Artists respond to world events in Barrett's national, juried exhibition: 'New Directions'

This is the 35th year Barrett Art Center has mounted the "New Directions" exhibit, tapping Akili Tommasino, associate curator, Modern & Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, to select the work.

Artists from across the United States sent more than 700 submissions, and Tommasino selected 34 artists from a broad range of artworks, including painting, photography, sculpture, textile, video and works in hybrid mediums.

“I wish to convey my gratitude and congratulations to the exhibitors … their technically masterful and compositionally imaginative paintings set the tone for 'New Directions 2019',” Tommasino said.

Although the exhibit’s subject matter of the artworks varies, the common theme is an artist’s response to the state of today’s world. Visitors to the gallery will be intrigued to see the separate rooms where the artworks are arranged as the themes presented themselves.

"Rappelle Toi" by Lewinale Havette is included in "New Directions 2019" at Barrett Art Center. (Photo: Lewinale Havette/Courtesy photo)

For instance, the first room includes many renditions on the landscape, from “Canyon National Park” by Topher Straus, a shiny sanitized version of a national monument, to Kenneth Batista’s “Aran Island Coast,” a painting that pixelates the beauty of a landscape by the sea. While these views of the landscape shift reality a bit, Warren Lloyd’s “Target Poem,” with attached surveillance camera mounted close to Terry Mason’s “Cover Plate #3,” remind us of today’s watchfulness where surveillance of citizens is the norm.

The next room brings together many of the figurative works in the exhibit.

Thu Nguyen’s “Lost” is a smaller scale work that reflects historical Chinese painting. Unlike traditional portraits, this painting shows a person covering their face while the background is embellished with gold leaf to make the object more precious. Yue Li’s “Zodiac Series-Self Unbound” is also reflecting on Chinese culture, using the narrative of traditional zodiac to predict the future.

Thu Nguyen’s “Lost” is part of the "New Directions 2019" exhibit at Barrett Art Center. (Photo: Thu Nguyen/Courtesy photo)

While both of these feel steeped in anxiety, “Fallen Angel” is straightforward: it is an expressive, painterly depiction of the biblical prophecy alluding to angels cast down from heaven. Lewinale Havette’s hybrid-media piece, “Rappelle Toi,” responds to memory and the artist’s Liberian matriarchal-based heritage. Placed in this exhibit, it brings to mind climate change and remembering our past, so that we may all work to secure our future.

The back gallery holds some of the most sublime abstractions included in the exhibit.

Jacob Kulin’s “Willow I, II, III” is an elegant wall-hung sculpture created from burned and painted willow arranged in a rectangular design. Robert Rustermier’s work created with paraffin wax and paint is luminous and forces the viewer to slow down and focus on beauty. Directly across from his work is Sallie Strand’s “Love and Hate,” a ferocious abstraction painted with hot yellows, oranges and reds.

“Canyon National Park” by Topher Straus is a shiny, sanitized version of a national monument. (Photo: Topher Straus/Courtesy photo)

The centerpiece to this room may be Edmund Ferszt’s “Habits of the Heart: The Odyssey.” In this large-scale watercolor that appears to be on first glance a tapestry-inspired landscape, on closer examination viewers will note that the work is abstracted gestures that appear as figures.

“I consider the paintings as archeological excavations unpacking ideas, feelings and images,” the artist wrote about his artistic practice.

Linda Marston-Reid is an artist, writer, and executive director of Arts Mid-Hudson. The column appears every other week in Enjoy! Contact her at 845-454-3222 or

What: "New Directions 2019"

When: Now through Nov. 9; gallery hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday-Friday; noon-3 p.m., Saturday

Where: Barrett Art Center, 55 Noxon St., Poughkeepsie

Information: Call 845-471-2550; visit

Artist talks: 3-4 p.m., Oct. 12; 3-4 p.m., Nov. 9

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