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By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – “It’s just so nice there; everyone always says hello to you.”
Paulien Lethen’s eyes light up as she describes what strikes her the most about living in the City of Newburgh. The Director of the Holland Tunnel Gallery, located on 46 Chambers Street in the City of Newburgh, relocated her art space here back in May, 2017, and joyfully recounts it as one of the best decisions of her life. Originally located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the Holland Tunnel faced a crossroads when the area suddenly became super gentrified, “a developers paradise,” laden with high rise buildings and an influx of yuppies and money.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable there anymore,” recollected Lethen, whose good friend Judy Thomas who had shown in her Gallery told her about an ideal spot she resided in to check out, Newburgh. “I immediately fell in love with it, as it was right near the Hudson River, and being from the Netherlands, I was drawn to the water as well as the houses and history, which includes a Dutch Reformed Church I would love to see become an art center some day.”
In the meantime, Lethen brought her art vision to Chambers Street, recreating the artist-centered as well as all-inclusive vibe and mission of the Holland Tunnel right here in the Hudson Valley. Several exhibits have since taken up residence in the space. Most recently, “The Narrative of Things” inhabits the gallery. A four artist venue, the exhibit, running from March 5 – April 10, kicked off with a well-attended Opening last Saturday night. One of the show’s contributors is also its curator, Tamara Rafkin of Newburgh.
“The entire show revolves around the way we attach stories to objects in our lives,” explained Rafkin about the multi-media exhibit, which was inspired by her own work as well as interest in cultural anthropology along with stories we tell. “Some of those stories are about works an artist was getting rid of during the Pandemic; while another is about lost objects and why they are left behind, a third collection captures stories of one’s life and how memory and identity grow as a person does, and a fourth ensemble tells stories about the environment using second hand boxes.”
Each of the artists in the show was on hand, interacting with guests Saturday evening. Standing alongside their art, each could be seen discussing, with both animation and passion, his or her craft.
“After reaching age 60, I decided to reflect upon my life, choosing images from each year,” said Shari Diamond, the artist behind “The 60 Year Project” and whose pieces are deeply rooted in the very specific, intimate process she uses to approaches them. “We know time passes, but do we really notice it?” Diamond added, “So, I’m looking at stories of what’s gained and lost.”
Another contributing artist, Kathleen Vance of Kingston, is behind the four “Traveling Landscapes” which center upon the preciousness of the environment.
“Each piece is in a case that protects the landscape inside it,” said Vance. “So each story is about the need to take care of that open landscape in some way.”
Finally, another local artist, Norm Magnusson, constructed “23 Stories,” an ensemble of things he was trying to unload, but not before creating an intriguing, fictitious back narrative to each one’s origins. Whether it’s an old baseball that was run over by a landlord’s vehicle, a photo of a dog or piece of porcelain- both with their own unique journeys- the over 20 pieces come to life with the individual, detailed barcode accounts next to each that can be scanned and read.
In addition to a mission guided by empowering artists to curate shows, Lethen, along with her Associate Director Thomas and all who contribute to The Holland Tunnel, further seek to add music and poetry performance to their creative offerings as well as incorporate sculptures, and continue to work with children and the entire community.
“We really want everyone to come here and experience this gallery in some way,” said Lethen. “The possibilities of what this place can become are really endless.”
The Holland Tunnel Gallery is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5 pm and by appointment.
This Saturday, March 12 at 6pm, one of “The Narrative of Things” Artists, Magnusson, will present “Norms Memory Sale,” when he delivers the detailed accounts he wrote about each of the pieces composing his “23 Stories.”
To learn more about this month’s exhibit, this weekend’s performance and-or the Gallery itself, log onto: www.hollandtunnelgallery.com.