SEEING YELLOW AT OLANA: A Photo-Essay
Mark Prezorski, Senior Vice President & Creative Director, The Olana Partnership
Every summer at Olana, things turn more yellow. In June, the park-like meadow between Olana’s upper main house and the lake below comes alive with yellow coreopsis flowers.
This summer, things were more yellow than usual at Olana. Penetrable by Jesús Rafael Soto (1923 – 2005) hovered like a mirage in Frederic Church’s landscape, part of a larger exhibition titled OVERLOOK: Teresita Fernández Confronts Frederic Church at Olana, a collaboration with the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. Visitors are encouraged to move within Soto’s interactive sculpture, similar to the way visitors move through Olana, Frederic Church’s large-scale landscape. Both Olana and Penetrable are experiential works of art. A signature work within the Cisneros collection, Penetrable has traveled throughout the Americas and has been sited in built environments. This sculpture recently completed a long and popular run at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. For a limited time, it can now be experienced in a naturalistic setting at Olana.
Teresita Fernández’s site-specific installation spans the two upstairs rooms of the Sharp Family Gallery within Olana’s main house. This installation combines works from Olana’s collection and the Cisneros collection, and Teresita Fernández has integrated her own original work. One of her portraits is of Jesús Rafael Soto.
Soto’s portrait faces east and is intentionally positioned within the larger installation to overlook the sculpture outdoors. Soto began as a landscape painter in Venezuela and progressed into three dimensions. Church followed a similar artistic evolution as he created Olana over many years, from landscape painting to landscape design.
One floor below, also facing east, a portrait of Frederic Church hangs in the corridor of the studio wing which he designed.
Around the corner from Church’s portrait, the sculpture by Soto can be viewed through the corridor’s large windows.
Some long-time visitors to Olana have asked why a contemporary sculpture has been sited in Olana’s historic landscape, and why it’s sited in this particular location. There’s a story behind this location. The 1886 “Plan of Olana” includes a structure labeled “SUMMER HOUSE”, yet there is no known documentation of its style or design. This mystery was the basis for a 2016 design exhibition at Olana called Follies, Function & Form: Imagining Olana’s Summer House. When this exhibition opened last year, The Olana Partnership could not have imagined that Penetrable would stand a year later in Olana’s approximate summer house location. It’s as if Frederic Church also had a hand in siting Penetrable.
The Soto sculpture seems a natural fit at Olana. Church included yellow glass throughout many rooms in the Olana’s main house, and this starts at the front door.
The great window near the Court Hall staircase is yellow.
So is the window along the corridor in the studio wing.
The large window in Church’s painting studio features tinted glass.
In Church’s bedroom, every sunrise and sunset is framed in yellow light.
Today, Penetrable can be glimpsed through this window.
Now that fall has arrived at Olana, goldenrod can be seen in Olana’s meadows. In 1891, a visitor to Olana wrote: “No daisy is allowed to be pulled, no cats tail – and as for goldenrod! The other day we drove miles to get some yellow daisies & sweet fern, when there were prairies of it all round about here – but that would have despoiled the place – taken a little from its beauty.”
This year’s exhibition is a conversation among artists, including Jesús Rafael Soto and Frederic Church, and thanks to Teresita Fernández and our collaborators at the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, visitors to Olana can join in that conversation — and see lots of yellow.
Photographs by Mark Prezorski