Plush greenery. Calm waters traveled occasionally by lone kayakers, a paddle boat enthusiast and fisherman planted firmly on the banks of the Saugatuck River. There is truly no better time to be in Westport than in the heart of its summer season.
It's apropos for the Westport Arts Center (WAC) to celebrate this time of light, harvest and nature's fertility with a visual arts exhibit called 'Landscape: Scene/Re-Seen.' WAC's Visual Arts Director Helen Klisser During it's through these magnificent contemporary photographs and art pieces that artists--and viewers--explore man's relation to the environment. She has culled some of the exquisite pieces from the Andrew and Christine Hall Collection, a couple who are considered among the "top 10 to 20 art collectors in the world."
Hailing from all over the world, the international artists look at our perception of nature, how mankind has attempted to alter his environment and, of course, the need for sustainability. These are themes that artists, writers, philosophers and all creative folks have wrestled with for centuries. In fact, Helen points to Thomas Struth's photograph of a forest ("Silvery Tree Trunk on the Wofensberg, No. 17, Winterthur C-Print, 1993) as a nod to the infamous Robert Frost poem in which the American poet addresses 'The Road Not Taken."
For personal reasons, my favorite piece is Joel Sternfeld's print of the High Line in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood before it became what it is today. Built around an abandoned elevated freight train line, this vibrant public park was once the unofficial playground of youngsters, such as my husband, who grew up in the 'projects' nearby. I remember driving by with our babies, after visiting my mother-in-law, and hearing my husband recount climbing up the 30-foot structure, high above the city's streets. There were no acres of bucolic meadows in suburban open spaces and no upscale modern playgrounds made from sturdy, safe materials for inner city youth to explore. In the overgrown landscape that Sternfeld so aptly captures, one sees the light of promise...a foreshadowing perhaps of what these blocks of unstructured land, grounded in Manhattan's rich history, could eventually become. In fact, it could be argued this portrait vividly explains this exhibit's name--that is, 'scene/re-seen.'
Each artist, each work, though, offers so much. I need to return for second viewing to explore this theme further.
I also plan to take full advantage of the assortment of exciting complementary tie-in programs. This week Westport native Sal Gilbertie, owner of Gilbertie's Herb Gardens in Westport and Easton, kicked off the season's first outdoor summer cafe with a talk about organic herb farming. On Wednesday, July 11, Erin Ostreicher, a floral design specialist, will lead an interactive discussion about how to use locally grown flowers to create stunning arrangements. A delicious lunch, highlighting fresh produce, is available for a nominal fee by Du Soleil. Sponsored in partnership by the Westport Farmers' Market, WAC's Summer Cafe will take place on select Wednesdays through August on its beautiful deck, overlooking the river. "We're so privileged to have this scenic place where we can meet and eat and socialize and view art together," said Helen.
Every Friday, more than 20 community members show up to be inspired, educated and eat homemade muffins at Helen's ArtCafe. Summer hours are 10 to 11 am.
Other upcoming WAC special events are:
- Thursday, July 19 - 6 pm - A Night of Nurturing Nature
- Thursday, July 26 - 8 pm - Shake Your Groove: An 80's Dance Party fundraiser at Shake Shack in Westport. For more information call 203-222-7070 or go to westportartscenter.org.