Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wings of Witness

Almost 18 years ago, Jeffrey Schrier began a project that would define his career. Hearing of a school in Illinois that had collected 11,000,000 soda can tabs to represent lives lost in the Holocaust, Schrier was inspired. He put his creativity, resources, and dedicated volunteers to work and "Wings Of Witness" was the magnificent result. This massive traveling installation is composed of soda can tabs from every U.S. state and eight countries, and draws inspiration from the Pavel Friedmann poem, "The Butterfly" . Through the piece, and through the community participation involved, "Wings of Witness" not only remembers and honors the millions lost in The Holocaust, but also helps to spread a message of hope and community.
As it travels to new homes and audiences, the massive sculpture is taken down and put back together again in new settings. Students, community members, families, those looking for meditative solitude or education; large groups arrive to help install and learn about the 3-D sculpture in each place it goes. Slight variations follow it, new can tabs lost and found, new geographic obstacles; but all in all the message is there: one of love, hope and memory- for one of the largest tragedies of all time.
Schrier begins each self-run workshop with a short video piece that details the history of The his site for more details and videos of workshops and installments.
Holocaust and its victims, and the history of his project. Workshop attendees then break off, after a quick lesson, to piece together the "feathers" (links of tabs) that  make up the wings. To know that you are part of such an amazing work of art that carries such a powerful message is truly awe inspiring. See
On Saturday November 9th, the anniversary of the launch of Kristallnacht, join us for a special event with artist Jeffrey Schrier as he hosts a workshop based on "Unfinished Flight"; a new interpretation of "Wings of Witness"- signature to HVCCA.
See the website for more details. 

Rachel Mason: Prison, Politics, and Process



With a quick internet search of “Hamilton Fish” , you are sure to bring up one of several results.  Either a New York statesman, or a child murderer executed at Sing Sing prison. One distinguished member of Theodore Roosevelt’s cabinet, Hamilton Fish II died on January 15, 1936, and the child killer Hamilton “Albert” Fish, died  the very next day, January 16, 1936. Their deaths were announced on the same front page in The Peekskill Evening Star.   It’s strange how these things work. The strange coincidences and significant insignificances that make up our lives. The film “The Lives of Hamilton Fish” and the story of its creation evidence this bizarre but universal truth. “The Lives of Hamilton Fish” is truly unlike anything you've ever seen before. The (literally) colorful characters, the raw use of setting, the fantastical way Rachel Mason overlays her voice; each never before used component creates a beautiful whole.

    By plot line only the film is interesting; the story of two unrelated men with the same name (Hamilton Fish) who died on the same day, their interconnections (and lack of), and the obsession with this discovery. Looking past the plot, more than anything the film is a piece of art itself. Mason takes her audience on a journey through the lives of these two men, not only through flashbacks and story-telling song, but through their appearance. Each character in her film wears vivid face makeup reminiscent of the abstract era, and each character's individual color scheme and pattern is a reflection of themselves. The films centers on newspaper editor, played by Mason dressed in men's clothing, who discovers the fated newspaper front page- and follows him in his dissent into obsession with the story- and the way it haunts him. His face makeup is a combination of the paint worn by both Hamilton Fish’s - their stories and lives have truly begun to take over his entire being. In his office too, he is framed by two paintings- each made to reflect one of the two Hamilton Fishes. Its the fine attention to detail and the commitment to the film as an outlet of artistic expression that make it so spectacularly obscure.

    To Mason, setting plays as large a role in the film as the characters themselves. Site-specificity played a major role in the filming, in every sense of the concept. The eerie and prolific cemetery scenes in the film were acted just feet from Hamilton Fish II’s grave. Additionally, Mason was able to gain access to the historically significant Moris Jumel mansion. In a strange link (the time of filming and pre-filming seems to be full of them), this mansion was originally owned by the infamous Aaron Burr- who killed Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton Fish’s namesake. The house represents the historical significance of the Fish Family, a wealthy and politically involved power- one that still exists today. Hamilton Fish V (the name has clearly carried throughout generations) is the former editor-in-chief of The Nation Magazine, and is known for its socially engaged and politically minded writing. Coincidentially, (again!) Rachel Mason’s close friend worked at said magazine, her first personal link to the story. Other connections were soon to come.

    To Mason, prison life and reform, especially in Sing Sing, is an issue close to heart. For years she volunteered with “Rehabilitation Through The Arts” as an art teacher, working alongside Sing Sing inmates; bringing them examples of works of art that inspired her, learning their stories, and seeing firsthand what prison is really like. Because of her work at  Sing Sing she understood how to access the necessary chain of command to request access and was able to shoot a scene in an active prison hallway with a real guard in the shot, further adding to true rawness that accompanies her film.

“Location, location, location” as they say in real estate- and apparently in film as well.  For Mason, and both Hamilton Fishes, this location was the Hudson Valley. Such a location-central piece needs to be shown in its “homeland” - and it took two years for this to happen. After applying to film festivals around the world including festivals in the New York region,  Mason was finally contacted by a producer in Hong Kong. This came in the form the “Pineapple Underground Film Festival”, which was extremely interested in Rachel Mason’s work, so much so that they flew her out to perform alongside the film. This began an entirely new approach to the film.

   
“Before that, I had never thought about performing with the film…” Mason says. But after that? Mason knew she had found the missing piece. Everything came together- the piece as a whole had fully developed. Mason was fully invested in the piece- it was a reflection of her more than anything.

    Mason says that the film more than anything is her perspective on the two men and their stories. “In a way, its a film about my own journey.” she says. And that it is. Mason became the editor her film follows; her obsession with the story took over her life. Even after she had completely finished editing, the fascination with the story still remained. “I had a personal connection  to Hamilton Fish II (the statesmen)”- She had met with relatives and descendants, had even viewed his home and grave. But no direct descendants could be found for the murderer. Understandably so. Not many people want to be linked to a relative infamous for the dismemberment of children.  But in 2011, Mason was given a direct link. Just not in the medium she had expected.

    Even now, the name Leiby Kletzgy carries weight. But at the time of her final edit, and the birth of her son, it was a name that rang out from every television, radio, or newspaper headline. The little boy kidnapped from his Brooklyn neighborhood, missing for days, and found dismembered. “THIS was the link” Mason says. “I was in the hospital having just given birth to my son when I saw the story on TV.” At the moment, with the new sensation being a mother brings, Mason had her link. She hunted down the man incarcerated for Kletzgy’s murder, Levi Aron, and contacted him. They began a back and forth letter exchange. There was no stronger of a way to get into the head of a killer; hear his story, know his motives, learn his illness. The personal contact she had wanted in order to develop Hamilton “Albert” Fish (the murderer), had come. And stronger did her involvement grow.

    Personally, I haven’t met many people as invested in their work as Rachel Mason. She prides each rave review received (especially this one  in which her film is called “The Best of 2014”- something I cannot deny) and loves the work she does. The process of creation was unusual and slow. “Some people don't quite understand it. But the people who get it really GET it. They become obsessed too.”

    The process of creation was unusual, so its distribution must be too. The entire film is composed of 21 songs (sung by Rachel Mason)- but the visual effects are so important as well. What medium is best for the publication of this work? Possibly something not yet created. Something new entirely. But Mason says she's open to ideas. As a whole, the piece is beautifully done. Aesthetically pleasing, mentally stimulating, history-buff enticing…more interesting than anything you’ll see in a theatre. You can’t quite call it a film, because it is so much more than that. Its a work of art.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lives of Hamilton Fish

Our "Lives of Hamilton Fish" screening and performance was a success! Over 60 people showed up to enjoy fish chowder and sides courtesy of Birdsall house, and an amazing performance by Rachel Mason.
Signature to this performance, Mason included props from the film- displaying the original newspaper article and figurines featured in the film outside the viewing space. Mason also incorporated a wind chime, typewriter, and other objects into her performance. Moving through the aisle, standing at her podium, displayed on screen- Mason filled with space.
After it ended, audience members were left speechless. Applause roared through the intimate crowd and questions began. The viewers loved and were entranced by what they had just seen.
Look for an exclusive interview-based piece coming soon- which analyzes Rachel Mason's creative process- both in life and in her film.
For more info on the film itself, such as future screenings, please see livesofhamiltonfish.com or rachelannmason.com


Patrons enjoying a delicious meal courtesy of Birdsall House and John Sharp
Table outside of viewing space, with props and documents from/relating to the film
Rachel Mason performing as the newspaper editor alongside her film

What Matters Mural

We are overjoyed to announce that the "What Matters?" mural by Lana Yu, in collaboration with HVCCA and Arts Westchester, has gone up in Peekskill! With the work of hundreds of vvolunteers, young and old, the mural was painted, pieced together and hung the encouraging work on James St. The bright colors, positive messages, and community support really emphasis what Peekskill is really about- community. Click here to watch a short video of the "unveiling" along with an interesting look at the process. 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lives of Hamilton Fish (Chowder)

In a special collaboration with the ever-delicious and ever-generous Birdsall House here in Peekskill, NY, HVCCA will present Rachel Mason's "The Lives of Hamilton Fish" paired with a meal of a similar name. Guests will enjoy fish chowder courtesy of March Walker and craft beer courtesy of John Sharp at Birdsall House while viewing Mason's acclaimed "karaoke rock opera". Mason will be performing live with the film and also hosting a Q&A and reception at the museum. 

Join us on October 26th from 5 to 7  for food, film, fine craft beer, and a night full of fun. Tickets are only $20 for members and $25 for nonmembers, and includes beer, chowder, side dishes, and a ticket to the show and reception. 

Prepayment is required so call 914-788-0100 or email info@hvcca.org for more ticket information.

Hope to see you there! 


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Artist Update: Asya Reznikov



We are pleased to announce that Asya Reznikov, a HVCCA artist, has two upcoming projects! Asya joined our Peekskill Artist Club in 2013 during our "Power of Place" Exhibit and showed 5 films in the video room here during Peekskill Project V in February- March 2013. 

 From October 2nd to November 1st Asya is having a solo exhibition entitled “Coming and Going and Sitting Still” at the Digital Media Gallery at Lycoming College. 
On October 5th, Asya will be showing her film “Baggage” ON, not in, The Omni Dallas Hotel in Dallas, Texas. As part of Expanded Cinema at The Dallas Video Fest, the video will be projected onto the building’s facade from 5pm to 8pm.
If you’re nearby, these two showcases are most definitely worth checking out!
See the artist’s website for more: asyareznikov.com

Thursday, October 2, 2014

NEW BLOG FEATURE

Stay tuned for a new feature of the HVCCA blog!

Starting next week, the museum will begin a new feature called "Interview with an Artist" in which a question will be poised to two or three different HVCCA artists. We'll post the results here and see what we get- should be interesting!
Some working questions include:
"Who are your biggest inspirations?"
"What are you trying to say through your work?"
"How important is environment to your artistic process?"

Comment below with any potential questions you'd like asked or any specific artists you'd want to hear from!