Monday, March 30, 2009

Ulster celebration "sets sail" this week

Ulster County’s Quadricentennial kick off takes place from 5-7 p.m. Thursday (April 2) at the Holiday Inn in Kingston with a display of large artist-designed banners in the hotel’s atrium. Organized and promoted by the Ulster County Quadricentennial Arts Committee, the “Set Sail” project is one of dozens of events celebrating the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage. A complete listing of county events and other details about the celebration can be found on the Web site, The banners will be displayed in the atrium of the Holiday Inn until July 1, when they will be hung from the lamp posts on lower Broadway, in Kingston’s Rondout section, through September. Everyone is invited to the kick-off Thursday.

In one banner, Kingston resident Henk Dijk has depicted a dramatic figurehead, representing Holland’s Seven Provinces, of a 17th-century ship that is being painstakingly reconstructed in the Netherlands using the original blueprints. The painting is shown above.

Here is more about the background of the project from the press release:

Each strip of canvas measures approximately 2-1/2 x 5 feet, and just getting the 13 pieces of cloth cut, sewn and gessoed was a labor of love—courtesy of Sister Hildegard Magdalen Pleva, OssR, a member of the Redemptoristine Nuns at Mother of Perpetual Help Monastery, located at Mt. St. Alphonsus in Esopus.

The monastery is amply equipped with sewing materials and equipment, since the sisters make a living by sewing ceremonial capes for a Catholic lay organization. Sister Hildegard notes that cutting out the banners to the precise size, sewing the thick fabric, and allowing for the shrinkage that occurred when the canvas was gessoed were all challenging. She says her contribution is a way of expressing gratitude for the lovely Hudson River landscape. “The picture windows of our monastery look out on the river and remind us every day of the wonders and beauty of all creation, [which] for us [is] a reminder of the constancy of God,” she says.

The banners are being painted in a variety of styles and images, including fanciful depictions of Henry Hudson and river landscapes. Jane Bloodgood-Abrams, of Kingston, is painting a luminous landscape in the traditional Hudson River School style that has given her a noteworthy following, while Jacquie Roland, a resident of Saugerties, is working on two night scenes—Henry Hudson standing of the deck of his ship on an icy evening and his namesake river at twilight.

In researching Henry Hudson, Iya Battle, who lives in West Shokan and describes herself as “a painter of myths, archetypes and invisible energy,” became fascinated by the Native Americans. So one side of her banner will honor the Lenni Lenape, while the other will depict Hudson being swept down into the ocean into the arms of a couple of mermaids. (On his third voyage, Hudson was put out to sea in a small boat, after his men mutinied, and never seen again; the mermaids refer to a log entry in which the navigator described an encounter with a mermaid in Antarctica.)

Matthew Pleva (Sister Hildegarde’s son) is planning a landscape scene done in pen and ink. Known for his small-scale graphite pencil drawings, he admits he is “a little overwhelmed. Right now I’m struggling to get something 5 x 10 inches to be 2.5 x 5 feet.”

The other artists contributing banners are Steve Ladin, Cynthia Winiker, Robert Sweeney, Yourij Donskoj, Dennis Connors, Sue Ross, Cristina Brusca in collaboration with Erik Richards and Lynn Woods.

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