On June 4th, the Northern Westchester Artists Guild (NWAG) kicked off their month-long Art Around Town exhibition. NWAG members will be displaying their artwork in participating stores in Chappaqua until June 29th. The opening festivities began at 5 p.m. A tent was set up on the corner of King Street and North Greeley Avenue where walking-tour maps and directories were provided to locate specific artists with their respective venues. To add to the festivities, participating merchants offered drinks, appetizers, and desserts to all who entered to view the exhibits.
The nonprofit organization, NWAG, is still in its nine-month infancy yet is growing at a rapid pace with approximately 50 members to date. The idea of forming an artists’ group came to lifelong Chappaqua resident and artist Leslie Weissman while out for a walk one day in the spring of 2014. Weissman shared her vision with fellow artist Peg Sackler, and, by September 2014, a meeting took place around Weissman’s kitchen table along with approximately 15 fellow members. “The energy was amazing….We began to function as a collective; tossing out ideas, suggesting new members, creating opportunities, developing ideas for marketing material, and determining a dues structure,” says Weissman.
The spirit of an artist is captured in their work. Artists are creative and bold in their expression. Yet, choosing to exhibit one’s artwork is, perhaps, the boldest thing an artist can do. NWAG is made up of a group of multitalented, multifaceted artists. When you begin to peel back the layers that make up one particular artist, the word artist just doesn’t suffice. On her website, NWAG member Mindy Kombert simply describes herself as a maker, but for Kombert, being a maker encompasses a whole lot–a potter, a painter, a photographer, a scrapbook quilter, a graphic designer, a knitter, just to name a few.
Painter Cindy Sacks has a prime spot. Her venue? The Horace Greeley House on King Street. Sacks expresses how grateful she is to the New Castle Historical Society for exhibiting some of her paintings now on display throughout the first floor of the historical site. Sacks’ watercolor and oil paintings appear in regional exhibitions, galleries, and in corporate and private collections.
Another NWAG member exhibiting some of her work is longtime Chappaqua resident and weaver Barbara Lyons Pickel. Her intricate handwoven pieces take many forms: fine linens, blankets, rugs, scarves, and bags. Her studio? Her home. What was once the music room, where her children (now grown) used to practice their violin, viola, and cello, is now her weaving room. In addition to a table loom, a substantially large 39” wide Swedish loom occupies a good portion of the sunlit space and easily stands alone as its own art form. For larger projects, an even wider 54” loom resides in her basement. Pickel took up weaving eight years ago after daughter Molly Pickel, then 14, returned home from a summer arts and craft camp. Molly knew weaving would be something her mother would enjoy. Pickel immediately searched for an adult workshop that would also allow a 14-year-old. She finally found a five-day workshop at Vavstuga Weaving School. The mother-daughter bonding trip instantaneously sparked Pickel’s love of weaving. She was drawn to weaving for its variety of design options as well as the planning aspect. Setting up the loom is a complicated and important part of the design process. “When I begin planning a new project, I have to make decisions regarding the function, the fiber, and the structure before I even begin to consider color choices,” says Pickel. “Every step of the process must be done precisely, or the final process will be unsatisfying,” she adds. Pickel continues to master her craft in the Scandinavian tradition while incorporating new design and textile techniques. In 2012, Pickel took a workshop in Fujino, Japan, exploring several Japanese textile techniques including indigo dyeing, shibori, katazome, and kumihimo.
Guild member Helene Ocko’s abstracts and florals are as colorful and whimsical as she is. Her studio? Her kitchen…and backyard for larger pieces. For Ocko, painting is a joyful process. “I don’t like to explore the dark places of my emotions in my artwork,” says Ocko. “If I want to do that, I’ll talk about it…not paint it,” she adds. Ocko works in acrylics and experiments with various textures and uses unconventional techniques. Her sense of humor comes out when describing what went into making a particular piece. It’s not unusual for her to use random tools like a fork, a comb, a dog brush, or some crinkled plastic wrap to create texture and movement in her work. In addition to exhibiting in town, some of Ocko’s larger pieces are on display at Northern Westchester Hospital.
To view all NWAG artists and their profiles, click here: nwartistsguild.org/#!artists/c1sqx
To download the list of all NWAG artists exhibiting work and their respective venues, click here: artist_merchant_location list (2)
By Janine Crowley Haynes, Chappaqua resident and freelance writer
Photos by Michelle Hecht