Mark Prezorski, Landscape Curator
There are many reasons why Groundswell happens at Olana, but these reasons may not be obvious to those who don’t know the full story of America’s great landscape artist, Frederic Church. For example, some people mistakenly think that Olana is “just a house museum”, but the reality is that Olana is much more than that. Olana is Church’s 250-acre creation, fully designed as an experience around 360-degree views. The main house is one element in Frederic Church’s larger landscape composition, which integrates native woodlands and meadows, architecture, water, landforms and – at certain times – singular atmospheric effects. The way to experience this creation is to move through Olana along Church’s carriage roads, which is how Groundswell audience members experience our one-day exhibition event. In 1884 Church wrote: “I have made about 1-3/4 miles of road this season, opening entirely new and beautiful views. I can make more and better landscapes in this way than by tampering with canvas and paint in the studio.”
The Olana Partnership first connected with Wave Farm’s WGXC 90.7-FM as part of our ongoing efforts to work with regional arts organizations, particularly those doing notable work in the surrounding community. This may seem like an improbable pairing – an organization which focuses on the restoration and interpretation of a historic site paired with an organization which specializes in transmission arts, among other things – but this partnership has been ideal in many ways. Olana’s large-scale design lends itself beautifully to sound-based installations and performative works, and the road system becomes a circuit through which art and artists are encountered in a social way. The interaction of the audience with each other along Church’s “pleasure drives” is also a key part of Groundswell, particularly in the main picnic area.
2015 marks the third annual iteration of our award-winning exhibition event. Each artist works with Wave Farm and The Olana Partnership throughout the process, and this is all done in close cooperation with New York State Parks. Eight separate project “zones” are established along Olana’s Ridge Road, and the artists work to select the ideal project zone to showcase their particular vision. All artists are introduced to Olana and its themes, both historical concepts as well as contemporary preservation efforts, and the artists are invited to do research in Olana’s extensive archives, as needed. The Olana Partnership’s curatorial staff assists with this research, and Wave Farm takes a lead role in producing this exhibition event, including project content and installation needs. Without the combined strengths of our two organizations, Groundswell would not exist in this form.
Groundswell is always a revelation because of the innovative artists who participate. Their references to Frederic Church might include literal elements (direct quotes and archival material) to more obscure forms of interpretation, and the resulting works can range from the profound to challenging to humorous. Once installed and enacted, the works are often a surprise, even to those familiar with the process. This year’s artists are John Cage Trust with Seth Chrisman, John Cleater, Brian Dewan, Gambletron, Tyson Hauf, Bernd Klug, LoVid, Douglas Irving Repetto, and Quintron. We are also highlighting the work of a photographer, Alon Koppel, and a new regional restaurant, Daughters Fare and Ale. Groundswell is always a spectacle, an experience, and a chance to eat great food and encounter original art against unrivaled Hudson Valley views.