I remember the first time I ventured out to the First Saturday art openings in Kingston, some time in the second half of the 1990s. It was a few years after I had moved to the Hudson Valley, and my circle of friends included just a few artists, mostly colleagues from SUNY New Paltz, where I was teaching art history as an adjunct. At that first First Saturday for me, I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of people chatting away, none of whom I knew, although I had a sense that I wanted to. Little did I realize that soon I would pick up a regular gig writing for Chronogram—as its first (and as of this writing, only) art columnist—that would sweep me into the heart of this growing, vibrant community.
Lucid Dreaming (as the column was called—a nod to my notion of how art criticism should work) served as a soapbox, a place to engage and reflect on the excellent work that I saw being made here, and on its relationship to this very special place. It was (is) work that makes me think, hits me in the gut, the stuff that "clicks," in many varied forms. From the politically minded shows at Time and Space Ltd. in Hudson, to the curatorially acute program at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, to the local ebullience of Main Street in Beacon, writing for the magazine for nine years gave me special entrée to much of the best that the Hudson Valley had to offer—which is quite a lot.
I look back fondly on all that looking and talking and writing...and I like to think that all those columns in Chronogram may have played some minor role in establishing a viable, critical rationale to support the still-growing art community that makes the Hudson Valley such a richly creative place. I know that I do have a terrific circle of artist friends as a result of it, and I am regularly amazed at the new, challenging work they produce. And I hope that Chronogram will continue to provide a meaningful space to advance the critical conversation(s) in this expanding artistic eco-system.
Beth E. Wilson wrote art criticism for Chronogram for 10 years, and once really pissed off everyone in Catskill in these pages by pooh-poohing a public art project there.