Pictured is a piece called "Growth" by Susan Marie Borden, of Buffalo. Credit: Courtesy of Schweinfurth Art Center

The Schweinfurth Art Center, in Auburn, has kicked off its fall schedule with a jumbo-size group exhibition and solo shows featuring oils by Susan Hoffer and photos by Fred Price. 

First, “Members Show 2023” has a roster of 128 artists who come not only from Rochester, Auburn and Syracuse but also from Brooklyn and outside New York State. 

The artworks encompass Roberta Ripenberger’s watercolor, “Night in the Forest,” and Harry Littelll’s archival digital print, “Main Street, Owego,” as well as “Twisted,” a sculpture by Richard Nolan, and “Checkmate,” Teresa Nelson-Graham’s fused-glass creation. 

And the exhibit displays a range of fiber works. Look for “Waves at Sunset,” by Sharon Bottle Souva, Carol Boyer’s “Ponder,” and “Easy as ASL,” by Rachel Ivy Clarke. The latter work depicts gestures used in American Sign Language. 

In addition, Laurel Izard’s “Balinese Starlings” nicely portrays birds who have an endangered status. It’s part of a series devoted to species facing extinction. 

In “She Embellished the Rim,” a fiber neo reverse applique, Alice Gant pays tribute to Mary Colter, a groundbreaking architect who lived from 1869 to 1958. Colter is best known for four buildings she designed within Grand Canyon National Park. Those structures, as a group, were designated a National Historic Landmark. 

The exhibition even presents a collaborative piece , “Earth Eye’s View,” made by the nine members of the Schweinfurth Fiber Arts Group. This is a giant crocheted eye, with streamers coming off it.

Given the fact that many of the artists come from upstate New York, it’s not surprising that various works portray scenes from the region. Indeed, “Member Show 2023” includes Willson Cummer’s image, “Near Onondaga Lake”; “Muck Farm,” an oil by Joni Monroe; Michael Fields’ “Bridge South of Tupper Lake,” an oil painting on masonite board. 

On the other hand, many of the artworks have no link to upstate New York. Bob Conge’s multimedia monoprint references Charles Bukowski, a writer of poems, short stories and novels, who was also known for a hard-drinking, hard-living lifestyle. The piece has imagery of Bukowski, a whiskey bottle and cigarette butts. 

Other noteworthy pieces include “Fires and Covid,” a striking watercolor by Joyce Homan; Deborah Connolly’s drawing, “Dancers”; “Dead End,” Christopher Baker’s gouache; and Theresa O’Connor’s large work, “Queens of Color,” made with African-dyed cotton, other cotton and thread. 

A second exhibition, “Rural Voices Rising: Can Art Subvert Media’s Narrative?,” features 25 oil paintings by Susan Hoffer, an artist based in Lake Placid. She’s long been concerned with stereotyping of people living in rural America, with the notion that this is a population following one ideology. 

Pictured is an oil painting by Susan Hopper. It’s titled “Just vote — but not against your own interests.” Credit: Courtesy of Schweinfurth Art Center

And so, her vivid portraits depict friends, relatives, and other North Country residents at home.  Hoffer pays close attention to household  details, capturing subjects’ clothing, glasses or cups, sofas and other furniture, She’s very good at positioning a subject in her or his home. 

The captions that accompany the paintings often touch on politics, environmental and social issues, and economics. In an artist’s statement, Hoffer says she views the world through a feminist lens. 

One painting, for example, portrays a couple, Mia and Meagan; there’s text stating that they are watching human rights being legislated away.  

Another depicts Larry and Jan who have been married for 30 years. There text notes that Larry’s grandfather was lynched in Alabama decades ago. 

In a third painting, Debbie, a wildlife rehabilitator, stands by a tank, assisting a turtle who’s been rescued. She enjoys yoga and practices shamanism. 

Some of the best works convey emotional content. In one of them, Hoffer’s mother looks very frail. The artist comments that her mom, because of the pandemic, spent the last six months of her life in isolation. 

Several paintings demonstrate that Hoffer is well aware that her points of view are hardly universal in the North Country. “Ending the Cycle” portrays a teenager, a hockey player, and her father, a veteran of several tours of duty in Iraq. There are guns on a table, and it’s clear that the father, Jon, doesn’t share Hoffer’s opinions on gun control. 

Another subject, Bruce, is sending a letter to Elise Stefanik, the local Congresswoman. Stefanik is not a moderate Republican; her positions have shifted even more rightward over the past six or seven years. 

In the end, “Rural Voices Rising” has an indirect, yet tangible appeal. The exhibit documents Hoffer’s ability to do full-blooded portraits, her commitment to a series focusing on everyday citizens. And having 25 paintings on view offers ample exposure to her work. 

Finally, Schweinfurth is also hosting “Reflections of a Photography,” a selection of 19 images by Fred Price. This includes silver prints and digital works. 

The three exhibits are on display through October 15 at Schweinfurth, 205 Genesee St. in Auburn. The venue is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $10.00 for adults, free for members, exhibiting artists and children 12 and younger. 

For more information, call 315-255-1553 or access www.myartcenter.org. 

Carl Mellor covered visual arts for the Syracuse New Times from 1994 through 2019. He continues to write about artists and exhibitions in Central New York.

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