September 10, 2012

Adirondack Arts Festival, September 8

This event, titled Adirondack Arts: A Place to Dream, actually ran from Friday evening & continued into Sunday morning, but I drove up to Lake Placid on Saturday morning, to get there for the the presentation, "A Place to Photograph." Mark Bowie gave an enlightened talk on the mid-19th Century Adirondack photographer Seneca Ray Stoddard that led into the story of the photographic work of his grandfather Richard Dean. Dean became famous for his postcard images that literally sold millions of copies, documenting & spreading far & wide images of the Adirondack region, the mountains & lakes as well as the tourist attractions. Tourism & its growth in the region was a theme that ran from the images of Stoddard, up into the 20th Century images. Later, Bowie returned to discuss night photography in the digital age, a compelling slide presentation on seeing what you can't normally see.

John Radigan, founder & Director of the Adirondack Photography Institute, gave a short history of 20th century landscape photography, starting with Ansel Adams (who never visited the Adirondacks) up through the latest young photographers, such as Mark Kurtz, Zak Clothier & Shaun Odak, working today. He also conducted a brief interview with young photographer Shelby McGill, who works, like many of the younger generation, with smart phone cameras & apps that allow the manipulation of the images in the camera.

The afternoon session, "A Place to Write," was introduced by Nathalie Thill, the Executive Director of the Adirondack Center for Writing, as a "performance" rather than a lecture. Rich Frost, in the guise of Orson "Mountain" Phelps gave a literary tour of the Adirondacks, beginning with Bob Pettee, founder & Managing Director of the Pendragon Theater in Saranac Lake reading an old, humorous piece, "How I Killed a Bear." He was followed by storyteller Jeannine Laverty doing stories by Adirondack poet Jeanne Robert Foster (1879 - 1970). After more tours through the early years of the Adirondack literature of the 20th Century by Mountain Phelps, Bob Pettee returned to read from Russell Banks' (how can one have a talk on literature in the Adirondacks without Russell Banks?) great novel of John Brown, Cloudsplitter.

Later in the evening I attended a showing of the 1920's silent film, The Flapper, starring Olive Thomas. It was shown in the nearby Palace Theater which dates from 1927 & still has the original & restored theater organ. Tonight the musical accompaniment was by Jeffery Barker, a stellar tour-de-force which made one feel as if we were indeed back in the era of the great silent films.

It was a great reminder of how much Art is thriving in the North Country & what a pleasant way it is to spend a weekend. There are many fine restaurants & shops & hotels strung along Main St. & up Saranac Ave., not to mention the scenic beauty of Mirror Lake & the surrounding mountains. But still it has the walk-around city feel I so much enjoy. (now waiting from my check from the Chamber of Commerce).

Of course on the way back on Sunday morning I had to make my own attempt at Adirondack landscape photography.  As my friend Bert once said (sort of), "If you've seen one mountain, you've seen them all."

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