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Females on the Fringe Exhibit: Review, Running at the Corscaden Barn

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Corscaden Barn, Females on the Fringe, Keene ValleyMartha Corscaden has brought a compelling, dynamic show to the Corscaden Barn this summer with Females on the Fringe. The exhibit, which runs until July 25th in Keene Valley, features the work of seven cutting-edge female artists, whose work revolves around themes of nature. By nature, we mean loose interpretation, for within the confines of this charming and funky barn turned gallery is an exhibit that contains a variety of abstract and atypical works, ranging from mixed-media collages to photolithography, archetypal paintings and ceramics.

The show is divided into three sections, beginning in the main room on the Barn’s first floor; here the works of Amy Fennelly, Lana Lucas and Janet Millstein are displayed. Moving to a room on the left is Alice K. Boardman’s photography. And upstairs on the top floor, which once served as beloved Adirondack painter Vry Roussin’s studio (and still contains the paint drippings to prove it), is the work of Stephanie DeManuelle, Cynthia Gallagher and Julia Gronski.

Lana Lucas’s desire to return to the Barn after a showing in 2005 was the impetus for this summer’s exhibit. Lucas, an accomplished artist whose works have been seen throughout New York City, uses watercolors to evoke vivid imagery in her paintings, where nature is often seen overcoming and invading its own and human figures. To look closely at Lucas’s paintings is to delve into a world filled with dark psychology and erotic imagery, but this is a world you will immensely enjoy. Her figures are often earthy archetypes, lending themselves to a storytelling quality. Some have fairytale attributes, but in Lucas’s paintings, what’s recalled are not your present-day, politically correct, childproof tales, rather, Lucas draws on their original, more violent nature.

Destined to Live, Lana Lucas, Females on the Fringe Exhibit, Corscaden BarnLucas’s choice of using the delicate medium of watercolors juxtaposes with her works’ animalistic elements. And in the paintings where human figures are absent, the power of nature becomes all the more apparent, sometimes even terrifying, as can be seen in the work, “Destined to Live.”

Here, a large bird delves into a wide open flower, whose buds are on the verge of dying; on the ground beneath it lies a sinewy web of repulsive roots. The flower’s leaves are displayed to evoke a sexual waiting—the flower is ready to receive; the horizon, where the bird descends from, is filled with bright, lucid colors, as the bird, powerful and virile, plunges down. In addition to its sensual storyline, the painting also portrays a dying earth, and in many of her works, Lucas uses forms that recall images from times past—times and religions where the earth was largely respected and played a significant and powerful role.

Prophecy, Amy Fennelly, Females on the Fringe, Corscaden BarnUsing skillful hands, Amy Fennelly composes layer upon layer until what she arrives at is a masterly concerto of art, each collage appearing to the viewer like an elaborate and intricately woven painting. Fennelly uses magazine collage as her medium, but all is actually a collage here, down to her choice of frames, each of which is unique to the piece it encases. Her works recall images of Dali. Bulbous surrealist figures are coupled with images that shapeshift through time, ending in compositions that are fantastical, delightfully strange and sometimes guttural.

Again, elements of nature are at play, but here, the lines blur between human and nature, as figures of each become intertwined. Owl and bird heads are imposed upon human bodies, as is the case in “Prophecy,” where an owl-headed body plays a “cross”-bowed violin. Fennelly’s works are both remarkable and difficult to surmise, lending themselves to the experiential, as one could spend hours looking at these pieces and still find more to discover.

Layers here are used to expose layers of worlds, existences, dimensions of time, and layers of the subconscious mind. In “City,” for instance, the surface is a grimy, murky-colored view of city and internationalism, yet beyond, as we peer through a sliver of one world into another, we see a world of wonder, grandness and fantasy, with its main figure, a parrot, watching through the opening. There are two parrots here, one in each world—the one in the city, unsurprisingly, is an angrier version. A young, thin Indonesian boy with furrowed brows holds the perch on which the parrot stands, jutting it menacingly towards the viewer (in symbolism, parrots are often used to warn the deceived or reveal an important secret about a character). Large, majestical horses peer down on the city scene, looking as though they’re about to trample it—the arrangement insinuating a form of Armageddon.

Celestial Barn, Janet Millstein, Females on the Fringe, Corscaden BarnIn Janet Millstein’s photolithography, we’re presented with rich, haunting images of Americana. Scenes that we’ve come to view as typical are transformed here through the use of photography, digital rendering and traditional printmaking, into vivid, ethereal works that captivate the viewer with their intense beauty and use of dark, rich colors.

It’s this color choice, along with skillful illumination techniques, that allows Millstein to shroud her viewers in this sense of otherworldliness and times past, but it’s the images themselves that keep the viewer grounded. For captured here are scenes that have become part of our everyday existence—images of a church, a man in a tractor, a barn, to name just a few. These “ordinary” settings evoke bonds of familiarity, especially for those who dwell in the Adirondacks, as they may recognize the landscape as a backdrop to much of her work.

Hares, Julia Gronski, Females on the Fringe, Corscaden BarnJulia Gronski’s hares are of the ceramic variety, but that doesn’t lessen their impact. These edgy, rough creatures are a far cry from the cute bunny variety, so if you’ve come expecting a cottontail, you’re in for a big surprise. Hares are, of course, of a different nature, and Gronski makes the most of theirs, combining masterly detail with a stark grey color choice and painted brush strokes that infuse realism and add to their effectiveness. Finely crafted features frame their expressions—their faces lucid, hardened and cross, as they peer from their various positions at the viewer.

Gronski remains loyal to the nature of the hare, exhibiting them, for the most part, alone and in various natural habitats (on rocks, trees, branches), as hares by nature are loners. Though they’re often portrayed as tricksters in folklore, Gronski’s hares have more of a “don’t mess with me” attitude, including the one in the picture, who’s showing “boxing,” which is actually a common practice amongst female hares (to males), when they’re attempting to prevent copulation. It’s these truthful elements combined with the edginess of her renderings that make Gronski’s work so compelling.

Collage by Stephanie DeManuelle, Females on the Fringe, Corscaden BarnStephanie DeManuelle’s textile collages present an interesting addition to the exhibit. These delicately crafted pieces combine earthy tones with a variety of shapes and forms that exhibit a sensual femininity. Their use of color and texture, along with their lilting sophistication, reminds the viewer of the beauty and delicateness of nature, and are seemingly reminiscent of a light breeze on a summer day. DeManuelle is most known for her oil paintings, many of which combine a turbulent yet tempered effect through her use of brush strokes and muted colors; these pieces prove a departure from her previous work, but still contain within them the roots of nature.

Cynthia Gallagher’s collages also utilize various textures and mediums, including painting and the use of textiles. Gallagher, as well, draws on elements of nature, using flowers and leaves as the subjects of her work. Her pieces present an interesting juxtaposition to DeManuelle’s—their striking differences immediately noticeable, partially because the two are positioned next to each other in the exhibit.

Collage by Cynthia Gallagher, Females on the Fringe, Corscaden BarnGallagher’s collages are coarse, purposely lacking sophistication—her pieces, often simple in construction, retain a folk-like, abstract innocence, appearing even childlike at times. There’s a crudeness at play here, and in many of her works, Gallagher uses elements like scotch tape as a choice of assembling. Gallagher’s collages are neither beautiful, nor delicate, but they’re not supposed to be; instead, their insouciance reminds us of yet another facet of the complexity of nature—the intricacies of its raw and playful side.

Tropica Starlings, Alice K Boardman, Females on the Fringe, Corscaden BarnAlice K. Boardman uses techniques of digital rendering to arrive at her voluptuous pictures of nature and city. In “Tropical Starlings,” birds perched on a wire stand amidst a vast flora of vegetation. Nature and city are intermixed here—the presence of the wire appears like an invasion into this rich, vivid landscape. The birds stand at the crossroads between the two worlds, overwhelmed by nature, yet still present in the city, appearing befuddled, as they look out in their various directions. Once again, we’re struck by the power of the natural world, as it calls to us with its largesse and infinite beauty.

Most of Boardman’s works here contain a similar sense of confinement and feeling of being overpowered. Whether it be swarms of fish surrounding a lone fish traveler (as in “Anchovies”), or people trapped in a world of glassy surfaces (in “Bottle Photo Shoot”), her photography evokes strong and visceral feelings in their viewers.

Much of the success of the exhibit is owed to its curator, Martha Corscaden, whose intuition and talent has woven together a stunning array of works from both up-and-coming and established female artists. Though Corscaden is a theatre director by trade, her directing talents have been utilized well here, in the arrangement and selection of the pieces on exhibit.

The Females on the Fringe exhibit continues through July 25th and can be viewed on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 5pm, and other hours by appointment. To find out more about the exhibit and the Corscaden Barn, visit

–Monica Sirignano is Co-Publisher of The Free George.

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