Opening July 2, 2016, the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts presents MOVING THE WATER(S): ASHOKAN FUGUES 2016, a multi-media installation by West Shokan/New York City-based artist Margaret Cogswell. Filling the gallery with video, audio, and multiple sculptural components (including water towers), Cogswell’s research-based installation explores the link for over the past 100 years between New York City’s unquenchable thirst and the people in the Catskills Watershed and their mountain streams. Cogswell and the exhibition’s curator, Jeremy Adams, point out that this project is of particular significance locally because of Woodstock’s proximity to the Ashokan Reservoir, one of six reservoirs in the Catskill and Delaware watershed which provide up to 90% of the water for 9 million people in New York City and dozens of communities along the aqueducts in Ulster, Westchester, and Putnam Counties.
Ashokan Fugues is a part of an ongoing series of individually unique River Fugues projects which Cogswell has been creating nationally and internationally since 2003. Cogswell’s River Fugues projects are structured according to the musical format of a fugue, in which two disparate musical themes create an integrated whole when combined, though here these themes are expanded through video and sound in Cogswell’s installation.
This site-specific solo installation will serve as a catalyst for a series of parallel events bringing people together to explore the history of New York City’s water supply system, as well as water quality and sustainability concerns in these inextricably linked New York communities. These events will include presentations focused on water quality issues in a conversation between Vincent Coluccio, Environmental Health Specialist and former Interim Chief of NYC Drinking Water Quality, and Professor Eli Dueker, microbial ecologist and Assistant Professor in the Environmental and Urban Studies Program and the Biology Program at Bard College. Another event will host Kathleen Nolan, Senior Research Director at Catskill Mountainkeeper in Woodstock, who will moderate a panel titled “Is Good Water a Common Good?” Both events will be held amidst Cogswell’s installation in the Kleinert/James. Details about those events will be sent in a separate press release.
The connection between Cogswell’s exhibition and Byrdcliffe takes several forms: its reliance on the camera, for one, is relevant to two of Byrdcliffe’s most active artists having been female photographers, Jessie Tarbox Beals and Eva Watson-Schütze. The musical underpinning of Ashokan Fugues also ties into Byrdcliffe’s identity, historically and today. Byrdcliffe’s founder Ralph Whitehead was an expert on chamber music of the Renaissance – where the fugue was born. Thematically, Cogswell’s project is germane to the politics of water in the Woodstock region and to the proactive nostalgia influencing the Arts and Crafts movement, which aimed to reverse the effects of industrialization on the arts and the natural world alike.
Cogswell has received awards from such prestigious funding agencies as the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Her work has been the subject of multiple museum shows, including the Art Museums of the University of Wyoming and the University of Memphis, the Tang Art Museum at Skidmore College, the Chicago Field Museum, and the Zhujiajiao Zendai Art Museum in China.
The exhibition is curated by Jeremy Adams, Executive Director of Byrdcliffe, who notes: “Cogswell’s work combines seemingly discordant elements in a beautiful and poetic manner, exploring the relationships between industry, the reservoir, and the people whose lives have been affected by its construction.” Cogswell will give a free gallery talk/walk-through of the exhibition on Saturday July 2, starting at 3:00 pm. A reception will follow.