Outdoor Sculpture Event
Comes to University Settlement, Beacon

The Putnam County News & Recorder
by Wendy Kagen | Wednesday, July 31, 2002

They gave me a map and set me loose in the enchanted forest. It was a week before the crowds would come and I was alone (almost) at a sneak preview of "Earthtones," the open-air sculpture show at University Settlement's bucolic Beacon campus. If I was tense when I arrived - it was mid-work-week, and I had deadlines on my mind - all my cares drifted away on a breeze that swept through Richard Bruce's "Silent Prayer Flags." Ethereal swathes of color strung up between pairs of tall trees, the prayer flags lightened my spirit and bid me welcome to a show that mixes art and nature to luminous effect.

"Earthtones" - which opens this Saturday - represents the work of some 26 artists (most of them local) engaging the landscape in a celebration of earth and art. Presenting the show is a triad of Beacon-based arts groups: Collaborative Concepts, ecoartspace, and U.S. Arts, the community artists' venue at University Settlement. The latter group offered to host the event on a portion of its 90 acre grounds, which encompass an active summer camp for kids.

Children are not the only ones at play at University Settlement this summer. The "Earthtones" artists have tapped into a spirit of fun that infuses every piece in the rambling, art-scape exhibit. Some works invite your entrance into an Alice-in-Wonderland interior. When I wandered into Alex Uribe's "Whimsical Environment"- an outdoor room peopled with stone pilings and furnished with benches - I half expected to join a hare and a dormouse in a tea party. I went next into Simon Draper' s "Puzzleblind," an enormous cube with puzzle-piece cutouts that frame the landscape and sky.

A gallery seems like a cooped-up, unnatural place for artworks after you've ambled through this outdoor exhibition. Here, a stroll along a path leads to "My Heart Knows What the River Knows," Kerry Mills' lyrical installation of scrap wood, found objects, and door-ways that open to midsummer lushness. A few steps away, an oversize cast-bronze flower - the centerpiece of Thom Joyce's "Solitude's Gift" - blooms triumphantly in the woods.

Perhaps the most startling sculptures are those born from the landscape itself, like Brian Higley's "Osage Red," which accentuates the stately beauty of a fallen tree. Sculpted onsite, in a tiny clearing framed by trees, the four graceful figures in Emil Alzamora's "Foundations" seem to have emerged from the earth that supports them.

"Earthtones" opens at 1 pm on Saturday, August 3, with an afternoon-long reception until 6 pm (Rain date: August 10.) Call University Settlement for directions: 845-838-1516. The show will be open to the public every Saturday thereafter from 3 to 6 pm, and by appointment, until August 31. A related exhibit - "Sticks and Stones"- also opens on August 3 at Collaborative Concepts (348 Main Street, Beacon), with a reception from 6 to 9 pm.