THE ART OF FLY TYING AT THE KLEINERT/JAMES
Photographs by Mark Loete reveal the art behind the artifice
Opening May 6, 2016, with a reception on Saturday May 7, the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts’ Catskill Fly Tying: The Art of Artifice is an exhibition of work by photographer Mark Loete. Loete’s subject matter here is a world apart from the landscapes, architecture, and people that occupy his every day as a successful corporate and advertising photographer. Rather, in this exhibition curated by Tina Bromberg, Loete’s tranquilly composed photographs encapsulate another realm of his life which, via the photographs on view, takes on a magical cast: that of expert fly fisherman and fishing guide. The exhibition features over 40 photographs of exquisitely crafted trout fishing flies, celebrating the centuries-old fly tying tradition and the master artisans who fabricate these jewel-like imitation insects out of feathers, fur, and thread.
Loete’s color photographs of Catskill-style fishing flies, magnified up to 12 times, impart an aura of mystique to what many take for granted as purely utilitarian objects used to lure unwitting fish to the hook; indeed the fishing fly has received as much attention from the art world as the common mealworm. But viewers of the exhibition will quickly come to realize that fishing flies, in their exquisite detail and minimalist beauty, are minuscule sculptures created in the name of a most artful breed of trickery. The “art of artifice” heralded by the show’s title refers both to the creators of the flies, and to the ultimate effect these ingenious deceptions have on the fish they attract. Loete’s photographs, with flies poised in horizontal flight against clean, subtly gradated backgrounds, conjure a surrealistic amalgam of scientific diagramming and painted portraiture.
The fishing flies in Loete’s photographic series were created for the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection at the Phoenicia Library in Phoenicia, New York and the “hatch chart” on its website (http://www.catskillanglingcollection.org). That collection, Loete explains, demonstrates “what insect species an angler might encounter on the Esopus Creek at any given time of year, and what artificial fly best imitates that insect.” Imitation, in fly tying methodology, is a matter not just of size, shape, and color, but of natural behavior as well. As with the different types of aquatic insects upon which fish feed, “certain furs and feathers behave differently when cast upon the water,” says Loete. “Some remain stiff and high-floating. Others become slinky and sinuous when soaked.” A total of 34 aquatic insects were isolated for the project, with 14 expert Catskill fly tyers invited to create the artificial flies that went on to be the subject of Loete’s photographs.
The exhibition at the Kleinert/James, on view through June 26, reflects upon the historic Byrdcliffe Art Colony’s roots in the Arts and Crafts tradition, which sought to mitigate the effects of industrialization through the creation of hand-made objects that married functionality with artistic beauty. In addition to Loete’s captivating photographs, the exhibition includes objects from the Bartlett Collection and artifacts associated with the passion of fly fishing as it pertains to its surrounding environment, the Catskills.
After its run at the K/J, the exhibition will travel to Shandaken, NY (Shandaken Art Studio Tour, July 16 – 17, 2016); the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, Livingston Manor, NY (September 2 – October 10, 2016), and the Erpf Gallery at the Catskill Center, Arkville, NY (January 28 – March 18, 2017).
Gallery Hours: Thursday through Sunday, 12:00 – 6:00 pm, or by appointment on Tuesday and Wednesday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. For more information about the exhibition, please visit https://www.woodstockguild.org/exhibitions and http://artfromartifice.com.