Overlook / Homeward and Art House: A performance, three-day exhibition, and film screening celebrating Woodstock artists’ lives

The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, in partnership with interdisciplinary performer Hélène Lesterlin of Studio Reynard, presents a short-term exhibition highlighting artworks created at the Byrdcliffe Art Colony between 1903 and 1918 as well as artifacts, publications and objects from the collection of the Historical Society of Woodstock. On view from February 27 through March 1 at Byrdcliffe's Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, the exhibition provides the visual context for the premiere of Overlook, a solo performance by Lesterlin. A choreographer, director, and dancer, Lesterlin uses an amalgam of voices, historical accounts, dance, and local folklore to bring to life stories from Woodstock's past. Her performance, at 8:00 pm on Saturday February 28, will be preceded by a wine and cheese reception during which visitors will be able to explore the rarely-exhibited works from Byrdcliffe's permanent collection as well as a visual installation designed by Lesterlin. Wine will accompany a Q & A period after the performance. This weekend of Woodstock history will open with a free screening of Don Freeman’s lush documentary film, Art House, taking viewers through 12 artist-made homes including Byrdcliffe's White Pines.

Exhibition Dates: Friday, February 27 - Sunday, March 1, 2015, 12:00 - 6:00 pm
Free Screening of Art House: Friday, February 27, 7:30 pm
Reception and Premiere Performance of Overlook: Saturday, February 28, 7:30 - 9:30 pm
Location: Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, 36 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY
Cost: Exhibition free to the public // Reception and Performance cost: $20 ($18 for Byrdcliffe members).
Tickets can be purchased at the door on the evening of the performance.

Overlook plays with the format of a lecture, examining Woodstock's history as an art colony while musing on themes of aging, art-making, utopia and the magnetic pull of Woodstock on its long-time residents and the popular imagination. The title evokes the Catskill's Overlook Mountain, from which artist-mountaineer Bolton Brown first spied the locale that would become the home of Byrdcliffe, the second-longest continuously operating arts colony in the U.S. Using the rich archives of the Historical Society of Woodstock, Byrdcliffe, as well as interviews with local elders connected to Woodstock as an art colony, Overlook blurs the lines of personal narrative, history, folklore and fantasy.

During gallery hours throughout the weekend, visitors are invited to explore and even contribute to a visual installation and audio station designed by Lesterlin from some of the historical materials and interviews that inspired the solo performance. Lesterlin will be on hand to discuss the work, elicit impromptu stories, encourage a contributed note or drawing, and/or serve a cup of tea, "I see this aspect of the exhibition as a 'living archive.' Many of these archival materials are usually hidden from view, and yet I find them incredibly evocative and personal on their own terms. The installation is an aesthetic experience of raw history, with first-hand sources, period photographs, objects, and interviews set in counterpoint. The history of Woodstock is ideal for that: it's full of wild characters who embodied major cultural and artistic shifts in the early part of the 20th century with gusto and courage," says Lesterlin. "Both the Historical Society of Woodstock and Byrdcliffe have been instrumental partners in this work."

Over the course of this 3-day event, the Kleinert/James' multi-use exhibition and performance space will also display 22 works of art from Byrdcliffe's permanent collection. These objects, including work by Eva Watson-Schütze, Zulma Steele, Ralph and Jane Whitehead, and Jessie Tarbox Beals, have been on loan for study purposes to the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art since 2007. With the 8-year loan period now coming to its terminus, the Hudson Valley community is invited to admire the skills of Byrdcliffe's founding artists before these significant pieces are returned to safe storage. Overlook / Homeward takes Lesterlin's performance and the homecoming of Byrdcliffe's historical objects as a point of departure to celebrate the intensive intellectual history that forms the underpinning of what is today called the Woodstock Art Colony. The exhibition is co-curated by Lesterlin and Derin Tanyol of the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild. The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild is grateful to the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, State University of New York at New Paltz, for stewarding these objects from our collection, and for graciously donating framing services to this exhibition.

Don Freeman's Art House, to be screened in the gallery at 7:30 pm on Friday, February 27, traces the trajectory of the American artist-designed home from its 19th-century roots, exploring houses created by 12 artists from diverse disciplines. The film, which has also been screened at The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, reveals the inventiveness derived from the dialogue between each artist's practice and the construction of their handmade homes. Each of the private domains featured in Art House, including Ralph and Jane Whitehead's Byrdcliffe home White Pines, is deeply imbued with the unique vision of its creator, and a physical embodiment of what it means to be an artist, to live an integrated life dedicated to art. Freeman is a photographer and filmmaker renowned for the painterly quality of his still lifes and architectural work.

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