Last Saturday, I relieved Joan Spring from her chilly post at The
Green Bridge. I actually didn't recognize her, she was stored so
deeply in her hooded winter jacket. Joan had volunteered to stand at-
the-ready to inform the public about the artists The Arts Center had
invited to Old Forge for the weekend. Guide book in hand, and an
improvised schpeel about the auction silently rehearsing itself, I now
tucked myself into tweed, and stood at the ready.
Joan pointed out Ingrid Van Slyke, working away at her easel, and
mentioned that another artist was parked at the other end of the
bridge. Without haste, Joan then made a break for her vehicle and
escaped into the cold morning, no doubt with the heater pinned on high.
I introduced myself to Ingrid and couldn't help but notice that she
was visibly freezing. Ingrid forced a frozen smile and returned her
focus to the pastel landscape in front of her. Eventually Sandy
Hildreth carried her easel, filled with oil paints, and positioned
herself next to Ingrid. As an excuse of chivalry, I offered to get
the girls warm coffee and a snack from Artist Headquarters, at
Niccolls Memorial Church. Both refused, and being only a gilded
gentleman I deserted them to track down a coffee and bagel.
Upon my return it was apparent Ingrid was nearing completion on what
turned out to be her second pastel of the morning. In the meantime
Sandy had laid down her entire background; gray skies, dark blue
water, and burnt orange foliage. I, for my part, picked up wind-blown
Plein Air guidebooks with Lexi (the yellow lab from down the street).
Around one-thirty Ingrid packed up her pastels, promised to return
once she was warmed through, and headed to Niccolls to frame up her
landscapes. Sandy began to correct her painting to match the now
brighter circumstances of the warming day. I ate part of my bagel.
Lexi stared at me while I ate.
Throughout the day we continued like this. Sandy maneuvered through
a changing scene. Lexi was loaded into a car and returned to her
home. At one point Sandy's paint pan was absconded by the wind and we
scraped up oil paint from the road surface. People walked and drove
by. I stumbled through my Plein Air schpeel numerous times (never
saying it the same way twice no matter how hard I tried). I picked up
more wind-blown brochures. Ingrid Van Slyke returned, as did Lexi.
By the end of day both artists were no longer standing. The wind
which had toyed with the artists earlier, now had knocked them to the
ground. Sandy Hildreth had folded up the legs of her easel and was
crouched diligently before her painting. Ingrid Van Slyke on the
other hand was kneeling, almost in fetal position, over her last
pastel landscape of the day. Visibly suffering, it appeared that as
though she was using the guardrail to break the force and bite of the
wind. Oncoming traffic steered around her position, and without
seeming to take notice of them she'd turn her head to glance out at
the Moose River.
Sandy's painting was sober and beautiful, not a bad compliment to
an afternoon that had treated her so grimly. Later on, Sandy Hildreth
would frame that painting in gold and donate it to the Arts Center
auction that signified the end of this year's Plein Air Event. It
would be among one of the highest earners in the auction. She smiled
Sunday night as an auctioneer coaxed the assembled crowd to bid higher
and higher, reminding them that it was selling for well below its value.
In the end The Plein Air Artists raised over ten thousand dollars
The Arts Guild of Old Forge. McCauley Mountain played excellent host
to the very successful event, as did Niccolls Memorial Church, and The
Old Forge Fire Hall. Artists, volunteers and staff spent the late
evening of Sunday plotting out the second annual event over soup and
It's easy to wax poetic over artists battling changing light, or
embattled organizations raising enough support to survive, or
supportive volunteers pitching in to pull off the unpredictable.
However, it's important to remember.
We have arbitrary concerns, differing viewpoints, and very real
carnage that dip and dive into our individual lives. Regardless of
what else happened in October of Two-Thousand and Nine, Old Forge was
subject to something only slightly less ancient than our existence.
It was recorded visually by artists. That, as it turns out, is no
I'll never forget Ingrid Van Slyke, hunkered against foul wind and
oncoming traffic. Her tiny frame desperate to escape to a heated
interior, while her stoic artistic pride refused to surrender.
However, remembering that day has been made easy for me. My wife, a
new patron of the arts, Sabrina Thibado, bid on and won Ingrid's last
pastel from Saturday, October Tenth, Two-Thousand and Nine.
Plein Air Reporter,