ALBANY Albany Center Gallery threw its annual themed gala late last month at the brand new Renaissance Hotel in downtown Albany and honored local artist Richard Garrison as ACG’s Artist of the Year.
A Capital District native and lifelong visual artist, Garrison has been patronizing ACG since he was a student at the College of Saint Rose in the early ’90s. His artistic career, he said, has exposed him to a variety of media and ways of approaching the execution of art. Albany Center Gallery, he adds, was particularly influential in his development as an artist.
“It was the place to go to see art locally,” said Garrison, mentioning that they used to hold Sunday artist brunches. “It is, by far, still one of the best places.To be recognized by the gallery now is really nice for me just because of how much it has helped in my development, especially while I was in school. Artists like Harry Orlyk and Dawn Clements- those shows were really great memorable shows that had a big impact on me.”
The mission of ACG, which was founded in the late ’70s, “is to promote and exhibit contemporary visual art produced by emerging and established artists living primarily in the region and to inspire interest and provide enjoyment to an increasingly diverse audience,” according to Executive Director Tony Iadicicco. ACG has showcased more than 500 artists in two years, which Iadicicco said is record-breaking in the gallery’s history.
The winner of the Mona Ruth Brickman Memorial Artist of the Year Award is selected by board member David Brickman, President of the Board Jessica Mansmith and Iadicicco. Entrants have to have exhibited at the gallery in the past year and judges look for talented artists who produce inspiring work. “Out of all the artists we exhibited this past year,” said Iadicicco, “Richard Garrison was a standout and he continues to create thought-provoking work.”
“I guess the two things that historically have interested me are conceptual art and pop art-kind of, really, the merging of those two things,” said Garrison, who identified Van Gogh as his earliest influence. “Because of the way he looked at the landscape. It was expressive, but he was also trying to represent what he saw.”
“For about 10 or 12 years now,” he continued, “I’ve been working in a way that documents surroundings, environment and my daily life. I started off working with more traditional ideas of landscape and then, one day I was driving by a Target parking lot that was still being developed off the Northway. And I was like, well that’s landscape. It may not be your traditional landscape, but it’s the one I’m surrounded by. And so I started working with parking lot color schemes, going around and painting them very traditionally in terms of bringing my watercolor set and matching the colors of the asphalt and the mulch.”
“I’ve also always been interested in collecting data and presenting it and kind of letting the viewer come to their own conclusions. So some of the things I talk about, like big box stores, I’m critical of them but at the same time I also am a patron. And so I’m kind of looking at both sides of how these things are surrounding me and I exist with them.”
The winner of the Ruth Mona Brickman award also receives $1,000 prize to use at their discretion. The goal, said Iadicicco, is to give artists money as well as honor their achievements, continue the gallery’s mission of supporting artists and raise money to create more awards in the future. “I think this year was our best gala to date,” he continued, noting that they sold 274 tickets to the 2015 gala. “We had a great group of volunteers, board of directors, business donors, sponsors and artists. It’a really great way to connect with the community and raise funds for the arts.” Willing donors and aspiring artists, he said, are welcome to contact the gallery.