcliffe he painted many large works, which he sold through the Polari Gallery in Woodstock. He opened the Kleinert Gallery with a two-man exhibition with Edward Chavez. Byrdcliffe was painted around 1972-1973, and features a portrait of the artist’s family, as well as a view of the landscape outside. Seated around the table are the DeNittos, their daughter Emily, and son Daniel, playing with their dog Pace. Also, in the canvas are family cats Kitsel and Aries.


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Bruce Dorfman

Cameo, 1968

Canvas, oil, wood, glass

Collection of the Artist


Cameo was created in 1968 in Dorfman’s newly created studio on Webster Road in Byrdcliffe. The point of departure for the work was the young daughter of his close friend Dr. (and artist) Ron Thompson, who had a summer home off of the Glasco Turnpike. The work features the figure of Phyllis, reclining horizontally on her right side with her head to the left. Cameo is what the artist refers to as a composite painting, in which he seeks to strike a balance between painting, sculpture, and collage. In this work he includes wood and glass.


Between 1960 and 1968, Dorfman made attempts to rearrange or reshape what a painting space could be, and what a painting meant or what It could mean. Dorfman relates that with the creation ofCameo “what happened was a shift in emphasis, from a relationship between form and subject matter, to a more complete relationship between form and content (the work’s many actual meanings) . . . whatever the overall visual configuration would have to be needed to get that fusion. In this way, the ostensible ‘subject matter’ could never filter, or be mistaken for the Art. There could never any longer be a separation between form and content; they would have to be the same - no matter what.”


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AIR PROGRAM


In 1991, the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild initiated an Artist-in-Residence program. The program offers over 60 artists and writers the opportunity to spend uninterrupted creative time over the course of late May through late September living and working in the serene natural setting of Byrdcliffe. The program includes visual artists, ceramicists, weavers, architects, designers, film makers, healers, composers and writers in all categories, who are chosen by a committee of professionals in the arts. The program offers 4-week programs, and 9 month, and year-long residences, where artists reside in Byrdcliffe’s historic cottages. Exhibitions of the artists-in-residence are regularly held at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts.

Jenny Nelson

HiLoHa, 2006

48 x 36”

Collection of Barbara Arum


Jenny Nelson has been living in the Woodstock area for over three decades, and had a residency at Byrdcliffe from 2004-2008 when she lived in a farmhouse across from The Barn. Nelson’s work involves her intuitive reaction to her surroundings, and instinct to depict her surroundings in abstract forms. For Nelson, Byrdcliffe was a time of experimentation and development. HiLoHa (titled after the Byrdcliffe house where Bob Dylan lived for a period) is especially significant for personal reasons: “When I would get stuck on a piece I would walk out the door and go up Camelot to HiLoHa...a daily meditative walk, which many times would solve my painting dilemmas. . . . I felt very connected to the artists I would imagine walking in that very place, contemplating their own work a hundred years earlier.”


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Alex Valls

Worker Hands, 2017

Found materials from the Byrdcliffe colony:

wood, plastic, metal

Collection of the Artist


In 2017, Alex Valls was an artist-in-resident at Byrdcliffe, where she created a series of works utilizing materials she found on the property, including wood, plastic and metal. Walls recalls that the subject of this work in the exhibition “derives from environmental and cultural sentiments representing the shifting realities of our landscape. I collect detritus such as plastic, metal, wood and glass, and re-purpose them into sculptural compositions. . . . The objects reference the area in which they are found and presented . . . allowing for a reconsideration of their future. Viewing these concrete objects outside of their predetermined context, allows for . . . abstraction. To expose, acknowledge and play with these elements of degradation means to continue their . . . trajectory as part of our human story.”


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Ellen Levy

Adaptation/Innovation #2, 2001

DIgital print on archival paper mounted on aluminum

with wood support

Collection of the Artist, Woodstock/NY


Ellen Levy

Adaptation/Innovation #3, 2001

DIgital print on archival paper mounted on aluminum

with wood support

Collection of the Artist, Woodstock/NY


A multimedia artist, writer and teacher Ellen Levy is known for exploring the interrelationship of art, science and technology. During summers in the mid-1970s, she and her husband David began renting cottages at Byrdcliffe (Little Angelus and Evening Star). They later bought a second home in Byrdcliffe. During her time there, Levy became attuned to the surrounding insect life, and chose to recreate it in her art. She made sketches of insect wings in drawings and watercolors, and later applied a cellular automata program to scans of these sketches of natural phenomena. The artist has explained that this “program caused the images to evolve in time. I then selected stills that retained something of the original sketches before they transitioned into total abstraction.”

Caitlin Cass (b. 1986)

Head in the Trees, 2016

Acrylic on wood panel

Collection of the Artist


Caitlin Cass currently is an assistant professor of studio art, illustration and time-based media at the University of Nebraska. She creates fine art and comics about failing systems and irrational hope to try to understand the state of the world. Cass was an AIR at Byrdcliffe in 2016. When she arrived she “became fascinated by the origin of Byrdcliffe in 1903 as a utopian arts and crafts colony. The impossibility of R.R. Whitehead's vision is both delightful and disturbing. He planned to live outside of modern industry, create furniture by hand and sell it for more than any other furniture, without advertising it. I began to imagine Whitehead roaming around Byrdcliffe grounds with his head in the sky. There he was lurking just outside my studio, egging me on to pursue the impossible.”


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Elissa Gore

Farmhouse, 2018

Watercolor on paper

Collection of Artist, New York, N

Elissa Gore

Skylights East, 2007

Watercolor on paper

Courtesy of the Artist


Elissa Gore attended the University of Pennsylvania where she was introduced to painting by Rackstraw Downes and Neil Welliver. She learned to draw by studying medical lllustrations, which inspired her to follow her inclination for realism and the natural world. Her home studio is now located in northern Manhattan, but residencies in the Northeast and the South have been important to her career.


Gore stayed at Byrdcliffe almost every summer from 2002 to 2021. Initially she came as an AIR, and then leased Skylights East for 12 summers. In 2021, she stayed in Evening Star. In odd years, Gore stayed for a month at the Villetta. The artist explains that she has “returned so many times because of the magical places. When I see the changes each year, my appreciation for the adaptability of nature deepens. I know the places I want to see again, and hear rumors of others I have not yet found time to visit. No GPS needed.”


During the course of Gore’s stays she started painting small pieces in watercolor of the other cottagee from Skylights' windows at moments when she needed a break from her large oil landscapes of area scenery. Since 2014, Gore has painted around 50 small portraits of Byrdcliffe buildings. In her large oils she has depicted the Sawkill Creek, Kaaterskill Creek, Stony Kill, and other places in the Hudson Valley. Gore works from photographs as well as sketches done on site.


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