Tag Archives: Stephen S. Reardon


By Jason Campbell

Going into my meeting with Shylamar “Shy” Andrews I had nothing to go on. No website full of his artwork to reference, no Facebook page to lend insight into his personality, and really not much of any idea of his style of work (provided by Cordell). In fact, the only reason Shy is a part of this issue at all is the chance encounter he had with Cordell at the Cornhill Arts Festival. All I knew was that Shy was an intriguing young man who made an impression.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Artist Shylamar "Shy" Andrews

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Artist Shylamar “Shy” Andrews

I try not to script my interviews, but I like having an idea of what the artist is about and then let the artist steer the direction of the conversation. In that regard, I guess I was somewhat prepared to meet Shy.

Sitting in Spot Coffee, seventeen-year-old Shy shared his sketchbook with me. Since he’s still in high school, at the School of the Arts, this was the only body of work we had to go on. He has not yet been part of any exhibits or festivals. Shy’s artwork is a mixture of adult cartoons and Dali-esque surrealism inspired in part by comic books, anime and his own extremely vivid dreams. If you’re my age you may remember an early John Cusack movie “One Crazy Summer” in which his caricatures come to life, leaping off of the page. Shy’s drawings have a similar feel to them, but the tone of the pieces lean towards an experienced, more polished approach. Most of Shy’s drawings are done in ballpoint pen ink and explore themes of demons, violence, sex, and chaos, but also of peace, or more accurately, spirituality. The cartoonish styling recedes to display strong artistry and amazing creativity. As I kept retracing the lines of the drawings with my eyes, I would notice another element within the piece. His art keeps your eye moving and is unlike most anything else I’ve seen locally.

As we continued our conversation, Shy abruptly switched topics to music. He deftly handed me a cd that he made for me to take home. I was taken a bit by surprise for two reasons, first, I had no way of knowing he made music, and two, that he had prepared this cd for me. His gift made a real impression on me, and I think my reaction may have affected him as well. Although I’m not a huge hip hop listener, I do have an appreciation for it. After all, I did grow up during the explosion of Wu Tang, Dre, Snoop, Tribe, Pharcyde, etc. and basically everyone I knew was listening to one of these. Upon hearing this, Shy grinned and told me “I think you have soul, I think you’re gonna like my cd.” My curiosity grew by the second.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Shylamar Andrews

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Shylamar Andrews

Shy spoke of his desire to be multi-dimensional – drawing, rapping, and making movies. Each medium provides a different outlook into who he is as an artist, but also serve as outlets for his various creative ideas. I asked Shy what art meant to him, if he could compact all his energies into a single idea, and to my surprise, he did (kind of)! Shy stated that art is its own energy that can change environments by spreading different views. “Art has deep roots as it is the basis for all other fields. If you think about it, everything is a form of art, every object was created by someone; it doesn’t matter what it is or when it was made. Art has the spiritual energy to enlighten, to heal the mind so that the body may heal.” Shy likened the power of art to that of a shaman – the ability to access spirits to do good or evil. When I asked Shy what he wanted people to take away from his spot in Art House Press, he told me “That’s up to you – I want you to do your thing, to use your artistic sense to portray your impression of me.” He wanted me to take the wheel and he was truly willing to leave it all up to me. I’d say that’s a pretty ballsy approach for such a young dude, but that’s part of the enigma of Shy, who appears to be an old soul in a young man’s body.

Shy started to fidget a bit and said, “Let’s walk.” Um, ok, another abrupt switch. We started on a walk to Manhattan Square Park. Here I felt like I learned the most about Shy. He seemed a little constrained or uncomfortable in the coffee house and seemed totally at ease as we walked in the perfect summer evening.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Shylamar Andrews

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Shylamar Andrews

He told me a bit more about some of his life experiences: like getting hit by cars (yes, plural, as in more than once) and living in the various parts of the city. Shy said he’s from all over the place – that he’s lived in just about any section of Rochester you can think of. I wondered how that could be for a seventeen-year-old, but I figured that would be too personal for him to share. Shy related his story of being chased through a neighborhood by a group of dudes as he walked a girl home. “Into the hood again, dodgin’ hooligans…” He mentioned that eerie feeling you get when you walk into an area that you know is bad just by the way it makes you feel.

We talked about injuries and how people react to them, both mentally and physically. Much of this talk revolved around staying positive and not letting the demons win. Shy’s perspective comes down to spirituality, and advancing in the face of negativity. “I circ’ round the block just to humble the conscience, exhale the bullshit to rid the air of nonsense…” The theme of “earth, wind, and fire” was a recurring one. Shy had mentioned it a couple of times over coffee, and then again while we walked to the park. I think for Shy “earth, wind, and fire” represents the strength of the spirit to overcome the elements of life. To be one with nature and not try to stand in the way of its progress, even when that progress is at your expense. Stay positive. I can’t think of a more important lesson for any age – life happens, and sometimes that hurts. It’s how we react and learn that dictates the future outcome, not the fact that we got knocked down.

To be at Manhattan Square Park near dusk with only a handful of people dispersed throughout, the park felt simultaneously peaceful and admittedly a touch foreboding, but Shy seemed as happy as could be.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Shylamar Andrews

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Shylamar Andrews

As we sat on a bench our conversation changed course to kung fu. That may sound silly considering this is supposed to be about Shy and his art, but kung fu is a martial art. Going back to Shy’s spiritual outlook, kung fu actually makes a lot of sense. Martial arts are practiced to unite one’s mind, body, and spirit. It is through discipline and practice that one may elevate as high as desire and intention may lead, and also to learn patience. The main components of kung fu philosophy are breathing, relaxing, and focusing. In those terms, kung fu is very much an art form – ways to connect to your emotions and understand them, so as to live your passion. There are many excerpts attributed to kung fu such as “be like water, and like wind, and flame, and earth, and stone” , and “the internal reflects the external”  that recall Shy’s earth, wind, and fire references.

Dusk faded into the summer night’s signaling the end of our interview. I asked Shy if there was anyplace I could drive him – I felt weird leaving him at the park by himself. From his place of elevated consciousness he thought about the offer for a moment and then said plainly, “Thanks but I think I’ll just chill here for a bit.” I asked again just to be sure he really wanted me to leave him sitting on a bench in a nearly deserted city park, but he said, “Nah, I’m just gonna stay here and practice some kung fu.”

So, I took the short walk back to the car and started home. Listening to Shy’s cd I was really impressed with how skillful the arrangements are for a young person working on his own. I would liken Shy’s delivery to a combination of Guru’s narrative style (from the old Gang Starr records) and Q Tip’s  (from Tribe) positivity. “My kinetic charge moves nations, building many positive relations…

As I listened to Shy’s lyrics, I harkened back to our earlier discussions. Unbeknownst to me, Shy had managed to work most of his songs into our conversation in an easy, unforced manner. I simply started laughing to myself as I drove home, not knowing if I just got played, or if the consistency of Shy’s stories to his songs made them more believable. Though the stories and songs were relayed slightly differently, the main details were solidly aligned. The fact that this young man can express himself so effectively in two very different mediums, with little or no training is simply amazing. I think Shy’s potential is infinite. As long as he is able to focus his energies in a positive direction Shy can achieve anything. Many times we only hear negativity regarding our city’s young people – violence, drugs, drop-out rates, etc. The success stories seem to get passed over and as a result they become the exceptions. It was my pleasure to meet with Shy and share a bit of his story so that a positive light may be shed on a talented young man living in “Roc City – not known to give pity.” I can’t wait to go to an art opening featuring Shy’s artwork, buy his music or watch his movie so I can say, “I met that dude and we talked about kung fu.”

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Shylamar Andrews and his Artwork

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Shylamar Andrews and his Artwork



It’s early summer. Flowers are in bloom. It’s peaceful. It’s beautiful. My drive from Rochester to Penn Yan passes through pastoral landscapes of scripted fields burgeoning with crops, fenced pastures wafting with rural scents, and tree-lined hamlets announcing church dinners and lemonade stands. My destination is Hawk Ridge, Sheldon Berlyn’s home and art studio. I have a lunch date with him and his wife Diane.

As I’m driving east on Rt. 5, I think about an article I read in which the author heralds Berlyn as “an archetype of contemporary art culture.” A coveted title to be sure and duly appropriated. His credentials are imposing: a career spanning five decades; fellowships, awards, and exhibitions far too numerous to list in this short space; a forty-year member of “Who’s Who in American Art”; and most impressive, a mainstay in nearly fifty private, public, and corporate collections.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Artist Sheldon Berlyn

Sheldon Berlyn is an abstract expressionist. In other words, he creates nonrepresentational art; his art is not mimetic of nature: you can’t see figures; you can’t see landscapes, albeit their influence is ultimately presented in some form. Berlin’s interest is to create form and shape and not least to extrapolate an aesthetic response from his beholder. His work is characterized by the interplay of sweeping graceful arcs and semi-transparent layers of color that travel in horizontal and vertical motion. He accomplishes this by what is referred to as gestural painting, that is to say, expressive paint strokes that deliberately emphasize the movement of his hand or the sweep of his arm. The aim is to reflect personality and mood much like my or your gestures reflect our personality and mood. But here’s the thing that trips me up: Berlyn cues from the great masters—Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Pontormo, and the later works of Cezanne, Manet, and Monet, among others—as models for his abstractions. I’m admittedly confounded. The contrast between the nondescript elements of Berlyn’s abstract art and the realistic representations of Baroque and Impressionist art is striking. Where does he see the connection?

“Nature contains the elements, in colour and form, of all pictures, as the keyboard contains the notes of all music. But the artist is born to pick, and choose, and group with science, these elements, that the result may be beautiful – as the musician gathers his notes, and forms his chords, until he brings forth harmony.”
– James McNeill Whistler

I’m beginning to think I’m in over my head. In an effort to push down my angst, I let my mind finger through the Rolodex of literary movements and theories I studied as a graduate student, trying to determine which label would best identify what I know so far of Berlyn’s work. Literary theory is born from many of the same cultural fluctuations that informed the tenets of the shifting art movements, so there’s not much stretch between the two. And in this case the mental exercise is helpful before meeting with an “archetype of contemporary art” who self-reportedly “intellectualizes his work.” I’m hoping the afternoon with Berlyn will give me a perspective broader than, or at least different from, the delineated genres in which I’ve been taught to identify art, and my hope is fulfilled.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Artist Sheldon Berlyn

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Artist Sheldon Berlyn

He greets me from an outdoor balcony and directs me to the stairway leading to where he and his aging Labrador wait. Berlyn lives in a post-and-beam home of his own design that recalls Buddhist minimalism and Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. Whatever angst I had is immediately disarmed by his congeniality. After a hearty handshake, he escorts me into his cool, naturally-lit house, which sits on a densely treed hillside flanking Keuka Lake. I am introduced to his wife Diane who is an established artist in her own right, and the three of us gather at the dining table for lunch and conversation, which eventually leads to a discussion of a large painting situated above the Kawai grand piano in the adjoining living space.

I study the painting for some time while Berlyn patiently waits. The very act of searching for an interpretation in Berlyn’s work is pleasurable and I’m reminded of Oscar Wilde’s observation that “there are works which wait, and which one does not understand for a long time; the reason is that they bring answers to questions which have not yet been raised.”

Finally, I tell him I see dancers, elegant and sure—perhaps a waltz, a sweeping ballet—and indeed, he tells me this was his intention when he created the painting. He is pleased at my recognition—an affirmation of a master’s work. “Human kinetic movement is what I’m after,” he explains. I tell him that the iridescent delicacy of the white paint pulled by his homemade squeegee adds a lyrical, linear direction suggestive of a musical score. “That was not intended,” he says, “I remember doing this painting and I remember how excited I was that I could control it all the way through to its end while maintaining a certain tension and that the whole thing came together as a unified structure.” Berlyn is acutely conscious of his placement of form and of visual balance. He aptly controls the beholder’s eye so that it never goes totally off the page. Calm. Grace. Beauty.

He then shows me to his studio on the lower-level, also paneled with floor-to-ceiling windows. He pulls a large canvas from an upright bin. “I reference Caravaggio in this painting,” he says as he places it on the tabletop, “This is the ‘Martyrdom of St. Matthew.’” I don’t get it and I tell him so. He explains:

“What I did was draw a grid over [Caravaggio’s] work and also a series of concentric circles and diagonals to show what his compositional reference is. Diagonals and horizontals determine where the figures line up and the concentric circles have to do with the receding and advancing quality of the imagery,” he says. “You see, I’m not trying to be totally literal, but I am using the dramatic characteristics of Baroque painting, and I’m using the placement and directional flow of the figures, but I’m totally abstracting it. I’m not trying to reproduce or imitate Caravaggio as such.” Berlyn’s ultimate goal is to create a good painting, an interesting painting, one with variation, one that you can look at once and come back to time and again and see it for the first time. “That is the mission of true art—to make us pause and look at a thing a second time,” posits Oscar Wilde.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon

After talking over several more paintings, uses of color, which Berlyn takes particular pride in (a nod to Josef Albers et. al), and interpretations, we come to the end of the afternoon. I’m compelled to ask to see the ink drawings he sketched while in the Korean War. He is most happy to oblige me. He goes to a back room and returns a moment later with a box he made to house this collection of some of his earliest work. He uncoils the string that wraps it with the lightest of hand, approaches the edge of the paper as if it were a tiny bird, and turns the first drawing over for us to view. I am again struck by the delicacy of his artistic hand, but even more so by the humanness with which he depicted his subjects: Korean prisoners in his charge. Men and women, some robed in linen garb, some busying themselves with banal tasks, all depicted as gentle, kind, human, and lonely. War.

Where does Berlyn see the connection? I get it now. What I had come to understand is that by distilling human emotion from the objects of nature, by eliminating the embellishments of gender, class, status, particularities of environment, boundaries, Berlyn disabuses any misperception about what it is to be human. He rises to a symbolic expression that reaches across time, culture, and borders to convey the essential, even spiritual, ideas of experience and of art.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Artist Sheldon Berlyn

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Artist Sheldon Berlyn

My mood is elevated and light; my intellect crisp and heady. I am somehow aware of the weight of the hours I spent with Sheldon Berlyn and that I am somehow changed. A chord has been struck. In my literary world, it would be the equivalent of studying, if only for a trollop of time, with a Pulitzer Prize author, and I wonder if years from now university students will be highlighting Berlyn’s biography with yellow marker, cramming his philosophies about art, about beauty, about minimalism and essence into their heads in the wee hours of the night, readying themselves for a mid-term exam. Berlyn is a master of his art, a man of excellence, a man of measure who creates because he must create, an artist for art’s sake.

When I stop at the bottom of the winding drive, I look into my rearview mirror. Hawk Ridge is out of my field of vision—a respite tucked in a lakeside wood, hidden, as it should be, from the masses—and I am aware that my perspective of art in the old sense has faded.


127 Pages, 30 Artist Articles, 6 Writers, 3 Photographers… ALL ROCHESTER!

Art House Press Magazine met with a booming response!! All of the magazines flew off the shelves! We are now working on the second issue!!! Stay tuned!

Distributed to:

Barnes & Nobles Pittsford Plaza, Parkleigh, Cornell’s Jewelers, Java’s, Arena’s, Spot Coffee, Pour Coffee, Memorial Art Gallery Gift Shop, Starry Nites Cafe, Makers Gallery & Studio, Scratch Bakeshop, Rochester Brainery, Axom Gallery, Joe Bean Coffee, Upper Crust Cakery//Glen Edith Coffee Roasters, RoCo, Root31, Scott Miller, Gallery Salon, Village Bakery, West Elm, Del Monte Spa & MORE COMING!



By Christine G. Adamo

At 8:47 am on Sat., Sept. 12, a gentle rain tapped out what mimicked – for me – finger strokes on a keyboard. I shifted under the covers and smiled until I realized that, for the 400-plus artists from across N.Y. state who’d prepped for their first of a two-day showing at the 2015 M&T Bank Clothesline Festival, it might sound more like money trickling down a nearby sewer drain.

With coverage of the event pre-scheduled, I’d spent some time doing prep work of my own. I knew where I’d park. I knew where I’d park if my first option fell through. I knew what I’d wear: street-worthy shoes, merciful slacks, a cotton top that encouraged airflow and a bolero-style shrug – in case the weather was less than favorable, meaning hot and humid.

On Day One, there was no muscling of the car into a questionable parking spot. (I snagged one immediately.) Nor was clothing with built-in ventilation a necessity, seeing as the heavens stirred up something closer to cool and crisp. What did need to be added to the mix were a pair of waterproof boots, an umbrella and a cap with a brim large enough to keep my eyeglasses dry.

Not only was it raining; it was pouring. The deluge didn’t let up until well after closing time. Yet, billed enthusiastically by Memorial Art Gallery as a “Rain or shine!” event, Clothesline kept true to its promise. Upon entering the festival at University Avenue and Goodman Street, it was clear that so had its participating artists – and dozens of content-to-be-rain-drenched attendees.

After 59 years, Clothesline remains one of Rochester’s largest and longest-running fine art and crafts festivals. Its commitment to the community, as outlined above, is obvious. Entertainers, unaffected by the rain, kept playing. Food vendors, with slightly better shelter, stood fast. Artists, who anyone could easily forgive for closing up shop to preserve their original works, persisted.

What follows is an introduction to three such artists and insight into their individual perspectives on the Clothesline experience as either a newcomer, long-time participant or seasoned veteran. You’ll also find references to other, noteworthy artists who fall within those same categories.

The Newcomer – Dave Pollot, Oil-on-Thrift Artist (Booth 607/608)

Dave, who first showed at Clothesline in 2013, is a self-described “software engineer who spends his nights with a beer in one hand and paintbrush in the other, bringing new life to old thrift art.” He maintains a virtual gallery at Instagram.com/DavePollotArt and a dedicated artist website at DavePollot.com.

Photography by Stephen S Reardon - Dave Pollott

Photography by Stephen S Reardon – Dave Pollot

AHP: How long have you been a working artist?
Dave Pollot: I still keep my day job writing software, but my fiancée was able to quit her full-time job to focus on the business side of the art (I create and has) been doing this for two years now.
AHP: What is your medium of choice and what drew you to it?
DP: Oil on thrift (allows) me to have a ton of fun while keeping me challenged. Each new piece is different, so it never feels repetitive.
AHP: What year did you begin participating in Clothesline and why?
DP: 2013. It was always my favorite Rochester festival. The artists are incredible and it’s where I bought my very first piece of original art.
AHP: If Clothesline helps you sustain a living, as a working artist, how?
DP: We always have a great time with Clothesline and – historically – it’s always one of our best shows.
AHP: Do you modify your process or product to create art for Clothesline? If so, how?
DP: Not at all!
AHP: What are the biggest challenges a Clothesline exhibitor faces? What are the greatest rewards?
DP: The weather is definitely the biggest challenge, as we saw this year. The weather determines the crowd – and the crowd determines the show. That said, the attendees are some of the most enthusiastic, resilient and fun we’ve seen. That’s incredibly rewarding.

Other, noteworthy newcomers to Clothesline include:


CHRIS GOODENBURY, Photographer – Clothesline exhibitor since 2014. Online at Facebook.com/CMGoodenburyPhotography.

MICHAEL P. SLATTERY, Fine Artist (Painting) – At Slattery Art, painting outside the lines is considered a fine art. “This (was) my first year at Clothesline,” Michael told Art House Press, “(where) I chose it to launch the Eve series. I work out of my 2,000 sq. ft. barn in Greece. The first floor with wood stove is my winter studio and (the) top floor houses my studio and library.” Slattery also recently showed on Artist Row at Rochester’s Public Market.

The Long-Timer
Laura Wilder, Artist (Booth 66/67)

Laura has exhibited at Clothesline for just under 20 years. She is a Roycroft Renaissance Master Artisan (Printmaking), a three-time (the maximum allowed) Clothesline Merit Award winner and a blue-ribbon recipient at this year’s Corn Hill Arts Festival.

Photography by Stephen S Reardon - Laura Wilder

Photography by Stephen S Reardon – Laura Wilder

AHP: How long have you been a working artist?
Laura Wilder: Thirty-three years. I started as a commercial artist, burned out after several years and then started my own business about 20 years ago.
AHP: What is your medium of choice and what drew you to it?
LW: Depends on the day. I’m mostly known for my block prints. I was drawn to that medium because I love the bold, stylized look of posters and prints from the early 1900s. I discovered William Nicholson’s prints and knew I had to try it, but block printing is so difficult that occasionally I have to take a break and do oil painting, which – compared to printmaking – is wonderfully direct. At the moment, oils are my medium of choice. In a couple months, it’ll probably be block printing again.
AHP: What year did you begin participating in Clothesline and why?
LW: I think 1997. I had recently become a Roycroft Renaissance printmaker and started my own business. I was looking to market my work. Clothesline and the Roycroft festivals were the best shows I knew of.
AHP: If Clothesline helps you sustain a living as a working artist, how?
LW: The folks who attend Clothesline have been absolutely wonderful to me. We artists worry about saturating a market by appearing year after year but, as I approach 20 consecutive years at this show, my sales and the wonderful feedback I get from collectors don’t seem to dwindle.
Many of them are repeat buyers. There are so many dedicated attendees that I have a successful show even in lousy weather – like we just had! I’m very grateful. Also, many of those folks now subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter, which has special offers that lead to website sales.

AHP: Do you modify your process or product to create art for Clothesline? If so, how?
LW: Every year I make sure to create one new print that shows a Rochester area landmark – with the Clothesline attendees in mind. These locally-themed prints are hugely popular. I also make sure to have something for all budgets (from $2.50 to $2,150 this year).
AHP: What are the biggest challenges a Clothesline exhibitor faces? What are the greatest rewards?
LW: I can only speak for myself here, but it isn’t finding lots of great customers; it’s dealing with weather. (To be sellable,) prints can’t get wet. And, with ever-increasing erratic weather, outdoor shows look more and more risky. Even a decent tent will eventually leak in relentless rain. A few years ago at least one Clothesline tent with concrete weights was actually airborne in a sudden gust of wind. So, we dropped a lot of money on a very good, waterproof tent this year. My husband/biz partner, Bob, made six 50-lb. tent weights and our prints stayed dry. The greatest reward is being able to meet so many of my collectors, in person, and hear from them how my art has made them (or a loved one) happy!

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Happy customer

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Happy customer

Other, long-time Clothesline participants you should know about:

YENFEN HUANG, Painter (Chinese-style)

REBECCA BARRY-KENT, Studio Artist – Rebecca, who’s represented by Gallery 54 in Skaneateles, began participating in Clothesline in 2001. “I started creating art dolls three years ago,” she explained, “using some repurposed copper and other bits and pieces (I’d collected) for years.” Being a closeted hoarder pays off; her whimsical dolls are entertaining. “It’s really cool when I see a smile (on) someone’s face,” she added, “and know it’s one of my pieces that put it there!”

MICHELLE DaRIN, Sculptor, Jeweler, etc. – I’m a “creator of anything my mind can think up,” noted Michelle, who began showing at Clothesline in 2003 and maintains a dedicated artist website at MichelleDaRinJewelry.com.


The Seasoned Veteran – Stephen Merritt, Potter (Booth 40)

Photography by Stephen S Reardon - Stephen Merritt

Photography by Stephen S Reardon – Stephen Merritt

This artist, who’s more familiarly known as simply “Steve,” offers up glimpses of his elegant work and intriguing backstory at MerrittVessel.com. Most artists, he noted, quickly put the lessons they learn and ideas they generate at Clothestline to work. They look ahead to their next show – any show – with an immediate sense of how they can make it better.

He’s looking ahead to his own showing, in early December, at the Geisel Gallery in Bausch + Lomb’s Legacy Tower in downtown Rochester. There he’ll share exhibition space with his photographer son, Jonathan, who didn’t show at Clothesline due to inclement weather. Another show worth looking into, he says, is the 15th Annual Fine Craft Show & Sale at MAG on November 7 and 8.

“(It) features the works of great artists from across the country,” he explained, “who people from Rochester don’t normally get to see. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s really one of Rochester’s gems, I think, and not as widely known as it should be.”

Steve’s a Rochester gem in his own right. Read on to find out why.

AHP: How long have you been a working artist?
Stephen Merritt: I studied in Japan in the early ’70s and was there for two-and-a-half years. I returned to Rochester, my hometown, in 1972. That’s when I started (my career as) a working artist.
AHP: What is your medium of choice and what drew you to it?
SM: For me, of course, the medium is clay. Over the years I’ve worked in a variety of different clays. For the past 20 or so years, I’ve worked almost exclusively in porcelain and terra cotta.
AHP: What year did you begin participating in Clothesline and why?
SM: In 1972, as an emerging potter. Clothesline’s association with (MAG) has always given the show a cache that a lot of other craft shows lack. For as long as I’ve been doing the show, it’s a place where artists of all stripes – Rochester-area artists and others – come together and have a good time interacting with each other and their customers, while at the same time lending support to the Gallery’s mission. There’s a purpose (to it that goes) above and beyond just trying to sell your own work.
AHP: If Clothesline helps you sustain a living, as a working artist, how?
SM: This year notwithstanding, given the weather and its effect on the crowd, most artists can depend on the Clothesline as an effective way to show new work, make sales, cover expenses and, perhaps, make a little profit on the side.
AHP: Do you modify your process or product to create art for Clothesline? If so, how?
SM: I don’t. I know many artists will tailor their display to the nature of the crowd. My experience is that Clothesline draws such a diverse audience that I choose to present my work as I would in any other venue.
AHP: What are the biggest challenges a Clothesline exhibitor faces? What are the greatest rewards?
SM: Any art show, especially an outdoor art show, involves a lot of effort – both physical and emotional. It’s always a challenge for artists to feel completely satisfied with the presentation no matter how long it’s been planned and how well it’s been executed. (I) should mention the basic challenge of exposing yourself to the elements, which underlies all the great hopes and plans every artist lays out for the show: It can all go south in a hurry, when Mother Nature decides to have her way with us. The greatest rewards are, of course, coming through the show with success on the financial side and also that the work you have shown is admired and appreciated by (attendees). We don’t expect everyone to make a purchase, as nice as that would be. Everyone can’t afford a piece, but they all appreciate the effort that goes into the work that’s being show.

Other seasoned Clothesline veterans worth researching:


DICK KANE, Watercolorist – MAG Creative Workshop faculty member

RICHARD AERNI, Potter – Online at RichardAerni.com


Photography by Stephen S Reardon - 2015 M & T Bank Clothesline Festival at the Memorial Art Gallery

Photography by Stephen S Reardon – 2015 M & T Bank Clothesline Festival at the Memorial Art Gallery

In the end? The artists we’ve featured – and mentioned – here come together, en masse, to set up pop-up stores, shops and galleries. Crowds come from all corners of Western New York (and beyond) to view their work, shop and take joy in interacting with them year after year. The result? Is an effort that helps these individuals and others like them establish and sustain long-term careers.

But what of the festival itself? In 1956, MAG explains, the first Clothesline Festival truly did feature artwork and paintings hung from clotheslines, swaying in the breeze. At the time, a handful of local artists participated, but nearly 60 years later the festival has grown and morphed into the gallery’s largest fundraising event.

Photography by Stephen S Reardon

Photography by Stephen S Reardon

Daylong entertainment, food vendors and free family art activities, as well as museum entry (included with the $5 admission price), makes it a memorable weekend in which the work of a diverse cast of artists is available for viewing.

Clothesline has garnered five City “Best of Rochester” reader awards and is said to draw serious shoppers like nobody’s business – rain, shine or otherwise.

Learn more at MAG.Rochester.edu.




 The Arena Art Group
Through The Years: A Retrospective
Part 2 of 2





Margot Muto and the Axom Gallery and Exhibition Space

Rochester is full of talented contemporary artists who have only a few options when it comes to finding a place to show their work. Enter Margot Muto and the Axom Gallery, a treasure of a space in the heart of Rochester’s Neighborhood of the Arts. On the second floor of the Art and Design Building – a wonderfully refurbished industrial space complete with high beams, brick walls, and large windows through which light pours – is the home base of the Muto family.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Axom Gallery and Exhibition Space

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Axom Gallery and Exhibition Space

It contains Robin Muto’s design studio, Rick Muto’s workspace (he is an artist and specialist in architectural decorative arts), a retail showroom, and a spacious exhibition space, currently empty as the gallery is in between shows. Margot Muto, daughter of Robin and Rick, is the gallery director.

Axom Gallery was born in 2012 after a tenant left what is now the main exhibition space of the gallery. Rick and Robin Muto wanted to use the abandoned space as a way to bring in the public, but occupied with their own businesses, they didn’t have the time to manage an art gallery as well.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Margot Muto, Director, Axom Gallery and Exhibition Space

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Margot Muto, Director, Axom Gallery and Exhibition Space

They approached their daughter Margot, who has a formidable background in art. At the time, Margot was still trying to figure out how she fit into Rochester and its art scene. Although she graduated with a degree in painting, Margot was notdrawn to working in a studio. Curation and performing behind-the-scenes gallery work, however, was a perfect fit under Margot’s direction, Axom Gallery has become a respected gallery that attracts a steady stream of both emerging and established contemporary artists. Axom most recently showcased the painter St. Monci, whose “Universal Magnetic” exhibition proved so successful, it was extended several weeks.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Margot and Robin Muto

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Margot and Robin Muto

When asked what it was like to grow up in such an artistic household, Margot shrugs. “I didn’t know any different,” she says. “That was just my life.” Her mother, Robin, has always been extremely active in Rochester’s arts community. Margot remembers creative people coming and going in and out of her home: artists, gallery owners, antique collectors. Robin Muto worked with ceramics and her studio was in the house, located in the Neighborhood of the Arts. Rick Muto’s painting studio was also in the house, and Margot remembers that he kept a large roll of pink stock paper for her to draw on while he painted. He took time out to teach her to draw. “I learned how to draw perspective at 5 or 6 years old,” Margot says. “I was very fortunate to have that kind of experience.” Margot attended Rochester’s School of the Arts, so it was pretty much inevitable that she would pursue art after high school.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Margot Muto, Director, Axom Gallery and Exhibition Space

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Margot Muto, Director, Axom Gallery and Exhibition Space

Margot enrolled at the Cleveland Institute of Art, strategically located right across the street from the Cleveland Museum of Art, where she started out studying glass and then transitioned to painting. “Painting gave me more freedom intellectually and creatively to work toward ideas instead of an object.” As Margot’s art education progressed, she became drawn artists who work in progressive and innovative ways, and who have “personally strong messaging to their work.” Her time at Cleveland brought on a sort of awakening: “Being there really elevated my sense of what the arts were, especially contemporary arts, because my background was more commercial arts and crafts. It was there (Cleveland) that I was pushed into more experimental modes of working and thinking, and I was really turned on by a lot of the conceptual and performance genres that I was learning about – and artists that I was learning about.” A professor took her to Documenta 11, a world-renowned art exhibition that takes over the entire city of Kassel, Germany, every year. “This is not only where the top functioning artists of our day are exhibiting, but they’re also bringing in emerging artists, so you’re seeing works that really push the bounds. There’s money – a lot of investment – in this way of showcasing the work, and it takes the work outside of the museum and really puts a cohesive stamp on what’s happening in our time and place in the visual art realm.”

Margot admits that toward the end of her college education, when she was able to take new media electives, she would have changed her major again if allowed. Due to personal reasons, Margot left Cleveland a semester before graduation and finished her degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her time at the RIT was brief but formative. Here in Rochester, she worked with painter Alan Singer and Keith Howard (who recently passed away), a professor who made RIT into one of the top Contemporary Printmaking programs in the United States. (Axom Gallery featured Howard’s work in August of 2012.) Margot credits these professors with helping her to embrace her conceptual side, something she had not explored in Cleveland. Though she did not realize it at the time, it was these varied experiences that helped to shape Margot’s vision for a gallery she would someday direct.

It was partly because Margot was not drawn to working in a studio that she quickly accepted her parents offer to direct Axom Gallery. (Axom is derived from the word “axiom,” which means a self-evident or universally recognized truth.) “I’m really not drawn to a type (of art medium or style.) I’m like that with most things in my life. I’m really interested in a broad range of concepts.” Her craft and design background gave her an appreciation for good craftsmanship and a strong cohesive aesthetic throughout visual works. This appreciation comes out in the gallery’s exhibitions. (Axom has showcased all manner of mediums, from quilts to paintings to figurative painting forms.) “Because my sensibilities are so diverse,” says Margot, “opening an art gallery just made sense. Curating itself is an art form.”

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Margot Muto, Director, Axom Gallery & Exhibition Space

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Margot Muto, Director, Axom Gallery & Exhibition Space

Axom Gallery showcases both established and emerging artists. Margot says seventy five percent of the artists they work with seek them out. Part of the gallery’s mission is to show work that is contemporary with a curatorial aesthetic, work not usually seen in Rochester: Many artists Axom has represented have not shown their art in Rochester in a long time, due to a lack of a commercial setting for contemporary art beyond community art space. Axom’s approach as a gallery is to provide curations tailored to each individual artist.

Axom’s main exhibition space is a blank canvas that allows each artist to create a space that perfectly complements his or her aesthetic vision. St. Monci painted lines on the wall as part of his exhibition’s visual experience. After each show, the walls are painted again, usually a shade of white that best complement the next exhibit. Lighting is critical: Robin Muto is a certified lighting designer. Once a body of work is set up, she comes in and installs museum-quality lighting with various bulbs and light colors. Every light installation is tailored to the specific artist and comes down in between shows.

What is Margot drawn to in an artist? “We do have a particular standard of what we’re looking for in an artist when putting up a body of work. We look for a strong, cohesive tie between the visual concepts and intellectual concepts.” Robin, Rick, and Margot Muto are all part of the decision-making process when choosing artists to work with, and they all collaborate throughout the curation.

Of course, Margot has to really love the work in which she’s going to become so personally invested. “It’s a private run gallery. I have to like it (the work.) It becomes a labor of love, so I really have to feel that gut and soul connection to the work. That’s a very raw thing – not really tangible.”

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Margot Muto, Director, Axom Gallery and Exhibition Space

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Margot Muto, Director, Axom Gallery and Exhibition Space

And then there’s all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into directing a gallery. There’s the newsletter that goes out a few times a month, the website that needs constant updating, promotion of past and future artists featured at Axom, and social media. They have just started using Instagram. Margot is involved with Rochester’s First Fridays, and partners with other galleries to put on smaller pop-up events around the city. She was able to get three of her artists exposed to a broader audience as a member of the Art Auction Committee for Garth Fagan Dance, an exclusive event that drew people from all across the country.

Axom’s next opening features the work of Robin Cass, an artist and full professor in the glass program at RIT. Margot describes Cass as a “hidden gem,” and she becomes visibly excited when she talks about Cass’s work. “She uses glass in a very unique way. She casts most of her pieces; they are very reminiscent of natural forms that you’ll see in plant and water life. She uses a hand-painted approach to add color to her glass. Most of the work I have seen have been hung on the wall, but I believe we are to expect some suspended pieces in this show, which I’m really excited about. She’s exhibiting a traditional craft form in a very unlikely way.” Margot says they have looked forward to showing Cass for a couple of years now, and says that it was her mother who finally made it happen. Axom Gallery plans exhibits one to two years in advance, and it is currently booking into 2017. This gives the artist time to create a new body of work for their exhibition – work that hasn’t been seen before. “The size of our space caters to that,” Margot says.

In between shows, the gallery is still open and visitors are invited to view Axom Objects, a newly opened retail space that sells contemporary furniture and other crafts and works of art.

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Many of the artists who have showcased their work at Axom leave behind pieces of art, which are rotated regularly throughout the showroom.

Axom Gallery provides a much-needed stage where contemporary artists can find freedom in exhibiting their work. Margot describes Rochester’s arts community as incredibly supportive, and has nothing but accolades for places like The Yards, the Eastman House, the Memorial Art gallery, and events like Wall Therapy and First Fridays. Still, she feels “we owe it to or artists to provide more of a platform so they can have more of a sustainable career. We should build upon the assets we have so that artists don’t move on. There’s a new wave- a new generation- pushing through. Because these artists are here there’s a need, and there’s people trying to fill that need.”

The recent closing of Spectrum Gallery, with which Axom collaborated on occasion, saddens her. But, she has faith that Rochester will rise to the challenge and provide artists with the space their work deserves.

“I love when I walk into galleries in places like Chelsea and I look at their walls and see all of the patchworks and layers of paint and unevenness, the turnover of multiple shows – I see it as a sign of success. A fossil in the sand. I can’t wait until our walls look like that.”

It looks like Axom Gallery is here to stay.


Axom Gallery and Exhibition Space
Located in the Neighborhood of the Arts
176 Anderson Ave, 2nd Floor
Open: Tuesday – Sat 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM and by appointment.



WALL\THERAPY Muralist Nate Hodge: Paintings that have Lives of Their Own

This is the fifth year of Rochester’s collaborative mural project, Wall\Therapy, which continues to grow in size and depth, drawing attention from artists, art lovers, and critics from around the world. This year’s participating artists hail from places like Amsterdam, Switzerland, Brazil, New York City, and Southern California. Four of this year’s artists reside in the Rochester area, and Nate Hodge is one of them.

Photo Provided - Momentary and Insubstantial

Photo Provided – Momentary and Insubstantial

Nate started painting at age 13. A student at McQuaid Jesuit, he began to show an interest in the arts, but at the time the school did not offer a visual arts program. So Nate’s mother, a teacher, hired an ex-student to come into the house and tutor him in art during the week. The tutor initiated projects based on whatever Nate showed interest in, and introduced him to artists like Dine, Basquiat, and other abstract painters. The arrangement worked out wonderfully: Nate was able to explore art in the safest of environments, and since there was no grade given, he was given complete creative freedom. Later, when he transitioned into public school, Nate honed his painting skills, began to focus on creating oil-based paintings, and realized that painting was something he wanted to do as career. After graduating, he went off to the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

This is where Nate’s promising future as a painter took a slight turn. All around the college campus, he kept hearing that “the only way to become a true artist is to get out there and experience life!”

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Artist Nate Hodge

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Artist Nate Hodge

“That’s the worst thing to tell an 18-year-old,” Nate says. Eighteen-year-old Nate’s interpretation of the aforementioned advice was that college must not be “living life,” so after a semester, he left school with absolutely no intention of ever going back. As a result, his art fell to the wayside, though he kept one foot in the door working as a professional house painter and stone carver for the next several years. In 2007, he went back to school to major in Environmental Science.

Studying nature reinvigorated an excitement about painting that had been dormant for many years. Three quarters of the way through the program, Nate changed direction yet again, and graduated with a B.F.A. in Painting and Education from SUNY Brockport in 2013. He just completed his M.F.A. at SUNY Buffalo.

Photo Provided - Spatial Detritus

Photo Provided – Spatial Detritus

His art education ended up being extremely well-rounded: the Brockport arts program, Nate says, was studio based, while the Buffalo arts program was research based. Each program exposed him to a different approach to the visual arts. At Brockport, he was encouraged to develop his own ideas. In Buffalo, he was immersed in critical theory and art history.

Formal education now completed, Nate’s involvement as a professional artist in Rochester’s art world began when he took a residency at The Yards Collaborative Art Space during the summers of 2013 and 2014. There, he met many people associated with The Yards, and with Wall\Therapy, including Erich Lehman, co-curator and lead organizer for the project. When Erich asked Nate to participate in the project, Nate felt honored and humbled. He had been following the project for years and knew that it drew international and local artists alike. The theme for Wall\Therapy 2015 was to be “surrealism and the fantastic,” and Nate’s large-scale approach to painting was a perfect fit for the mural project.

Photo Provided - While You Dooo0

Photo Provided – While You Dooo0

Nate has always been drawn to large-scale painting, though he will sketch a picture on almost anything. Now a father, he enjoys drawing pictures for his kids on their bathroom mirror or on the napkins put into their lunch boxes. His website features both large-scale paintings and smaller-scale drawings. However, when he starts a serious piece, he allows the paint to take over so that the painting ends up having a life of its own. Allowing paint to take over means he usually ends up with large, vibrant works of art.

Considering a painting to be a living entity relates back to Nate’s love of nature. When asked what inspires him as an artist, he speaks of natural systems within the environment.

“Forests start growing, reach their prime state, and decay. Nothing is static. I am drawn to the idea of aging and beautiful things coming out of changes that are really drastic. Small stuff (paintings) to me felt cropped. I found myself pushing farther and farther, each line becoming a living thing – organic – splitting off of the surface on to the wall. I love doing installations, allowing a painting to take over an environment.” He describes his paintings as a snapshot of a particular moment, but if you look closely, you can see that everything is either evolving or devolving into something else. “Everything is changing. Life is my inspiration.”

As an artist, Nate is drawn to work by Van Gogh, Schiele, Mathieu, Hokusai, Goldsworthy, the Mexican muralists, Kuniyoshi… artists who provide a feeling of place, Nate says, as opposed to perspective and detail. He is drawn to the process-based, abstract art of the surrealists, and describes surrealism as intuitive – the artist starting out with anything in mind, and allowing the conscious to take over.

Asking him if he has a favorite work or installation of his own turns out to be moot, because Nate doesn’t really see his paintings as static.  Occasionally, he goes through older works to add new things or to cover existing facets. Often, after he completes a painting, he simply doesn’t think about it anymore.

“Each piece is another step to the ‘perfect painting.’ After I’ve finished, I always see where I could improve on the next piece. It can be frustrating.  I’m always looking at it and thinking, eh… I could do better. I see things I could have done differently, certain areas that could have been reimagined. This inspires me to move toward the next piece.”

Photo Provided - Meaning in Process

Photo Provided – Meaning in Process

Nate’s artistic process is fascinating. He generally begins with one continuous line, but gives himself some sort of a challenge (the line can’t cross over itself, for instance.)  He might wrap the line around the surface of the canvas and even onto the back of it. He will flip the canvas on its side, looking at it from different angles until he pulls something out of the different layers he has created. Then he runs with the ideas that have formed – that have come alive – out of the paint.

How does this process transfer; however, when he is faced with painting an enormous mural on the side of a building?

“I start with a color scheme, and then begin that one continuous line across the entire surface. This helps the space become less intimidating.  When I’m working on something really large, I act sort of like a (computer) printer: I move across the surface with lines and then come back and start again, until aspects of the painting come out and I become aware of where I’m going. Then I go back and work on certain spots, pull out certain things I want to focus on or paint over.”

His artistic process affects the way he sees the world, and has helped form his life philosophy.

“When I paint, I have to give up control and just allow the painting to develop. It makes me more laid back – helps to center me.” This zen-like approach to painting life helps him deal with day-to-day situations that may seem out of his control.

Nate is grateful for Rochester’s burgeoning art community. He describes the art culture in Rochester as incredibly supportive.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Nate Hodge

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Nate Hodge

“You really get to know people. Everyone keeps everyone else in mind for different projects. It’s exciting, because there’s a variety of different people going in different directions.” He sees Rochester as on the periphery of the broader art world, a fact he considers an advantage as an artist. “In Rochester, there are few people doing the same thing. You have your own space to have your own thoughts as an individual.”

One of those spaces happens to be on the wall of the Meier Supply building on Atlantic Avenue, just down the street from Sticky Lips. Thankfully, it’s a pretty big space.

See Nate Hodge’s Work:

Exhibition at the Roz Steiner Gallery in Batavia on October 12

Nate Hodge’s Website: Masiori.com

Find the locations of murals from Wall\Therapy 2015 here.



“If my work evokes an emotional reaction (any emotional reaction) within the viewer, my hope is that they stop and pay attention to that emotion, sit with it, and look at what that means for them and why it is there. Art is an incredible vehicle for exploration and understanding, whether you are the creator or the viewer. Viewers are only passive participants if that is what they choose.” – Andrea Durfee


I think it is a common misperception that art is made for the viewer. Gasp! Oftentimes art is simply an exercise for the artist to work through an emotion, or an experience. Art then becomes the vehicle which carries the artist past the event and allows the viewer a portal into another’s world. Whether or not the viewer can relate to the work is thus rendered irrelevant – it wasn’t made for them in the first place! If the viewer happens to identify with a particular piece for whatever reason it is merely the icing on the cake. I think this concept is easier to identify if you swap painter for writer – whether poet, song writer, novelist, etc. The writer is simply working through a personal emotion and presenting it as a means to get over it. So why can’t a visual artist create for the same purpose? Local artist Andrea Durfee follows her own internal guidance and creates art that isn’t as much about what she’s feeling, but rather how she deals with what she’s feeling.

Photo Provided - Landscape No. 2

Photo Provided – Landscape No. 2

In very general terms life is all about the now and Andrea is very focused on the present. What has happened is already the past and nobody knows what the future may bring – so concentrate on the here and now. That’s not to say she brushes past yesterday, quite the opposite. Being present also has to include taking the time to process what has happened. Not necessarily trying to “solve” or “force” any particular emotions, just simply recognize what those emotions are and what they mean to her. But Andrea’s art is also influenced by external factors as well. Why does the paint flow so easily some days and other times you wish you had kept it in the tube because it’s just not happening. Is it the artist? The materials? The weather? The noise in the other room? Doesn’t really matter, that’s what studies are for anyway!

Photo Provided - Landscape No. 1

Photo Provided – Landscape No. 1

Andrea is an artist who prefers solitude when creating her art. I’d say quiet, but sometimes even the presence of another person is a distraction for her and serves as a glitch in the matrix. I found this revelation particularly interesting because it is the polar opposite of how I like to work. I like loud music to drown out the noise between my ears so I can get into the creative groove. I end up blocking all of the distractions out and getting lost in the process of creating. Most of the art Andrea makes these days utilizes watercolors and inks. I would’ve thought that the free flowing nature of her medium would be ideal for the loud studio setting, but that is clearly not the case. I love the fact that Andrea’s preferred work environment is contradictory to my own perceptions of what it would be and perfectly exemplifies the individuality of the artistic process.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Andrea Durfee

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Andrea Durfee

Watercolors offer the artist a myriad of options as to how he/she wants to manipulate them. Some people choose to use thick applications on a dry substrate similar to an acrylic paint. Others prefer to use varying degrees of saturated paper for a looser, more transparent look. Andrea likes to work with really wet letter press paper and build with layers of applications. The heavy 100% cotton paper has a nice smooth surface that dries relatively quickly and allows her to rework the surface over and over. Andrea loves the movement of the watercolor paints on the saturated cotton surface and the chance that the pigment will find it’s own place to rest. She then will add ink to better define her imagery and add more layers of color on top of that. You can see her works on her site www.AndreaDurfee.com. I appreciate how her color and saturation clearly set the mood of each piece, and how the time of day of creation can also influence it.

An artist who holds an undergraduate degree in studio art/printmaking and a master’s degree in creative arts therapy would presumably always be creating art, right? Not necessarily. Andrea actually went several years not making art. In her own words her life was too cluttered and she felt unhealthy. She needed time to simplify her life and re-acquaint herself with her environment. Part of her drought was her internal “tantrum” of realizing she had to work, and admitting that she was not in a position to create full time. Rust is very real, and something that artists who don’t practice must shake off and work through in order to rediscover their voice. For Andrea, an off-the-grid trip to Belize was the start of her journey back to the world of art. Her mother brought along a new sketchbook for her to use on their trip together, hoping she would use it. Andrea described her first attempts as “unrecognizable”, but she worked anyway. Then, one night in the tent, something just clicked and she felt like she had been re-awakened.

Much of Andrea’s current works utilize the imagery of birds/feathers or landscapes incorporating figures. The birds seem to be a recurring theme for her, which she dubbed one of her archetypes. She is fascinated with the common idea that birds embody all that is free but in reality they adhere to ancient predictable orders. How a bird can symbolize freedom and be predestined to follow the group is a subject Andrea will be trying to exhaust for quite some time. Landscapes are fairly new to her repertoire and were a cause of apprehension. Andrea was a bit intimidated by starting landscapes but became hooked. The idea of Persephone, the majestic princess of the underworld, is related to spring, vegetation, and the harvest. For the lack of a better word, she is Andrea’s muse for placing feminine figures in many of her landscape paintings. Carl Jung might argue that this figure is a representation of Andrea’s shadow – her dark side; those aspects of oneself that exist, but which one does not acknowledge, or with which one does not identify. Did I mention Andrea has an art/psychology degree? I like how Andrea’s landscapes can appear to be foreboding and hopeful at the same time; it seems each time I check out her works I see them differently.

Photo Provided - Untitled 2009

Photo Provided – Untitled 2009

Although much of Andrea’s personal artwork involves painting, her background is in reduction block printing. This technique is used quite often at the Louelle Design Studio where she is co-owner. where she makes custom invitations and other paper goods. I asked Andrea if it was difficult to separate her commercial and personal processes. She said no, and in fact the two worlds play off of each other rather well and benefit each differently. Besides that, she loves the physical nature of printmaking. Carving the lino blocks is a whole-body experience that uses muscles you never realized you had until they’re sore the next day. The cuts and nicks on your hands serve as a badge of honor and a token of accomplishment. The repetitive nature of printmaking is zen-like for Andrea, where she can focus intently on the movement and lose herself in the process. Ring any bells?

Besides the complete silence aspect of Andrea’s process, the other really intriguing part is her disdain for using reference photos. She says that she can instantly tell the difference in her own work if a photo has been referenced. The photo is the embodiment of detachment from the present and she feels the work loses soul. She keeps a mirror nearby in case a certain body position needs to demonstrated for her work. Her background in dance allows for a rather familiar knowledge of how the body bends and stretches. This certainly reinforces Andrea’s narrative of her art as a very personal account of her experiences and emotions. She is not trying to tell the viewer what to feel or why, because her art is like her own diary of working through daily life. This is her response to my asking her what she hoped viewers would take from her work: “I expect every viewer to approach my art (and any art for that matter) with their own experiences, narrative, and cultural perspective. Due to the fact that my work is very much a working through of my own internal/external experience, I do not have intentions for others’ view of it. I know what I see in each piece, and even my perception of them is fluid as I grow and change. Just as when I visit my favorite works at the MAG, I experience them differently each time.”

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Andrea Durfee

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Andrea Durfee



Jason Barber- a photographer and core team member of Rochester’s Wall\Therapy– describes his experience watching a mural go up in the city:

“While I was watching the mural being painted, all of these people kept stopping by to watch. A drug dealer, a couple from Pittsford riding their bicycles along the canal, a group of 12-year- olds, and a local mechanic were just some of the people who stopped to stare up at the artist working.”

An active member of the art community and also a devout Christian, Jason’s response to the motley crowd that gathered around the mural contains a spiritual component.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Jason Barber

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Jason Barber

“One mural pulled all of those different types of people to the same spot. I can’t help but think of the church, and the fact that any pastor would want that kind of congregation.”

As a Christian, Jason uses art as a way to minister to the people within the inner city, and he is very active within Rochester’s art world; in addition to volunteering with Wall\Therapy, he has served as a volunteer and Vision Collective Board Member at The Yards Art Collective, has worked as an Art Day School teacher’s assistant at the Memorial Art Gallery, and has served as a Young Millennials Board member to assist the MAG in connecting with a new generation of art lovers.

Jason graduated with a BA in Art History from SUNY Purchase College and spent two years as an assistant curator at the the Oxford Gallery here in Rochester. He was volunteering with Wall\Therapy when asked to be a member of its core team. As a newly-appointed core member, Jason does a little bit of everything, including social media, scouting potential locations for murals, searching for funding streams, doing raffles, selling merchandise, and acting as an artist’s assistant.

Wall\Therapy’s purpose is to inspire and to bring people together, and in Jason Barber’s case, the project has succeeded twice over. Jason’s involvement in Wall\Therapy combines two of the things he is most passionate about: his love of the arts and his love of the city of Rochester.

Jason’s Rochester roots run deep. His relatives have resided within the Maplewood area of Rochester since the 1920s; Jason grew up on Avenue D. His uncle and grandfather owned the Orange Julius in Midtown Plaza, and his mother worked helping others within the Department of Social Services.

“Downtown is my reality. Kodak Park, bowling alleys, smokestacks and strip malls are a part of my everyday existence.” And though Jason is relatively young, he has seen Rochester change a great deal over the years. Houses that friends grew up in sit abandoned.

Photo Provided - Backyards: Overcome By Nature

Photo Provided – Backyards: Overcome By Nature

Buildings in Kodak Park have tumbled. Recent census reports have deemed Rochester one of the most segregated cities in the nation. In spite of these bleak realities, Jason remains optimistic about the future of the city he loves, especially in regards to Rochester’s burgeoning art community.

“This is a strong and growing community of great artists, and it gets bigger and bigger every year. There are more and more skilled artists, and they’re really effecting change in the city. We’re seeing art everywhere now – there are other mural movements going on. Art on buildings. Local artists doing signs for coffee shops. Marty’s had Rochester artists do their walls for them. There’s a huge transition happening in the arts, and everybody’s connected. It’s a big giant community of distinct groups working together to help one another grow.”

Wall\Therapy is a great example of Rochester art lovers coming together to effect change within the city. During one incredible week, artists from Rochester and across the country descend upon the city and turn the outside walls of office buildings, garages, and shops into large-scale canvases for expansive murals. Over the past five years, the murals have varied in style and theme. Together they have turned neighborhoods into communal art galleries. A majority of the murals are in underprivileged areas, and Jason believes recent economic hardships have contributed to the advent of particular movements within the art world in Rochester and other places.

“Art collectives and mural movements are all over the place, and they are all related to the hard times we’ve had since 2008. Whenever there is a time of struggle, art flourishes. It’s historically proven.” (Case in point: graffiti art has proliferated in the city of Athens in Greece over the past five years. Artists use their paintings as political commentary, and to express sadness over the demise of Greece’s economy.)

Jason is an artist himself. He uses photography to pay homage to the city he loves. Though he dabbled in photography a bit in high school and college, it wasn’t until a few years ago that Jason started taking cell phone snapshots of the sights he viewed each day living and working in the city. He began posting his images on Instagram, most of which were shot a mere block or two away from popular High Falls, in impoverished neighborhoods most people don’t want to step one foot in.

Photo Provided - Backyards: Vacant Lots

Photo Provided – Backyards: Vacant Lots

As his Instagram following began to grow, Jason began to focus on using his photography as a way to shine some light on the city’s marginalized neighborhoods, though Jason does not actually refer to his work as photography.

“I don’t see myself as a photographer, and I don’t see my shots as photography. I see myself as an artist and as someone of deep faith who is capturing the world as he sees it in the most authentic way possible. I try to be authentic but compassionate to these neighborhoods.”

Although Jason’s photographs are part nostalgia for the city that was, they mainly serve as a witness for the way things are now. So many of his Instagram shots are of abandoned places: overgrown driveways, roofs covered in moss, broken windows, a mural of High Falls on the side of a vacant home. An Instagram comment beneath a photograph of mounds of dirty slush in front of stark city buildings under a winter blue sky reads “You make it look so pretty!” And he does. He finds beauty in the city’s detritus. These are the forgotten neighborhoods.

One of Jason’s favorite shots is of Rochester’s iconic Kodak Tower, its pinnacle shrouded behind clouds. On Instagram, it is labeled “Faded Past.”

Photo Provided - Faded Past: Kodak Building

Photo Provided – Faded Past: Kodak Building

Jason reflects on how people might observe Rochester from the top of one its skyscrapers: the Genesee River meandering through the architecturally stunning University of Rochester, the expansive bridges, the bright green of the grass in the baseball stadium, the sparkling lake on the distant horizon. But Jason sees individual neighborhoods, each one distinct from the next, most of them overlooked by those who view Rochester as a pretty view from the top.

When Jason describes those involved in Wall\Therapy, he says that these are people who are “a lot more aware of the issue within our city. They put murals into neighborhoods that are marginalized.

Photo Provided - Backyards Series

Photo Provided – Backyards Series

They see the segregation and hang out with people in those neighborhoods, and are actually involved in the inner city community.” The arts have an uncanny way of bringing people from all walks of life together, and of making people see things from a different perspective. Jason Barber’s photographs represent his own inner struggle with what the city has become, and they compel the rest of us to see Rochester the way he sees it: beautiful, but broken.

Wall\Therapy will soon come to an end, but planning for next year’s event starts soon. Jason says that if you want to get involved in Rochester’s exciting and growing art community, volunteering to help out with Wall\Therapy is a great place to start.  

Jason’s Instagram feed can be found here.



Briell Giancola has the kind of youthful exuberance that is contagious when she talks about art. It is abundantly clear that art is the propellant that moves her through her day, and she has a bubbly demeanor that belies the depth of her work. Briell, having just graduated from Alfred University, is still learning to put her process and ideas into words. As she starts this new chapter of post-college life, talking about herself (and her art) will become more and more routine. I am happy to have had the opportunity to meet Briell at this point because there is something quite endearing about an unrehearsed account of a young artist’s view of her own works; past, present, and future. As is sometimes the case, talking about the future allows us to re-trace our steps to see how we’ve gotten to a particular point. Briell and I talked about where she wants to take her art going forward, which in turn allowed us to see what led her to that path.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Briell Giancola

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Briell Giancola

Briell readily admitted that the traditional concept of viewing art hung in a gallery or museum can get boring: there is a definite separation between the art and the viewer, enhanced by a sterile environment. That disconnect between the artist’s experience that led to the creation of the work and the experience of the viewer seeing the work is where she loses interest. In her own words “this is art and this is not my experience.”  It is a one-way, dead-end street, the end of the conversation. In the simplest of terms Briell wants viewers to be a part of her work, to impart their own experience to derive their own meaning. She asks, “How do you ask for participation without asking?” Her answer: by using common symbols that are easily relatable, allowing the viewer to “enter”. Once “inside” there are subtle clues placed in plain sight to influence the meaning of the symbols. Think of it like a treasure map – follow the steps and dig for your prize. Briell realizes that “not everyone will get it” but “at the very least it is an approachable concept”. She wants her art to be a true conversation of trading ideas, not a painter simply telling you what to see.

Photo Provided - "Chunk by Briell Giancola

Photo Provided – “Chunk by Briell Giancola

“Different materials evoke different meanings and associations for both the art and the viewer, artistically and realistically – like a dream, recognizable but not real” is how Briell described her use of so many different materials for her work. She prefers to think of herself as being a “mix master” as opposed to a “jack of all trades (master of none).” When an idea hits her she is able to envision it in all different forms – dance, found objects, music, painting, etc. If the application of the bread crumb trail is technically very sound, viewers won’t necessarily realize how they were led to their conclusion. Briell has been profoundly moved by artists such as Ann Hamilton and Pierre Huyghe, both of whom use the viewers to influence the movement of the art. In Hamilton’s installation piece The Event of a Thread viewers are invited to use swings that are connected to immense white sheets while other viewers lie on their backs looking up at the swaying fabric. The piece is in a state of constant change set to the backdrop of music and different voices having independent conversations, (or not). No one is at the door telling people to swing in order to move the sheets; it is obvious that a swing is right there and it is made to swing on. Even if no one is swinging, the sheets are so massive that even in static motion they have their own presence. It is a brilliant piece of work. In Huyghe’s self titled exhibition he uses a dog named Human to show the ever changing state of a work. Human is free to come and go as she pleases. There is no beginning or end and Huyghe has no intention of presenting one or the other. His goal was to exhibit someone to something, in direct opposition to the accepted norm of presenting something to someone.

Photo Provided - "Study" by Briell Giancola

Photo Provided – “Study” by Briell Giancola

Briell estimates that she spent $12 in materials for her senior show, emphasizing the value of the idea over the material. There is no fear in making mistakes or mishandling objects of little monetary value – by concentrating on her technique she was able work freely without fear of wasting something. Each piece in her show was done entirely in white. She had found some old white curtains and a bunch of fine sheer fabric. So, naturally, she cut  it all up and sewed it all together and made some legitimate lingerie. You can see Briell’s sewing prowess on her website http://www.briellgiancola.com/current/ . Another piece in her senior exhibit was a full white bed sheet on which Briell sewed a line drawing. The drawing was a simple table setting – a chair at a table, holding a half-full glass. Some viewers will see the glass as half empty while others will see it as half full. By using the simple line drawing concept of a glass on a table, everyone is able to recognize the scenario from their own experience. The conversation starts with how the level in the glass is perceived – optimistically or pessimistically. (Pessimists will typically argue that they are merely being realistic not negative, so you may substitute ‘realistic’ in place of ‘pessimistic’ if you so choose.) Briell also made a Navajo loom and began weaving to physically represent the overlapping layers of time, again using white material. She envisioned a performance piece to start with but the idea naturally evolved into her weaving, her own movements repeated over and over. Each of these themes is approachable, even for non-artists, and can lend perspective to properly decipher the meanings of the other works.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Artist Briell Giancola

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Artist Briell Giancola

The all-white theme was unintentionally very self-representative. Briell is Jewish and Israel, referred to as the “land of Milk and Honey” has long been a source of artistic interest for her. She finds that both milk and honey can symbolize many different themes. Obviously, milk is white, and it can represent; fertility, cleanliness, hope, warmth, positivity, and it is gender neutral. At the same time it can skew towards negative; cold, sanitary, unattached, and it is easily affected. Honey is: luminous, rich, hearty, sweet, golden, delicate, sticky, and sometimes hard to come by. Her fascination with the milk and honey themes is the path she sees her art taking going forward. The possibilities are nearly endless and the desire to explore them will occupy Briell for the foreseeable future.

Midway through her time at Alfred Briell lost her direction in art. She was having a real problem connecting with her own work and didn’t even remember making some of it. She was beyond frustrated and contemplated taking some time off to re-center herself. Instead Briell powered through and took a mixed materials class that wound up completely flipping her art world on its head. The class was all about experimenting with different materials and pushing the boundaries of the assignments. Briell was encouraged to break the rules and in turn make her own rules. She says “something in me changed. I didn’t care what people thought and I invested everything into experimentation and not judging my own work so harshly. I was actually getting feedback that I could use, and people were starting to acknowledge the way I thought and worked.” By creating studies, she was able to hone techniques and tighten up her presentations and free her mind to account for all of the senses to create atmospheres instead of static works. There is no interest in making “living room art.”

Photo Provided - "Table Talk" by Briell Giancola, gesso, oil paint

Photo Provided – “Table Talk” by Briell Giancola, gesso, oil paint

Creativity and art have always come naturally to Briell. From an early age her instincts were fostered by her parents and her grandparents. Even though her saba (Hebrew for grandfather) had passed before Briell was born, her safta (grandmother) shared many stories about how he had been an ice sculptor and a chef after being freed from a Nazi camp. Her safta was an art teacher but supplies were too expensive so she used fruit seeds to make necklaces and intricate designs on handbags. Briell’s concept or definition of art had already expanded beyond drawing and painting by the time she worked on sewing projects with her safta. The pull of art kept Briell from completing writing assignments, causing her to miss out on recess activities. No matter, she has always known she would be an artist – it just came too naturally. Whether she was in band practice, dance class, or art class, her mind and body were always in creative mode.

And why should that stop now that she’s out of school? Briell has a slew of ideas as to where art can take her professionally. She sees herself working on some sort of design team so that she can play to her strengths; she loves a challenge, she’s a people person, she loves to use art to influence others’ mind set. She can see herself working for a non-profit organization or an art therapy setting. Maybe she’ll go back and get a master’s degree. I like the fact that Briell is not limiting herself as an artist or a person. It is, again, refreshing to hear someone with such a positive perception of art. All too often art’s value is diminished by the belief that it is a selfish endeavor. The fact that art is its own force of change is sadly overlooked. Art can be its own conversation on social issues, in health situations, on personal liberties, on basically anything and everything. Briell is ideally suited to meet those issues head-on.

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Through the course of one conversation Briell was able to open my mind to the world of conceptual installment art. I’ve evidently held a fairly narrow view of those displays – maybe because I’ve seen some really bad ones in NYC, or maybe because I didn’t follow the clues to get their meaning. After our chat I went home and looked up Ann Hamilton’s “Thread” piece and instantly understood why Briell was so moved by it. Hamilton’s piece added much insight into our talk about her own pieces and how the meanings could be interpreted. Huyghe’s ideas on how to flip the roles of viewer and artist would’ve surely flown over my head had I stumbled upon it by myself. Briell Giancola is and will continue to be a great ambassador for art in the “real” world and I look forward to following her progress on her journey.

Check out Briell Giancola’s website HERE!