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Tony Iadicicco is preparing for an exhibit no one will walk through.
As with everywhere else in the world, the Albany Center Gallery has closed its doors under a social distancing mandate focused on flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases blossoming across the globe. There are exceptions to the shutdowns, as essential employees ranging from health care providers to liquor store owners can attest. The arts scene, however, is shuttered. The irony is not lost on the gallery’s director.
“The arts are essential,” Iadicicco said with defiance. His work, and that of his gallery employees, falls along the same lines as the scores of theatres whose marquees have fallen dark since St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Though dates in April are floated about as the possible day in which the world will return to normal, venues like Proctors have turned a more practical eye upon a more distant future. That outlook, devoid of ticket sales, donations and concession sales, prompted Proctors CEO Philip Morris to close the season and furlough 80 percent of his staff. ACG is not as dependent on admissions, Iadicicco said. He also said the gallery’s staff is already a skeleton crew, and not short of work.
COVID-19 has turned every industry upon its respective ear, lending an opportunity for imaginative business alternatives. In many cases, some have turned to a virtual experience.
ACG is more than a year into providing online patrons with virtual tours of its shows. That’s when the Capital City gallery paired with Matterport, a 3D image capturing firm based out of California’s Silicon Valley.
Matterport’s work is best known in the real estate industry. Its virtual tour platform captures high-resolution photographs. Those photographs are pieced together into a near-complete composite of its subject, creating an immersive environment. It has practical use in real estate that allows prospective investors to survey a property. But, ACG has applied that same approach for its patrons. Online visitors can do Google Maps-like walkthroughs of several of the gallery’s exhibits — with technology that allows one to stop 20 to 60 points in the map and look over an individual piece of work as if in person.
“It’s been pretty awesome,” Iadicicco said, because it has allowed visitors from outside of the Capital District to enjoy shows. “It seems to be pretty successful now, especially at this time when people can’t come and visit the space.
“It’s kind of the new way,” he said. “At least for a little bit of time.”
ACG will proceed with the 2020 Mohawk-Hudson Regional Invitational exhibition this week. The exhibit, intended to run from Tuesday, March 31 to Friday, May 1, is one of the most anticipated shows for the gallery. Each year, it draws a sample of the best visual artists in the region.
“There’s more interest to see what the gallery is up to, and what the creative businesses will start to do during this time,” Iadicicco said. “So, really, we’re just trying to keep things in stride and putting all of our efforts into that way of making it public and accessible for everyone.”
The exhibit, sponsored by ACG Premier Sponsors Howard Hanna & David Phaff, as well as Joann Ryan, ParkAlbanyy, the New York State Council on the Arts, The Albany Wine and Dine for the Arts Festival and Honest Weight Food Co-op, will showcase the work of artists Mohawk-Hudson Regional Invitational exhibition, featuring the work of regional artists Cyndy Barbone, Jane Feldblum, Joy Muller-McCoola, Barbara Todd and Victoria van der Laan.
Cyndy Barbone is a textile artist based in Greenwich, NY, who has exhibited nationally and abroad. Working primarily on the handloom, Barbone creates figurative work, inscribing her woven textiles with images that are personal yet have cultural or political references. For her, weaving has been a metaphor for the creation of something other than just cloth, whether a story or a narrative. In an effort to address climate change and issues facing contemporary women, Barbone has recently turned to undyed yarn in weavings of portraits of women who she knows.
Artist and educator Jane Feldblum has been exhibiting her works throughout the region since the late 1960s. Driven by a compulsion to create since her youth, Feldblum has always been considered creative and artistic. Her works are typically characterized by their small scale, made in an intimate way that the artist finds comforting and immersive regardless of their size. Feldblum’s works are largely inspired by organic forms in nature which often create a geometric sense of order. Ideas often grow out of each other, with individual parts culminating in logically formed whole concepts.
Sculptor Joy Muller-McCoola uses the ancient process of wet felting to explore themes such as movement, nature, the human form, and the relationship between the natural and industrial in her works. Both water, which is necessary in her process, and the stones Muller-McCoola creates are found in places that bring the artist a sense of peace. Surface and form are created simultaneously through a process utilizing resists and sheared wool. Muller McCoola has been exhibiting and teaching throughout the region since 1980.
Barbara Todd is a Canadian-born artist who combines a minimalist aesthetic with a poetic and politicized sensibility through textile works that mimic and reference women’s domestic textile production. Todd found her calling at the age of seven, knitting with her grandmother and sewing for her dolls, and has kept textiles central to her practice ever since. Inspired by all aspects of life, Todd is informed by the dialogue created between material, process, and meaning in her creation. Todd is represented by galleries and private collections in both Canada and the U.S., and she has completed several public art commissions, most recently at the St. Patrick Station in downtown Toronto.
Textile artist Victoria van der Laan finds her practice deeply rooted in tradition. Never having attended art school herself, van der Laan instead learned from a long line of women who created beautiful and useful things with needles and thread. Informed by a love of color and abstraction, van der Laan’s current body of work strives for innovation by interpreting her traditional art form through an exploration of geometry, nature, and feminism. With respect to the current climate crisis, van der Laan has committed herself to a practice of recycling and repurposing vintage and deadstock textiles in her new works.