While previous Palmer Gallery shows have highlighted the work of a single artist, such as the case with the recent collection from Marieken Cochius, the gallery’s new exhibition has a different task—to showcase the work of a collective. The gallery is filled with pieces of varying styles, themes and mediums, representing the many artistic minds on display. The LongReach Arts at 40 installation just opened in the gallery this past Thursday, Sept. 22, and if its goal was to celebrate its diverse set of contributors, then it surely accomplished this mission.
2022 marks the 40th anniversary of LongReach Arts’ founding, hence the “at 40” in the title. The collaborative began in earnest in 1982, first serving as a group of creatives that formed over the summer to showcase their work in the Hudson Valley. Today, the group remains steadfast in its commitment to connect its artists and patrons with the local community, and currently includes 16 artists.
The exhibition’s central piece, located by the text on the wall titling it, is from the late Elayne Seaman. Seaman, the founder of this group, unfortunately passed away earlier this year. She is succeeded by her daughter Donna and the extremely talented cohort of artists. The piece “Chrysanthemums” instantly attracts the eye, the viewer immediately aware of the stark contrast between the white, detailed flowers and the black background. It breaks away from typical flowery pieces, choosing to be understated and monochromatic instead of indulgent and bright. It is a stunning work of art to highlight the living memory of a late, great woman.
The equally striking piece, “The Secret Life of Throw-aways,” features typically discarded household plastics and restructures them into a beautiful hanging installation. Comprising 24 pieces in total, such as bottle caps, old toys, etc., artist Trina Greene urges the viewer to examine the piece closely in order to notice the interactions between all of the individual pieces within the work and the ways in which they combine into the cohesive whole. The personal nature of the piece, as well as her emphasis on close viewing (literally), was a fresh and welcoming way to present art as something for viewers to interact with and consider, rather than as something lofty and unapproachable.
The exhibition also offers pieces of a more abstract, thematically unspecified nature. One work of art features a combination of colors, with blues, greens and reds meshing together to form a painting that feels aquatic, teeming with life. Other paintings utilize similarly colorful designs, providing a plentiful mix of artistic styles and inspirations.
As a whole, a visit to the LongReach Arts exhibition feels like entering into a conversation, a discussion with a group of people each showing their true colors, even in the occasional black and white piece. It’s an exposition of the talents of a group–each piece reflects this diversity in its unique nature. However, if there is one common thread underlying the installation, it would be the de-emphasis of the singular path in favor of the freedom of choice. Art does not have one set of criteria it must meet. It does not need to communicate in any specific way or through one specific style. A structure of overlooked plastics can appeal to the same ideal as a painting of chrysanthemums in black and white, namely the validity of many walks of life and the importance of accepting and embracing other perspectives.
“LongReach Arts at 40: A Celebration” is currently located in the Palmer Gallery and will run until Oct. 20.