Roots, rock: Lew Wilson draws attention to vanishing scenes of natural beauty in photographs like “Were you there with the Colorado.”
On Saturday, April 5, the park invites the public in from the cold to celebrate its current artist in residence, Lew Wilson, and his exhibit of photography and paintings, Two Rivers — Two Lands: An American Passage. Wilson was a natural choice for the exhibition committee. His dedication to environmental issues echoes co-founder Dorothy Riester’s mission for the park: “To conserve the land while offering a place for emerging and practicing artists to create, exhibit or perform their art.”
Wilson devotes himself to capturing the beauty of nature with his paintings and photographs, emphasizing the fragility of that beauty. This ongoing project explores many waterways under threat by human development. Wilson concentrated his efforts for a time on raising awareness about the Everglades ecosystem in Florida.
In one particularly moving image, a deep blue sky is reflected in mirror-smooth water. Blackness spreads from the tree line’s silhouette at the horizon, where it bathes in the last rose light of day, to the left edge of the frame where patches of swamp grasses and stray branches disappear into the night. All is still. The “Fisherman” in the title is nowhere to be seen. But he could be there, or we could be him, quietly drinking in the scene as it slowly fades away.
“Beyond the Edge” captures the Gulf of Mexico gently lapping at a pristine beach. The title subtly encourages us to look beyond clichéd beauty and see the erosion of a border by ocean water encroaching on swamp habitat. In discussions with the exhibition committee, Wilson expressed his belief in a powerful role for artists. “It was our work with the lens that helped people understand the Everglades, and that brought about political change.”
Recently Wilson spent time exploring the Hudson River Valley, inspired by mid-19th-century plein-air painters like Thomas Cole. Lush, idealized vistas like Cole’s “The Oxbow” helped stir a national desire to protect our natural treasures. Wilson’s two-month residency at the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park, which began March 2, will allow him to pursue this tradition, helping us appreciate the majesty in our own back yard.
Hilltop House is an ideal setting for this show. Its design exemplifies Frank Lloyd Wright’s belief that structures should exist in harmony with their natural surroundings. Steel girders provide the necessary strength for expansive windows. Boards reclaimed from local barns and a conical stucco fireplace keep it from looking industrial. Personal touches are everywhere: built-in couches, handmade tiles on the counters and floors, keepsakes from around the world bristling from every shelf. The hexagonal library offers a spectacular view through the woods to Cazenovia Lake to the west and Oneida Lake to the north
This house, once the year-round home of Riester, who retired in 1996, and her husband Bob, now deceased, has seen Stone Quarry Hill Art Park grow from a private dream to an ambitious non-profit organization and the pride of a community. Currently it serves as the nerve center for volunteers and dedicated staff members seeking to maintain Riester’s vision. They are actively seeking a new generation of individual, community and corporate donors so that boons like the artist-in-residency program can continue.
Two Rivers – Two Lands continues through April 30 in the Hilltop House at Stone Quarry Hill Art Park, open daily from noon to 4 p.m. Wilson will use profits from the sale of his work to continue exploring the area’s waterways. The opening reception will be Saturday, April 5, 1 to 5 p.m., with an artist talk and demonstration at 2 p.m. The event is open to the public with the Art Park’s general admission of $5 per car. For more information, call 655-3196 or visit www.stonequarryhillartpark.org.