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ON THE SCENE: Artists revisit nature at new LPCA gallery exhibit

March 30, 2017
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

Four artists were invited to reconstruct our environment. The result is the exhibition "Imagined Landscapes" that opened Friday, March 24 at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.

In a sense, all artists take on this task be the landscape abstract, abstracted or drawn from nature. While these artists started with images of nature, they all played around a bit moving stretching, repackaging various elements and moods to come with their final images, a few so freshly accomplished that the artists were considering them possibly not yet complete.

After all, the instructions were a bit vague, which was part of the fun. How would they approach the theme?

Article Photos

Parmelee Tolkan of Lake Placid
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

For Jon Prime saying yes was the easy part, but then he didn't have anything as he had been quite busy of late wrapping up three decades running the Adirondack Store. That done, all of a sudden the time allotted to crank of what started as three and ended up being eight large paintings seemed quite short.

"I had not done a painting in six or eight years," said Prime. "I was very hesitant about saying yes to this, but I thought, 'I'm chickening out. I've always wanted to exhibit, so I'll do it.'"

But then, when his deck was cleared to paint, it was the end of January, and he had about six weeks until the opening.

"Painting became a full-time occupation," said Prime. "The paint was still wet this morning. I'm glad that it's dry and they are hanging up. It was fun. I cleaned all the furniture out of my guest room and turned it into a serious studio. The theme was a little problematic. I didn't quite realize I agreed to imagined landscapes when I said yes. How did I deal with it, I picked up my guitar and started strumming a few things, and I came up with titles like 'I am a Rock,' 'Circle Games,' and 'Old Friends.' Each painting was inspired by a different song I liked."

"You said you were going to do three!" said Deb Stasi. "I'm overwhelmed! Were you painting 24/7?"

"He went crazy!" said her husband, Mike. "He went way beyond three!"

"I got inspired," said Prime. "I was painting a lot. Some of them have three or four coats on them too! They were painted, repainted, and then repainted."

"Jon, they are amazing, they're great."

Prime was not the only person obsessed with getting ready for the show, photographer Eleanor Sweeney was also hard at work first taking photos and them stretching, recoloring, and mix and matching elements to come up with images quite different yet very evocative of what's out the window.

"I have fun playing with the camera, and it's all digital, no chemicals!" said Sweeney. "I love that I am not longer standing in the dark with all those fumes. Then, you can play with it in the camera. You don't have to watch it slowly evolve in the chemicals, send slides way, or develop things. Now I just fool around in the computer, which is what I did with everything on display. Everything has been rearranged or stretched a bit."

"People ask me a lot about Photoshop, a program I don't use," said Sweeney. "I use a free program called Gimp. It works fine for me. People ask me about cameras, but I use very small and inexpensive point and shoot cameras by Fuji. One fits in my pocket. They work."

Staying with the "created these for the show theme," Parmelee Tolkan was on board.

"They are all brand new!" Tolkan said. "Three years ago I got asked to do the miniature show which is a maximum of 64 inches in circumference, complete with frame. So I started doing a series of dark paintings, and other small paintings. I had a lot of fun with them. Then on the way back from Plattsburgh, I took a photograph of some silos. That inspired me to want to paint big. When Obama came in, I started painting stormy and dark. I had three large panels that Marty made for me that were supposed to be used in a tri-fold screen, but I could never make it work, so they were sitting in my studio."

"Then SueSue commissioned me to do one of the East Lake," Tolkan continued. "So I took one of the screens and turned it into a horizontal. I liked that style and decided to adapt it for this show. I just love working with the light, to me, that's the best part. The challenge is knowing when to stop. That's a hard thing."

We then discussed how she had lowered the horizon on one by two inches and was thinking that it needed to come down some more, but of course, now it's on display. I reminded her that the French artist Bonnard would sneak into galleries, museums, or people's homes where his artwork was on display and while no one was watching, keep at it.

"Oh, that would be me," Tolkan said, "That would be me!"

Stephen Horne had quite a career as an editorial cartoonist, illustrator, and museum exhibit designer and recently taken of painting doing so with a gusto exploring a range of media and techniques.

"I built a studio in my house," said Horne. "I started it two years ago and finished it last year. So now I have a place to work and have been testing techniques because I've been working on a computer for the last thirty years. Some of these paintings are acrylics; some are oils, some depend on Damar varnish, some have glazes on top, some test the Maxfield Parrish layers of glazing, others were painted much drier. I learned that I love painting and I'm happy to get away from the computer."

Horne's work is very lush and rich with detail. As with true with the other artists, the process of getting there had its complications.

"It's almost like being pinned if you are a wrestler," said Horne. "You just fight to stay alive. At some point, and I can point out the spot in every one of these paintings, it changes, and you start taking control. You may be adding a little more black here, green there or purple, but it becomes exciting and you take ownership. The last hours are exhilarating. You are in a zone at that point and who knows who or what's in control. It's like surfing, you wait for the wave, and you fly with it."

That energy is present in all the artists' work. It ties them more together in many respects that the similarity of the image. You can feel that each go caught up in their exploration of an imagined environment.

The art show at LPCA is on until April 29.

Check it out; you'll be glad you did.



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