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Art Exhibition at The Pine Hills Library

November 8, 2014

by Vanessa Langdon

An interactive exhibition opened Friday at the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library. The exhibit, Written Response Requested, features four artists and allows for the audience to respond to the art. The Pine Hills Branch of the Albany Public Library has been bringing artwork into the neighborhood for the past four years.

Photographs on display in the exhibit by Rob O’Neil. (Vanessa Langdon)

Photographs on display in the exhibit by Rob O’Neil. (Vanessa Langdon)

The library’s first interactive exhibit features a combination of both images and written words with an audience participation component. The show will be on display for free at the 517 Western Ave location until March 21.

“Our art doesn’t have to be something you have to passively observe, you’re brining your own narrative to it,” said Judie Gilmore, art exhibition coordinator, Albany Public Library, “we’re really interested in showcasing art that isn’t just seen on the wall.”

This exhibition, combining art and writing, started because “we wanted to include the writing community in the work and use the space to foster some kind of an exchange in what we’re showing and some other creative community, and connect with Saint Rose because we’re so close,” said Gilmore of the diverse showcase.

The library enlisted 24 writers who each created a prompt for one of the 24 pieces. The prompts allow the audience to add something to the collection through their own interpretation of the art by responding to the work on a form online or in person at the exhibit. The audience may then enter their interpretations into a juried contest until 11:59 p.m. on January 25 online, or hand delivered to the library by 5:00 p.m. January 24.

The contest portion of the interactive exhibition is open to anyone over the age of 12. The entries of written works, of 300 words or less, are broken into two categories – young adult and adult. The entries will be judged by a panel of the prompt writers and then displayed in the library and read at the library throughout the second portion of the exhibit.

Four of the 24 prompt writers, all professors at the College of Saint Rose, were chosen to answer their own prompts to a piece of art. Each of the four writers were assigned to an artist and created a written piece to be displayed alongside the work of their artist.

This is the fourth art exhibition at the library, the only branch of the Albany Public Library that holds such events. The library has two art exhibits each year, a winter and summer exhibition, with a month off for change over and preparation.

Preparations for the exhibits begin about five months before the show will premiere with brainstorming, studio visits and research. “They’re very time intensive but if you’ve done it well they look effortless. They look like they’ve always belonged on the wall,” said Gilmore, art exhibition director for the library.

Written Response Requested will be on display at the Pine Hills Library until March 21.(Vanessa Langdon)

Written Response Requested will be on display at the Pine Hills Library until March 21.(Vanessa Langdon)

The show was co-curated by Gilmore and Daniel Nester, associate professor of English at the college. “I was a writer wrangler,” said Nester who was in charge of the writers and the prompt aspects of the exhibit.

He was paired with artist Darcie Abbatiello whose artwork depicts missing women paired with an animal. He responded to his prompt asking observers to use found text and create a narrative out of 10 sentences containing the word ‘lost’ and then 10 sentences with ‘found.’

When writing his response Nester did a search through his book he is finishing and found lots of sentences containing ‘lost’ but not so many about ‘found’, “I guess I’m lost more than I’m found,” said Nester.

Nester thinks this show is special “because writers block is real, come here and get it fixed. It’s also a challenge, can you write something for every piece?”

Abbatiello has been working on the series of artwork showcased since 2012. She found a missing person database and chose women that she felt a connection to, “they reminded me of myself,” said Abbatiello. Her work features a drawing of the women and an animal collaged to the work. The animals are used by Abbatiello as witnesses, “I’ve always loved animals and I’ve always though of them as witnesses. Wild animals just out and about in the woods as voiceless witnesses, even domestic animals in domestic violence,” said Abbatiello.

The Brundgie/Perrillo Duo performed live at the opening of the art exhibition on Friday.(Vanessa Langdon)

The Brundgie/Perrillo Duo performed live at the opening of the art exhibition on Friday.(Vanessa Langdon)

She chose the animals because of a connection with the missing women’s story. Either a bird connected with the state, a moose because of the creation of the Vermont state police after the disappearance of one of the subjects, or a pigeon because one of the women was a journalist in a big city.

Abbatiello has never been involved with a show like this but thinks “it’s a great idea to combine artists and writers in a nice cycle of thought.”

The shows attract thousands of community members, those who go to the library just to experience the art, and library patrons who might otherwise not be exposed to this type of artwork.

“It’s been wonderful and gratifying to see how much the community likes and appreciates that we’re trying to bring something a little different. We want this to be invested in the community,” said Mary Coon, head of the Pine Hills and Bach braches of the Albany Public Library.

The library funded exhibit will be on display through March 21 and is free and open to the public during library hours. The library staff hopes that the community responds as well to this exhibit as it has to the three others.

“Libraries have great potential to open people’s eyes to all kinds of different things in the world not just through books but through all kinds of experiences and so the diverse programing that the library does at all branches is reflected here at Pine Hills,” said Gilmore. -30-

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