Friday, July 25, 2008

Equine enthusiasm

I found good food, good company and interesting art at last evening's Equine Art Gala & Exhibitor Mixer sponsored by Horse Shows in the Sun Saugerties (HITS) and New World Home Cooking Co.

The elite riders are back in our area. Show jumping at HITS Saugerties resumed this past Wednesday after a mid-summer break and there will be three consecutive weeks of competition, with two Grand Prix classes each week this summer. On Thursdays, the $25,000 Ariat Grand Prix will take center stage and on Sundays, riders will compete in the $50,000 Grand Prix. Every Grand Prix at HITS Saugerties is a qualifier for the $100,000 USGPL Invitational, which will take place at HITS Culpeper (in Virginia) on September 28.

The USEF Junior Hunter National Championship for the East Coast will return to HITS Saugerties on August 5 and 6. And the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby and its all-new $5,000 Pony Commotion take place on Thursday, August 8 during Week VI. On August 10, HITS presents World of the Horse, with numerous equine breeds represented in a parade along with special exhibitions and demos. The HITS Web site has information on times and admission.

The Equine Art exhibition last night featured quite a few artists from the Hudson Valley. Well worth checking out their work ... here are their bios (as provided by HITS):

Gretchen Almay is one of nine new artists participating in this year's Art Gala. Almay, of Middleborough, Massachusetts, is an accomplished equine and canine portrait artist with collectors across the United States. Her specialty is highly detailed graphite portraits and oils that capture the animals' unique personalities. Originally from Connecticut, she spent her summers at the family farm, in Westport, Massachusetts. Learning to ride at five, what her parents had hoped was just a childhood hobby turned into a lifetime passion and vocation. She still continues her love of riding on her Thoroughbred, Skye. Almay has a BA in Fine Arts from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia. Through her company, Gretchen Almay Designs, she produces commissioned portraits in graphite, oil, digital color renditions and photography as well as a custom gift line.

Mary Bridgman,, is one of four returning artists to this year's event. Employing painting, drawing and photography, Bridgman’s work draws upon a broad range of cultural influences from Renaissance paintings to Modern approaches to traditional artistic subject matter. Bridgman’s equestrian paintings represent her long term relationship with the horse, both as creative inspiration and her favored form of transportation. Her work has been included in exhibitions in New York City, the Hudson Valley, Kentucky, Colorado and Virginia. Bridgman, on the faculty at the Parsons School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology, freelances as a designer in the fashion industry and resides in Manhattan.

Jean Campbell of Saugerties, New York is another fresh face to this year's line up. Campbell’s work reveals a love of materials and drawing, with the added dimension of words, to add detail and an often humorous look at the world we live in. Over the years, she has developed a separate, more commercially viable business of doing animal portraits, particularly dogs, cats and horses. Her folk art style captures the essence of the pet, while the words enhance and personalize the painting. She enjoys working with the clients and getting to be privy to their relationships with their animals. She sells these portraits locally as well as in Connecticut, Westchester, Manhattan and Martha’s Vineyard. Although most of her work is in acrylic on irregularly cut wood with a painted border, Campbell has also brought her inimitable style to printmaking, sculpture, encaustics and ceramics. Most recently, she discovered the beauty of watercolor painting while working on an on-site mural on Martha's Vineyard this past spring. She now has integrated this medium into her milieu with much success.

Maria D'Angelo,, like many artists, believes there's something so beautiful and magical about the horse. Growing up in Staten Island, New York, she never had the opportunity to own one of these magnificent creatures. Capturing them on paper, she says, made her feel closer to them. D'Angelo studied art in college, but attributes her skills to natural ability and self-teaching rather than formal education. She has spent many hours watching horses, learning how they move and understanding their muscular structure. Learning every tiny detail, including veins in their faces and whiskers on their muzzles, is fundamentally important to her as an artist. Graphite is the medium of choice for D'Angelo, due to the amount of control a pencil provides. Recently she has begun exploring the utility of colored pencils. Aside from horses, D'Angelo also does portraits of dogs, cats and children. She also enjoys using her work to help raise money for different animal-related charities.

Phyllis Frazier
,, joins the exhibit from New York City and was selected as this year's HITS Saugerties Official Program Cover Artist. Frazier's paintings reflect her lifelong interest in both art, nature and the animal world. In addition to receiving a Bachelor of Science in Studio Art from New York University, she has studied with noted wildlife photographers (to learn how to take her own animal references for study), natural history filmmakers, wildlife conservationists, artists and animal trackers (to understand animals in their own environments, from movement to camouflage). Mesmerized by the complexity of forms in the animal world, she explores the infinite variety of textures, shapes, and colors of feathers, skin, and fur. With oil as her primary medium, she endeavors to not only accurately portray the animal’s physical appearance, but also to reach an inner quality—the essence of the individual—its inner life.

Jean Haines ,, is a native of Kingston, New York, and has studied, drawn, painted, photographed and sculpted horses since earliest memory. Since 1995, she has been Assistant Manager of the Coffey Gallery in Kingston and an active volunteer for A.S.K. (Arts Society of Kingston). In 1996, she became a member of the Horse Artists Association (HAA), based in Tucson, Arizona. Haines' work has a unique linear, colorful, swirly semi-abstractness, sometimes resembling stained glass. She works purely from imagination, made possible by a lifelong observation of horses. Her main medium is oil on canvas or paper, but also drawing, clay sculpture, and photography.

Juliet Harrison,
is one of three photographers in this year's exhibit and is a resident of Red Hook, New York. Harrison was given her first 35mm camera for her college graduation. From that point on, she saw herself in the images caught in the viewfinder. Living in New York City in the late 1980’s, Harrison spent a great deal of time photographing the buildings around her, becoming absorbed in the textures, light and geometry of the city. She photographed the peeling paint, the shadows of fire escapes, the edges and corners. Harrison works in 35mm, color and black & white and was greatly influenced by the works of modernist photographers, painters and sculptors. After receiving a Master’s Degree in Photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, Harrison honed her skills and learned to speak with her camera. And it is also there that she started a fledgling interest in photographing horses.

Lenny Marks,, is also a photographer who, after 19 years as a wedding and portrait photographer, turned his photographer's eye towards his passion, horses. His passion for these animals has been the inspiration for several trips to remote parts of the west to photograph horses in the wild. As a result, he has produced magnificent works of art that have generated several gallery shows including his own "Mustangs". Not only does Marks photograph mustangs, he has been commissioned to photograph and create works of art for private owners throughout the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area and has traveled as far as Colorado. His award-winning photograph "Cold Morning Run" has won first place at the WPPI National Competition and fourth from the Equine Photographers Network, also a national competition. He is from Cold Spring Harbor, New York.

Deborah O'Sullivan,, utilizes her 35 years of experience in the horse industry to create equine art that appeals not only to the collector but to the horseperson. Her years of dedicated work as a trainer and rider and, always, student of the horse has given her an extensive working knowledge of rider and equine biomechanics, movement, behavior and anatomy. O'Sullivan has had a lifelong passion for horses and strives to engage the viewer with use of bold and vibrant color, brush strokes and an eye to correctness of equine biomechanics, anatomy and detail. Her passion for the horse is evident in her ability to capture the essence of the horse in her portrayal of this timeless subject. She is from Pawling, New York.

Karen Ruoff's 15-year career as an artist follows closely a lifelong passion for working with horses. Ruoff attended the Equestrian Studies Program at Lake Erie College in Ohio where she began her serious exploration of fine art. That exploration continued at the Cleveland Institute of Art and flourished at Louisiana State University's College of Design, culminating in a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting and Drawing. Ruoff's work is inspired by a love of horses and the silent communication that can happen between animals and humans. She aims to capture some sense of that experience: a moment, a look, an expression or mood, and enhance it through her own vision, use of color, light and composition. Watercolor is Ruoff's medium of choice these days. She enjoys incorporating other elements such as colored pencil, glitter, glass beads and more. The finished product is often a mystical mix of brightly colored horses in highly stylized and textured landscapes. She is from New Paltz, New York.

JoAnne Sullam,,
has been producing quality artwork for more than 15 years. Having worked closely with horses and the equestrian community, Sullam has extensive knowledge of horse anatomy, behavior, and personality that she learned by going to horse shows and following her long time friend, a horse vet, making her rounds. Last year the artist set up on the show grounds of HITS to sculpt, completing her latest bronze "The Prophet" so named after the artist was told a story of an imprint of the angels thumb on the horse, which brings the riders luck. Her award-winning wildlife paintings and sculptures are a result of years of up-close study. Sullam offers fine equestrian art that ranges from highly detailed to loosely surreal and dreamlike. She is from Saugerties, New York.

Kristen Vetterl,, another returning artist, resides in Manasquan, New Jersey. At a young age she showed an artistic talent and an obsession for horses. After receiving her Bachelors of Fine Arts with a concentration in painting, lithography, and graphic arts in 2007 from The University of Rhode Island, she moved back home and continued to do the two things that inspire her most, ride horses and paint them. Her medium of choice is lithography, but she continues to paint in her second favorite medium, oils. Vetterl has become distinguished for her vivid use of color and expression in her equestrian artwork. She paints the horse world in a style very different from classical portraiture. Her lithographs, too, capture the same vivid imagination and expression with line, creating movement and contrast in black and white.

Barbara Widmann,, grew up watching her grandfather paint his large, vivid, expressive, contemporary oil paintings, and was influenced to paint and draw at an early age. Fueled by the joy of creating, Widmann was enriched by art classes in school, and was recognized with many awards. Her artistic path took her from expressing her art through graphic arts, to architectural illustration and design, to equine art and portraiture. While she paints mostly with watercolor and her subject is mostly equine, Widmann is also skilled with acrylic paints, pastels, charcoal, pen and ink, graphite pencil and color pencil. As a horsewoman, and a local artist in upstate New York, Widmann grew up around horses and at an early age developed a sense of the equestrian form, movement and spirit. Combining her artistic talent and admiration for horses, she reveals the beauty of horses in art. Although there are many subjects that inspire Widmann, it has always been the horse that takes center stage in her mind, and in her paintings. She is from East Greenbush, New York.

A highlight for me was New World chef-owner Ric Orlando's special Zephyr Gin-Cucumber Lemonade, which was refreshing and perfectly complemented his spicy ethnic-inspired fare -- especially the chef's famed pan-blackened string beans. You should see the lines of folks waiting to buy the beans every year at his booth at the Saugerties Garlic Festival ...

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