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Upstate Dispatch Studio Opening Ceremony

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 2/29/24 | 2/29/24

Examples of Sandy Finkenberg’s ‘Figure Drawing’ masterful renditions of models 

Jenny Neal at her opening with Executive Director of AMR Artists Becca Andre 

By Robert Brune

ANDES — Since 2015 the ‘Figure Drawing’ at the Andes Academy of Art originated at the home of William Duke. His loft style home was once a wedding venue with a wide-open main space, but eventually moved to Main Street in Andes. Each year Duke shuts the group down during the winter months because the group comes together in the evening every Wednesday and he’s worried about people driving in the dark and snow. This year, artist and co-owner of the Art Up Gallery Gary Mayer decided to fill that gap by keeping the group of artists going during these months when people need something to do. 

Jenny Neal had a gathering of the Figure Drawing artists at her new studio space on the second floor of the Commons Building in Margaretville on Saturday held an exhibition opening ceremony showing drawings and paintings of the nudes that pose for the group each week. It was a class reunion of a mix of artists of all levels.  Jenny explains, “I certainly didn’t plan to put naked people all over my studio walls, but it happened quite organically, and was simply a way to honor our figure drawing group. What are we supposed to do with all our sketches? We each produce hundreds of them every year and look back on our progress with pride, but nobody ever sees the work except each other. And how much are they worth exactly? I’m sure the prep work of established artists like Gary Mayer, Sandy Finkenberg or Steve Burnett would be an essential part of their collections in future decades.”  With such a vibrant art community in Delaware County, it’s nice to see that there are people such as Duke and Mayer who understand the importance of helping artists to have a way to develop and continue to practice in a way that is normally only done in art universities. Neal highlights the significance of the models participating, “Let’s not forget the brave models who overcome their insecurities and risk embarrassment to pose for us. Artists need live models so that they can practice the human form; it’s a necessary practice and a completely necessary act for the artist, but we don’t even publicly name our models because we want to protect them from controversy. However, I can see how we might be scandalizing people who don’t understand the beauty and simplicity of our craft. It’s an essential discipline. As one model told me: “I wonder what people thought of the nude models of [the old masters] at the time?”

Joe Miller was also in attendance of the opening of Neal’s Upstate Dispatch Studio opening ceremony. He comments on his participation in the group of artist group,” When I was younger, I studied drawing and artistic anatomy, and spent a lot of time figure drawing, but hadn’t done as much in recent years. When I heard about the figure drawing sessions up here, I was happy to get back into it. I love the focus and concentration that drawing the figure takes. You have to observe carefully, and you only have a short period of time, so you have to be 100% percent there mentally. It can often be frustrating, because many times the drawing doesn’t work. It’s immediately obvious when it doesn’t work, because we all know what a person looks like. But when the drawing comes together (or when parts of it work anyway), that’s very rewarding. Also, I enjoy spending time with like-minded artists. We have a great group, so that’s a plus too.”

Steven Burnett a.k.a. The Bovina Farmer as many people know him, is another regular with the Figure Drawing group. Here are his thoughts on participating in the group, “Life drawing is an old tradition in the arts and sciences. We forget that once upon a time the drawing of something held the spirit of that thing. Hunters got closer to their prey. Humans came to recognize the deeper mysteries. So, there’s that for those of us that practice that. And then there’s just the pure fun of sharing three hours with our tribe making art. We all get lost and found in it.” 

The Upstate Dispatch studio (gallery) is a new neighbor to Bea Ortiz and Lisbeth Firmin’s studio spaces on the second floor of The Commons building which is also the location of the Longyear Gallery. It’s highly recommended making you’re way upstairs to see all three of these magnificent artists.

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