Like its predecessors, “Made in New York 2023” is large, sprawling and created by a roster of artists from across New York State, from Buffalo and Ithaca, Syracuse, Saugerties and Brooklyn.
And yet, each edition of “Made in New York,” an annual show at Auburn’s Schweinfurth Art Center, is selected by a new jury, ensuring that each exhibit has its own identity. The current exhibition presents various media including paintings, photographs and fiber works but distinguishes itself by displaying artworks that play with narrative in interesting, sometimes visceral ways.
There are works like Sharon Draghi’s “Reckoning,” an archival pigment print portraying a woman in anguish. The viewer can only speculate about the subject’s life and current distress.
In Robert Moran’s “Mind the Gap,” a varnished watercolor on paper, four mountain goats appear in what seems to be a subway station. Is this whimsy or evidence of modern-day absurdity? Again, viewers will draw their own conclusions.
A third work, “A Seat at the Table,” by Hong Wu, consists of a bunch of chairs and metal frames, joined together by ethernet cables. The setup is arbitrary, and it looks difficult to be seated at the table. The phrase, a seat at the table, connotes access, the possibility of sharing decision-making and power.
And then there’s Gary Wolfe’s oil portrait providing an upper-body view of a middle-aged man. He’s shirtless, vulnerable, with a confused look on his face. The artist has created a series addressing surveillance in the current era.
Another oil, by Penny Brantley, references Terezin Gestapo Prison, where Czech Jews were held before being shipped to a concentration camp or a work camp. Brantley’s work captures a bare room, with sunlight illuminating part of the space. The piece draws its power from implication, from viewers contemplating what took place in this room.
Jane Verostek’s “Modern Mourning” positions a mannequin in a chair, a female figure dressed entirely in black and decorated with vintage jewelry. It’s incisive as it reflects both on clothing traditionally associated with mourning and how contemporary society deals with mourning. This is a poignant work informed by the artist’s own situation; her husband and father died during the same year.
To be sure, narrative is only one element in the Schweinfurth exhibit. Among other things, it encompasses a variety of artistic styles. For example, it displays Karen Sienk’s “Colden Sunrise,” which depicts dawn breaking in Colden, New York. This is a fiber work instead of a painting and thus has a different flavor.
The exhibition has other pieces that merit extended viewing. Don’t miss Amanda Besi’s “Electric Daydream,” done with oil paint on hardboard panel, or Gabriella Mirabell’s acrylic, “Trees Reflected in Water 1.” Robin Caster-Howard’s “Family Circle,” a watercolor, is inventive and imaginative, merging earth colors and whimsical forms.
“Made in New York” also presents several works either delving into the climate crisis or portraying scenes in nature. Joy Muller-McCoola’s “Running Out,” created with wet, felted wool, refers to a scarcity of water. The work suggests a stream of water dwindling down to a trickle. Other interesting pieces include “Dawn on the Meadow,” Kari Ganoung Ruiz’s watercolor, and John Gardner’s “Terraform” which considers the relationship between nature and science.
Over the years, the exhibition has traditionally shown just a few sculptures. The current exhibit follows that pattern but does present some high-quality works. One of the best is a bluestone cairn, a mound of stones, made by Angela Gaffney-Smith. She makes cairns ranging in size from two inches to seven feet and is influenced by stone formations in Ireland and stone piles constructed by indigenous people in the Catskills.
And Len Eichler created “Krater 2022 AD,” a ceramic work decorated with small insulator devices and imagery of a nuclear plant. He’s taken part in “Made in New York” several times.
Finally, the show presents artworks not easily categorized. in “Harlem (Freedom! Equality!),” an acrylic, Fernando Carpeneda portrays a young African American man in front of a graffiti-marked wall. It’s an intimate work resembling a photo.
There are works by James Via and Judith Plotner. His photo, “Passage of Time,” taken in Rome, Italy, depicts an ancient statue and broken-down wall. Her mixed-media piece, “Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down,” refers to the children’s song popular during plague times in medieval Europe and current dire events.
“Good Little Girl,” created by Pam McLaughlin, operates with a sardonic title and her perspective on a childhood where she was expected to obey and conform instead of growing emotionally. It incorporates a small suitcase holding small white shoes, silver dollars and religious imagery such as crucifixes.
Lastly, Paul Pearce’s “Infectious Invasion” is both quaint and alarming. He worked with 100-year-old atlas pages, placing tiny images of soldiers on the pages. The artwork was completed in 2022, roughly a century after the end of World War I, which was promoted as “the war to end all wars.” Millions of people died in battles in France, in ships sunk by submarines, from starvation.
The show, featuring works by 79 artists, was chosen by a panel including Kevin Larmon, Theda Sandford and Gary Sczerbaniewicz.
It’s on display through May 28 at the Schweinfurth Art Center, 205 Genesee St. in Auburn. The center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10.00 for adults and free for Schweinfurth members, exhibiting artists and children 12 years old or younger.
For more information, call 315-255-1553 or visit 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.