The word “art” lends itself to drama, since artists are so often portrayed as passionate, arrogant, and angry. Think back to the dozens of books and movies we’ve seen over the years where a painter’s (sculptor’s or photographer’s) long-suffering wife timidly announces lunch, and is greeted with a snarling: “Go away, you moron! Can’t you see that I’m working?”
Marcel Proust wrote “All the great things we know have come to us from neurotics. It is they and only they who have founded religions and created great work of art.”
To which I respond, “Nonsense. Utter nonsense.”
Peter Paul Rubens was a happy soul who married twice, had three children with his first wife and five with his jolly fat second wife – who also acted as a model for many of his paintings.
Maxfield Parrish was wildly successful, revered by his peers, including Normal Rockwell, and continued to paint until he was ninety. He lived happily with his mistress for fifty years, and died at the ripe old age of ninety-five.
John Everett Millais not only enjoyed life after he eloped with his mentor’s (John Ruskin’s) wife, but he then went on to have eight children with her and become most successful of all the Pre-Raphaelite painters.
And so on.
Regardless of Proust’s observation (was he justifying his own neurosis?), artists can be pleasant, sociable people who use deodorant, pay bills, and still produce wonderful work works of art.
This became apparent to me when I stumbled upon the Windsor Whip Works Art Gallery, the dream child of former New York City advertising executive Bill Pesce, and his wife Johanne.
The Pesce’s plan was to move Upstate New York and enjoy their retirement by drawing, painting, and creating art. However, when they found and fell in love with the Village of Windsor, their plan expanded to include the creation of a gallery for other artists as well. To accomplish this, they bought a former buggy whip factory so ramshackle that to call it a “fixer-upper” would have been cockeyed optimism. Then they rolled up their sleeves and got to work.
It took a lot of money (their own), vision, and commitment, but five years later, the gallery finally opened, and the results are gorgeous: Beautiful hardwood floors covered by Arabian Nights-type Oriental rugs, sparkling clean white walls, lighting that perfectly showcases the artwork, big windows overlooking picturesque churches and the leafy Village Green, and a cheerful atmosphere in which art is celebrated.
So far, I’ve been to the Windsor Whip Works Gallery twice. First to meet Bill Pesce and to view an exhibition of paintings and sculpture; next for an opening exhibition of photographs.
Having previously attended gallery openings on both coasts, I expected, as a matter of course, to be snubbed, condescended to, and generally abused, not only by the artists, but by the gallery owners as well.
Happily, I was wrong, wrong, wrong.
Instead, of abuse, I was greeted with merry good will. Instead of contempt, I was offered a buffet of delicious food, wine, and friendship. I was introduced to Whip Works Gallery members, benefactors, wives, husbands, and instructors. I was also given the opportunity to meet the artists and ask about their lives. Most are a part of our community. Most have “day jobs” (architect, professor, physician, historian, actor, psychiatrist). All are passionate about their work.
Over the years, The Whip Works Gallery has exhibited paintings by incredibly talented local, national, and internationally acclaimed (I hate that word, but can’t think of a better one) artists. Ones I particularly like are Erica Pollock (compelling cityscapes), George Rhoads (idyllic landscapes), and Dana Kotler (who’d have thought anybody could make fabric look interesting!) Back in 2011 the Gallery put on an exhibition of Haitian art as a fundraiser following the 2009 earthquake, which I really wish I hadn’t missed; and every month or two, the gallery takes down its current exhibition, installs a different one, and introduces new artists.
Other than being a gallery, Windsor Whip Works has a design and consulting service for businesses, actively supports and participates in community events and, to quote from one of its brochures, provides “artists talks, life drawing sessions, classes, workshops, student art shows” and more.
Check out the gallery’s web site. www.whipworksartgallery.org Call and find out when the next opening will be. Enjoy wine and delicious food. Browse through two floors of art. Talk to the artists. Join the Windsor Whip Works Art Center ● 98 Main Street ● Windsor, New York 13865 ● 607-655-2370.
Then, after you’ve visited the gallery, amble down the street for a leisurely dinner in the enchanting garden of the A Tavolo Italian Restaurant ● 118 Main Street ● Windsor, New York ● 607-238-5983.
Good things. Great fun. Nice people. No neurosis. And some damn fine art!
Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2015
Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her writing, visit www.shellyreuben.com.