2008-06-20 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio Rockaway Artists Alliance

Visions Into A Distant Culture
Commentary by Susan Hartenstein

"Secret Thoughts," Penelope Atheras, Medium: Clay Sculpture. One of the pieces to be auctioned off at RAA's Art Auction this weekend. "Secret Thoughts," Penelope Atheras, Medium: Clay Sculpture. One of the pieces to be auctioned off at RAA's Art Auction this weekend. Sacred dolls that hold special powers; a wedding scene populated by the recreated traditional costumed dolls and decorations of a distant culture; photographic images bringing the reality of those traditions into flesh and blood human form; a holy "red corner." This is only part of the exhibition, "Russian Folk Art: Rag-baby Festival," now on view at Rockaway Artists Alliance's sTudio 6 Gallery through June 22.

Seen here for the first time in the United States, this exhibition is the result of a collaboration between the Russian Ethnographic Museum in St. Petersburg, one of the oldest and largest museums of its kind in Europe, and the ethnographic organization, Paraskeva. Ethnography is the study and systematic recording of human cultures.

The twenty-year old club is the first public organization in St. Petersburg to carry out the study and recreation of traditional handmade folk crafts. Paraskeva's research has revealed the techniques of the traditional handicrafts and their social and religious significance. Guiding the viewer through the exhibit is Victoria Dziebel, who worked for the Russian Ethnographic Museum. She recounts the fascinating history, meaning and power of the original craft objects and the cultures these reproduced objects represent. An artist living in Brooklyn, Dziebel became familiar with the Rockaway Artists Alliance. It was her idea to bring this unique collection to RAA's gallery. We are proud she chose us.

The dolls have been created with strict adherence to the methods researched by Parakseva, including preparation of the materials themselves. They represent various regions of Russia that include Belarus and areas near the Finnish border. Dolls made before the late 19th and early 20th centuries were faceless sacred ritual dolls, not toys. They were fabricated without the use of needles or scissors. Dolls made after this period were used as toys, but they also provided protection. "The Wedding" is an installation of a variety of dolls and decorated objects that tell the story of and were used in Russian weddings. The installation is accompanied by an old photograph of an actual Russian bride and groom. Old photographs are also juxtaposed with other sections of the collection.

Some of the dolls in "Russian Folk Art" were created using traditional techniques, but with original designs. "Valenki" is a display of souvenir handmade miniature winter boots in traditional designs.

Paraskeva derives its name from the holy martyr Saint Paraskeva, the patroness of female crafts and occupations in Russia; in particular, the crafts of spinning and weaving.

A wedding couple crafted in the shape of a cross. Faceless dolls whose bodies are formed by a simple cylindrical wrapping. Dolls' clothes made from the hems of old dresses to provide the protection of Mother Earth. Allow "Russian Folk Art" curator and organizer Victoria Dziebel to weave for you the full story of these craft objects that provide a window into Russian societies and cultures of other eras. And be sure to ask her about "Kukla" and "the red corner."

"Good and Plenty" presents a second look at some excellent artwork from previous RAA shows.

A wide variety of disciplines are on view from some of RAA's finest artists.

RAA Fundraiser Art Auction: June 22, 1-4 p.m. in sTudio 7 Gallery. Artwork on view through that date; bidding during gallery hours through June 22.

Adult Watercolor Class: Fridays June 20 and 27, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in sTudio 6 Gallery. Beginners and advanced students welcome.

Fee: $35 per class.

Bring supplies or be provided with them for an extra $5. To sign up and for details, call instructor Ellen Hoyt: 718-338-7281.

Saturday, June 21: Make Music New York citywide concerts. RAA stages at the boardwalk and Beach 106 Street, Beach 96 Street and Beach 86 Street. Visit: www.makemusicny.org.

Free Gallery Sitter's Event: Saturday, June 21 during gallery hours in sTudio 7 Gallery: Eileen Morissey will present a discussion of how to sell artwork online.

Starting Thursday, June 26: Summer Moons returns.

CU@RoCA. RAA CONTACT INFO:

Phone: 718-474-0861; Fax: 718-474-4373; e-mail: rockart116@aol.com; website: www.rockawayartistsalliance.org

Fort Tilden Highlights

NEW EXHIBITIONS: "Good and Plenty," the best work by RAA artists, revisited. On view through Sunday, June 22. Location: sTudio 7 Gallery, RoCA @ Fort Tilden, GNRA. "Russian Folk Art." On view through June 22. sTudio 6 Gallery, RoCA. For details see column. For both exhibits: Gallery hours: Saturdays 12-4 p.m., Sundays 1-4 p.m. and by appointment. Free admission. Event reception: Sunday, June 15, 1-3 p.m. FUNDRAISING ART AUCTION: June 22, 1-4 p.m., sTudio 7 Gallery. See column for more details. (FREE) THURSDAY OPEN MIC MUSIC NIGHTS: Every Thursday, 8 p.m.-12 a.m. in sTudio 7 Gallery, RoCA. Jamming with great local and non-local musicians and singers; open mic. LIFE DRAWING CLASS with live model. Every Thursday, 8-10 p.m. in sTudio 6 Gallery, RoCA @ Fort Tilden. Fee: $20 per class. No preregistration necessary. Instructor: Geoff Rawling. PAINTING CLASSES FOR ADULTS: Tuesday nights, 7-9 p.m.; Thursday mornings, 10 a.m. - 12 noon. sTudio 7, RoCA @ Fort Tilden. $15 per class, supplies included. Instructor: Geoff Rawling. FRIDAY NIGHT IMPROV: "No Shame Theater" performs theater games, improvised scenes based on written works; all are invited to join in.

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