Holding down the show across from Strafella's wall are Melora Kuhn's neo-Gothic portraits and a pair of plaster busts: all self-conscious yet simultaneously emotionally charged takes on French Academy portraits of the 19th century. Filling out the room are a wall of compositional collage whimsies (with a hint of Mondrian) by Catherine Mosley and a wall full of bright Pop explosions in gouache by Erik Schoonebeek. All of the artists are from the Hudson Valley - young, yet starting to make major impacts beyond the region.
Strafella, whose works are as much tactile as they embody traditional two-dimensional "drawing," trained as a sculptor, and came to her form of drawing as a three-dimensional exercise of sorts. She explains how difficult she'd found the writing portion of her undergraduate and graduate art studies, and would get lost in the specificity of the tools that she was using. One day she created a square using punctuation keys and realized that she was on to something new.
"I began using a typewriter 15 years ago to record my thoughts and ideas. The more I typed, the more the letters and words on the pages began to take on a new function, slowly transforming into a new language," she has written. "This new language was one I made from patterns and grids formed by punctuation marks. I began creating layers of repetitive marks typed onto a page, often creating surfaces so layered with texture that the paper often breaks open and falls away. These tattered fragments have taken on their own identity, becoming objects and no longer just drawings."
Speaking outside of the opening for "Upstate II" in Hudson last Saturday, Strafella explained how the work allowed her to move to an inward place for inspiration. Now, she added, she was readying to take the work back in an outer-reaching direction.
A look at her r?sum?, like all the artists in this strong exhibition, shows a recent history of acknowledged growth in her aesthetic and its realization: a Pollack-Krasner and Guggenheim grant, time at the Skowhegan School in Maine, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, residencies at Yaddo and MacDowell. There was also a residency at Dieu Donne, the Manhattan-based institution for explorations of works on paper via the making of one's own paper and other methodologies, where Strafella created an impressive series of pigmented pulp drawing a couple of years ago.
She adds, in the gallery's press release for "Upstate II," that among the elements at play in her new art is the time that she spent working on a nearby organic farm making marks in the earth with a tractor, beginning to understand her abstract drawings in relationship to the landscape around us. "Strafella's primary interest in landscape is to investigate the physical orientation to space, form and placement, rather than the representation of a particular place," her bio reads. It's remarkably subtle work that, once contemplated and watched as sculpture, as well as drawing, has a strange internal resonance and affecting beauty.
Alongside further interesting shows up and down the city's long Warren Street, involving new takes on portraiture at Limner Gallery, McWillie Chambers' intimate sporting male paintings at John Davis and other great work at the growing numbers of galleries, contemporary and antiques-oriented, it makes for a viable day trip - and a true inspiration at finding new catharsis from old tools and everyday activities. Nicole Fiacco Gallery is located at 335 Warren Street. Call (518) 828-5090 or visit www.nicolefiaccogallery.com for further information.
For more on the whole scene, try www.hudsonartgalleries.com.
@ Paul Smart