Beware the Trains


Interview with David Slutzky, whose exhibit, BEWARE OF THE TRAINS, is on view at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery & Bookstore in Hunter Village through Aug. 31, 2015.

 The other day I told a friend that David Slutzky was having an exhibit of his train drawings at the Kaaterskill Gallery. Oh, she said, is that the guy in the black hat? Do you get that a lot?

Yes I’ve been wearing the hat for so long that people don’t recognize me when I don’t wear it.

 How did you come to start drawing trains? What was the attraction?

I started drawing trains when I wanted a record of my trains and some of the trains that I’ve seen in my travels. The attraction of trains to me is I find them fascinating in the time they have been around and the history they have created. For me it started in 1983 when I wanted to see the Forth Bridge in Scotland, the sheer size of that great bridge was overwhelming.

 You’re a photographer and sculptor as well. Care to weigh in on that? Such as, do you express different feelings in your photographs than you do in your sculptures?

I will answer this question in a different way. I’m a snowmaker who loves to be creative in the Arts and grew up around Big Machinery and see them as works of art from drawing and painting them and using parts in sculptures. From being a two dimension artist in drawing, painting and photography to work in the third dimension as in sculpturing helps one see more, much more in what you are looking at.

 You worked on a giant bluestone sculpture of Rip Van Winkle at the top of Hunter Mountain with Lexington sculptor Kevin Van Hentenryck some years ago. The inspiration for the sculpture was yours though. Why did you take on that project?

We are in the land of Rip Van Winkle and I thought it would be appropriate to have a sculpture of” Rip” waking up with one of the greatest views in the Catskill’s from Hunter Mountain. Most people only see a sculpture when it’s a finish piece of work, I wanted people to see a work in process and see how a sculpture is made. It was to be a 5 year project that took 14 years to complete, along the way many people had the unique experience of seeing Kevin, me and 2 Caspers working on “Rip”.Every once in a while someone will stop me and say” My parents brought me to Hunter Mountain as a kid and I saw “Rip: being worked on by you and Kevin, I tell them Kevin was the sculptor and I was his helper.

I’ve seen your photographs of snowmaking and other large machinery and they are fabulous! What inspiration do you find in these large mechanical objects?

In growing up in the construction and ski business I feel very comfortable around big machinery and snowmaking and to show off different sides of these unique business.

 Were you formally trained as an artist?

Not until I went to art school and by that time I was too entrenched in my own style for teachers too change me. I have a B F A from the University of Pennsylvania and attended The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia

 When you’re not creating art, you’re creating snow, am I right? Is there any difference in the creative process when creating one or the other?

I think when someone creates something and loves what they are doing the creative process takes over and the end creation is for the world to see and enjoy……

 If there’s one question you wish I would have asked, what it is? And would you answer it for us?

The one question I would have liked you to ask me is what is the future of the mountain top art community and who is trying to help it grow and who is not…….










What is American Masquerade? (Part I)

A Canadian law quietly enacted in 2013 specifically bans people from wearing any sort of mask or face covering during an “unlawful assembly”.


Under current Canadian law, a maximum ten-year sentence is being threatened against anyone convicted of concealment of one’s face. This law includes protesters despite earlier promises by Canadian politicians and law enforcement officials that the new law would not be used to target law abiding citizens or protestors. This does not only apply to the now-iconic Anonymous Guy Fawkes mask, but includes those who would wrap their face in a scarf or “neck sock,” or even religious face coverings. While Canadian law had already enacted a ban on covering one’s face during a criminal act, this newer law is said to be aimed directly at activists who wear masks at protests. In Oklahoma, lawmakers are planning to introduce a similar bill.

Newlywedswithmasks      Masks are used for protection, and  in sports, hunting, feasts, and war. They can be used as sacred, practical, or playful things. Masks play a key part within world theatre traditions, particularly non-western theatre forms. They also continue to be a vital force within contemporary theatre, and their usage takes a variety of forms. Masks can also be used to hide behind.

Masks weren’t originally meant to conceal. From their beginning in ancient times, they were used for protection or ornamentation. It is believed that masks were used first to transfer supernatural power or call up “the gods”.

Masks were used in ancient Roman festivals to signal that the necessity for polite behavior was not necessary and people were free for a short period of time to engage in “merry-making” beyond their rank or status. At the Carnival of Venice, which dates back to 1268 AD, all are equal behind their masks. -Even the Jewish Purim festivities make use of carnivalesque masks.

The Iroquois Confederacy of North America used masks to heal. Himalayan masks acted as go-betweens with supernatural forces.     Native Alaskan Yup’ik masks vary in size from three-inch finger masks to twenty pound masks that need several people to carry them.

Whatever their use, masks have played an important part history and in helping us to understand what it means to be human by masquerading as something other than ourselves. The masquerade motif even appears in the Bible as an attempt to fool people and an attempt to fool God.  Judaic ritual forbids the “fashioning [of] a statue or a mask”, as marked by the Second Commandment. Men'sCheapSilverpartymask

This spring, Mainly Greene, a partnership of four Greene County, New York based non-profits, will explore the masquerade motif in a joint exhibit, “American Masquerade.” Using as its core, the Anti-Rent War of New York State, 1839-1845 The so-called “war” was actually a tenants’ revolt in upstate New York during the early 19th century, beginning in 1839 with the death of wealthy landlord, Stephen Van Rensselaer III.

New Art Exhibit May “Peak” Your Interest: Interview with Jack Laroux

PHOTO-JackLarouxOpportunus AdestPHOTO-JackLaroux2014.Sonoma
You’ve been described as an artist from NYC and the Catskills? Which part of you lives in the City? And which part dwells in the mountains?
The part that lives in the city is the ambitious, energetic, chaotic and business side that absorbs the city’s energy on all levels. The city is a place that gives me hope to survive in the art world. I see millions of people that have millions of walls that need art on them. I think to myself often, how will I reach all of them to see my art!? 
The part of me that dwells in the Catskills is the focused, calm and productive side. I take all the city’s energy and channel it into my work here in the hills. I also think about what to paint when I mow my lawn for hours on the John Deere sipping on a beer.
How long have you been connected with the local area? 
My family has owned property here since the late eighties. I have memories being in the Catskill Mountains from a very young age, such as learning how to ski when I was three years old at Hunter Mountain in 1980.
We’ve heard that you were the featured artist at last year’s Mountain Jam? How did that happen and what was that like? 
Yes, I was the featured artist two years in a row now, 2013 and 2014. It’s so much fun to be part of a big music festival for 4 days that continues to grow every year. Art and music is a perfect marriage. When fans look at my Mountain Jam painting “ Fountain of Youth” or “Music Maker”, I want them to hear the music and feel their experience at the festival through my painting. 
Like everything in life, it happened because of connections and always promoting my work where ever I may be. Specifically, connections made through my love for snowboarding. I met one of the organizers snowboarding at Hunter Mountain. One chairlift ride up to the top with a couple turns down the mountain ending at the lodge and I became the featured artist for Mountain Jam.
We’ve also heard that you lit up a huge LED sign in Times Square. What was that like? And why did you do it? 
I lit up five huge LED signs. The entire experience can be summed up in one word, “SURREAL”. I felt such a great feeling of career accomplishment seeing my logo and art rotating on the huge prime video screens on Broadway and 43rd street. After all the years working hard to get “out there” as an artist, It felt as if I conquered New York City. 
I was able to light up the billboards with my work because of a private corporate event that showcased my paintings. They had access to the billboards and thought it would be cool to have the art rotating on the screens during the party. Since the views from the company’s offices look directly down at the screens, they thought it would compliment the show. I strongly agreed!
You’ve described yourself as a neo-cubist? What does that mean?
That’s always my first response when someone asks me to describe my style, but, honestly, I don’t know really what that means. I am a new and some what young artist that lives in the 21st century creating artwork that is reminiscent of cubism, so neo-cubist sounds like the right thing to say. All I know is that I am heavily influenced by surrealism, cubism, futurism, abstract expressionism, graffiti, cartoon and low brow art, but if you try to pin down my style, I don’t think it is possible. I guess that is what makes it unique. My work is a mash up of all different styles and techniques. I was intensely thinking during my years of art studies how I can be different from all the other extremely talented artists in my program. How do I create a style that is almost instantly recognizable as Laroux. Almost like branding, I guess business school influenced me a little bit before I attended art school at Parsons! 
Who are your favorite artists?
I have a long list, but Picasso is definitely at the top of my list, not only for his art accomplishments but his business savvy. Murakami and Jeff Koons are up there too on the favorite living artists list. 
What do you hope to accomplish with your art? 
On a basic level, I simply want to entertain people. I want my work to heal people, create a sense of awe or just put a smile on one’s face. I want walls in people’s home to come alive and stimulate imagination. As my career progresses, I want to accomplish refining my artwork and push my talent and creativity to the very max. It would be great to accomplish immortality which sounds extremely artsy fartsy. But, when I physically leave this planet, I would love for my paintings to live on and continue to inspire, stimulate, entertain and heal for eternity.
Your imagery is highly imaginative. What are the sources of that imagery? 
My mind is continually bombarded by images and scenes that seem to rise from some creative abyss deep in my brain that also simultaneously distorts the imagery from my regular life. As an artist, you simply look at the world differently. I like to do a lot of things other than sitting for hours working on artwork. Such as snowboarding, running, working out, riding motorcycles, watching TV shows about aliens, learning about the cosmos, science and technology and the list goes on. If you don’t live life and continuously learn new things, how can you create? 
Does Freud have anything to do with your imagery? That is, do you ever think of analyzing it? If so, what do you think it says about you?
No. I don’t analyze my artwork, I just make it. I would like to imagine that when people see my work they think of a dude that is very serious about making awesome paintings for people to enjoy! They also might think I am completely nuts and use lots of drugs, But I am not and I don’t. 
Color and shape seem to play such a huge part in your work. Is that a Cubist thing or just your thing?
Many people will be shocked to learn that I am very color blind, specifically with red and green colors but it seems to effect all my colors. I DO see colors, but I severely fail the color blind test book with the dots that make up numbers and letters. Some say that my color blindness leads to the intense and vibrant colors in my work. I just like colors to blast of the wall, so I think its just my own thing. 
The shapes I create play with the extremely important balancing act in my work. I strive to have everything very balanced with smooth line work juxtaposed with cubistic grids.
Where do you see yourself as an artist ten years from now
I hope to continue to progress my style and gain millions of LAROUXart collectors and fans from around the world. I have a bucket list that I am slowly checking off ,Times Square was one of them. 
Are you a modernist or a post-modernist? Or don’t you think about things like that in terms of your work?
Shoot, I have to look those terms up again to refresh my memory. I am a magician. Haha Honestly, I don’t ever think of things like that. I just work hard to make beautiful paintings that try to grab peoples’ attention and make them think.
Is it fun to be an artist?
Being an artist in general, yes of course! 
Trying to be a professional working artist, ABSOLUTELY NOT! 
It has been a crazy experience, an emotional and financial roller coaster ride that creates a seriously unstable life with many compromises. BUT, when all the stars align after years of hard work and I get a cool commission, big sale or have a successful show, then the high is bigger than anything on earth. This temporary high propels me forward to create more art, set ambitious goals and gives me new energy in order to continue chasing the dream of making art for a living. 

Does Anybody Read Kurt Vonnegut Any More?

Returning to the novels of Kurt Vonnegut after a four decade lull is like visiting a childhood friend whose fate you’ve wondered about, on and off, for years until one day, out of the blue, you pick up the phone and dial her number. That’s how it felt to download Vonnegut’s novel , Bluebeard, a few weeks ago and begin to read.
At first, there was disappointment. Had I really thought of Vonnegut as a “great” writer? The answer is yes. It was he who taught me about the absurdity of war and of life. He was funny, irreverent, imaginative. All the things I secretly wanted myself to be.
But a great writer?
This time around, Vonnegut’s writing seemed simplistic, scratchy, jumpy, and mannered. Had moving on to the works of Donald Barthelme, Thomas Pynchon, and Don Dellilo soured me on what now seemed like Vonnegut’s “slapstick” prose?
I wasn’t sure if I liked Bluebeard or not, but I plodded on. Eventually, I got back into the Vonnegut groove. I even read Vonnegut’s biography, So It Goes by Charles G. Shields, in which several of the “characters” in the author’s life described him as “cruel, nasty and scary”. Kurt Vonnegut, cruel? His fictional self seemed so insightful, transcendent, and quick with a joke, as acerbic as his jokes sometimes were, that the thought of him as “scary” seemed comically absurd.
The more I read, however, the more I remembered why Vonnegut was—and still is—one of my favorite writers. It wasn’t just the pacifist thing. It was his light-hearted way of acknowledging what the young me was just finding out: The world seemed to have little purpose and humor, however black and caustic, was as good a way as any to keep the demons at bay.
The year was 1969, the Year of Woodstock, Charles Manson and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. For me, he helped define a generation, my generation. He could be funny and hip, sad and dark. I think the greatest thing to me as a young writer was Vonnegut’s habit of pulling himself into his fictional universe as if he, too, was a fictional character in an alternate and parallel universe. No wonder I thrilled later on to the stories of Jorge Luis Borges or the early poetry of Mark Strand with its sense of self as other.
In 1973, I read Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. I had long desired to write a novel but only after reading his did I attempt to start one. My novel, Wonderwomon Breakfast, still sits on a shelf, half-written although wholly imagined. In 1973 it seemed relevant; the world has come so far that I doubt that it has much meaning at this point. There have been other novels since, and although I thought I’d shed Vonnegut’s influence long ago, a re-reading of one of my many works-in-progress has taught me that as my earliest literary influence, Kurt Vonnegut has been my most important.
So it is with great pleasure that I finished reading the last chapter of Bluebeard and am about to embark on an equally tragic-comic adventure with Dead-Eye Dick.
Heidi Ho.

Welcome, Vicki Thompson to CMF

Can you give us a little biographical statement in your own words?

My name is Vicki, I am 28. Art and music influence every decision I make and everything I do on a daily basis. I considered myself to be an artist, an open book and a person who dives in head first rather than dipping my toes in. (I’m working on that one)

You were born and raised in Hunter?

Yes, I was born and raised here. Specifically, I grew up in Elka Park, NY.

What about living here inspired you to become an artist?

It was the only subject that really clicked for me in grade school. I had an amazing elementary art teacher, Ms Patchsky as well as an inspiring high school instructor, Ms Rita Mary Vining. My parents were also open to encouraging my imagination, which is still free flowing to this day.

Who were your first artistic influences?
I love the work of Kandinsky, Van Gogh and Yayoi Kusama

Did you know much about the Hudson River School of Art when you started painting?

I was relatively familiar with the school, but it was not until recently that I have learned more about the great artists that were rooted within the school. Landscape paintings have never been high up on my list of art that influences me, but as I get older I am learning to appreciate all that art is in every way, shape and form. Every piece of art work is a piece of another. The only way to entirely understand art is to understand the history of art.

When did you leave Hunter, NY for the wider world?
I left as soon as I could as I didn’t feel there was any other option. I went out west and studied art in Lake Tahoe at Sierra Nevada College. I moved to Hawaii and studied ceramics, Japanese and Chinese art. I lived in Denver for three years and became increasing curious about Art Therapy and took several psychology classes. All of the experiences collectively, influence all the art I create today. The most interesting subject to paint are the images my mind produces. The symbolism and different interpretations of the mind vary from person to person and being able to share the atrocious thoughts to the simple, carefree ones allows me to understand the world around me.

What brought you back home?

Right now, I guess I would say it was an intuitive feeling. It has been nice living in many different places, meeting lots of people and then being able to bring back and share what I have learned with my home town. I almost feel like it’s a natural part of life, or even a duty of a sort, to come share experiences with family and home town friends. There is a unique energy in these mountains and for the time being, I am fully embracing it.

How does it feel to be back in your home town and working at the Catskill Mountain Foundation?
I’m not quite sure how I got so lucky to find the one job that allows me to utilize the skills I have acquired while continuing to evolve and grow on the foundation of that knowledge. I am incredibly happy to be a part of the Catskill Mountain Foundation. Everyday I interact with brilliant, inspiring people who share similar passions. It also makes me proud to see how far the arts have come within Tannersville. I am proud to be a part of everything the Catskill Mountain Foundation does.

If you were growing up in Hunter in 2014 and wanted to be an artist, what kinds of activities/inspiration would you want for yourself and your friends?

I would encourage all to embrace every emotion and every thought; the yin and the yang of the mind. I believe anyone can discover a lot about the world around them through being unabashed and free with the art they create. I would also encourage anyone to look into all the workshops and opportunities revolving around art that are available in Hunter (which include a great amount of option!) to work with their creativity. The Catskill Mountain Foundation, as I have learned, offers a lot of opportunities for artists of all ages, so I would definitely explore that.