Adirondack idyll: Jay Invitational of Clay, Rockwell Kent, Ausable Chasm & more

The performance tent outside the studio barn at the Jay House, Norte Maar’s north country outpost.

Contributed by Sharon Butler and Jonathan Stevenson / Some artists go upstate to get away from the art world in the summer, and others gather an art world around them wherever they go. We went up to the Adirondacks recently to visit the summer outpost of Norte Maar for Collaborative Projects in the Arts in Jay, New York, where founders Jason Andrew and Julia Gleich were hosting the weekend-long Jay Invitational of Clay, which they started, as well as an evening of performances to benefit the Ausable River Association, and an Ausable River Valley Studio Tour.

Located nearly five hours from the city, Jay is nestled along the Ausable River just south of Lake Placid and west of Lake Champlain. Norte Maar’s property features a small farmhouse, a big barn, and several flat acres of lawn perfect for setting up exhibition tents and stages. As we arrived, the artists had just completed installing the Annual Jay Invitational of Clay in two tents–one for exhibition work and the other for demonstrations and workshops. In the barn, three artists in residence–Emily Berger, Rob De Oude, and Norman Jabaut–were participating in the Ausable River Valley Studio Tour, which included artists working in Keene Valley, Keene, Upper Jay, Jay, Wilmington and Ausable Forks.

Studio visit with Norman Jabaut. Married to Jason Andrew, Jabaut divides his time between Cypress Hills in Brooklyn and the house in Jay. His latest sculptures fuse found materials with bright neon color. Recently, after pouring a set of concrete steps, he began molding the leftover concrete into geometric forms to incorporate into his abstract objects.
Studio visit with resident artist Rob De Oude. De Oude, visiting from Brooklyn, where, along with a group of community-minded artists,  he maintains the Bushwick gallery Transmitter. In Brooklyn De Oude has developed a complex painting-machine apparatus that enables him to make exacting grids of overlapping lines. While in Jay, he began using the horizontal and vertical boards of the barn structure as the subject for a new series of drawings, making charcoal rubbings of  the barn walls, and turning the paper to create rough geometric patterns. The drawing posted above is a work in progress.
Studio visit with resident artist Emily Berger. Berger, also from Brooklyn, is engaged with the history that emerges through the process of adding and subtracting repetitive horizontal lines to paper and canvas. She’s preparing for an upcoming solo exhibition at Norte Maar in Cypress Hills. That’s one of our dogs wandering around under her studio table.
The Jay House. When Andrew and Jabaut bought the house four years ago, it was waist deep in hardened mud leftover from the flooding caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011. Norman worked with local builders to clean out the debris and renovate the now-charming and fully intact house from top to bottom.
Several bands played during the benefit evening for the Ausable River Association, including Famous Letter Writer, a very fine and original band from nearby Plattsburgh.
Racoco Productions (NYC) presented a lighthearted dance performance choreographed by the company’s artistic director Rachel Cohen. “Recidivistas” involved three dancers “planted” in terra cotta pots and an original score by Chris Becker. Image by Emily Berger.

The 4th Annual Jay Invitational of Clay featured more than thirty artists from the Adirondack Region, as well as ceramic artists from Brooklyn, North Carolina, Georgia, and Boston, and a memorial exhibition celebrating potter Paul Z. Nowicki, who died in 2015. The opening on the evening of Friday, July 14, involved a generous potluck dinner (including excellent beer from the Keeseville-based Ausable Brewing Company) under a tent that survived spectacular but mercifully fitful thunderstorms and an evocatively earthy dance performance deftly wedged between two of the downpours. Later, on a tent-covered stage in the corner of the compound, the sublime Plattsburgh-based band Famous Letter Writer–guitar, keys, and drums–played for a couple of hours. Like the other aspects of the event, their performance was an extremely agreeable revelation. While they have a compelling and extraordinary sound that’s thoroughly their own, we very fondly deciphered traces of Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, and 1970s Memphis legend Big Star (led by Alex Chilton, whom The Replacements duly immortalized) in their densely nuanced lineage.

Lee Kazanas, co-director of the Jay Craft Center, textured butter yellow vase. This was one of the gems we bought at the Invitational of Clay.
Paul Z. Nowicki

On Saturday we made a few studio visits, including a trip to Asgaard Farm and Dairy, which was originally owned by artist and architect Rockwell Kent. The farm specializes in artisanal meat production–grass-fed beef, historic swine breeds, pastured broiler chickens–as well as eggs, goat cheese, and firewood. Kent’s purpose-built studio, nestled towards the back of the property, is still outfitted with his equipment–woodstove, tools for building stretchers, drying racks, brushes, palette, and so forth..

Rockwell Kent, who lived up the road at Asgaard Farms, built a studio in the woods where he painted and made illustrations for books like Moby Dick.
Rockwell Kent’s stone palette, brushes, and palette knives.
A photograph of a photograph of the artist in the studio.
Ausable Chasm
Jonathan wanted to stop by Ausable Chasm, a scenic stop on route 9N, because it was featured years ago in the Charles Addams’s New Yorker cartoon posted below, which he had fondly remembered from a collection of the cartoonist’s work. Fortunately, I hadn’t seen the cartoon before we went.

Clark Davidson, a young artist who grew up in the area and studied at the Art Institute of Boston, runs 1719 Block Gallery in nearby Keeseville. When we stopped by the  gallery, Davidson was hosting a popular annual plein air painting festival, and on the back wall he had a generous selection of his own landscape paintings on display.
We stayed at the winningly old-school Brookside Motel among a hearty group of hikers, kayakers, and rock climbers from both the US and Canada, which is only an hour and a half north.

On the way back to the city we drove through the Lake George region where we had heard that artists decamped for the summer months. Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe and their cohort spent time in the 1920s at Lake George, and David Smith holed up at a big farm in Bolton Landing, back when Modern sculptors needed massive acreage to make, store, and display their work. For Jason, Julia, and Norte Maar, summer in Jay isn’t simply for relaxing and hosting city friends; it’s a time when they can get to know the local community of artists, invite collaboration from artists farther afield, and generously create opportunities–just as they do in Brooklyn.

Related posts:
CounterPointe: From white cube to black box
Ideas and Influences: Brece Honeycutt
Rachel Beach and Julia Gleich: Strength and precarious balance

 

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