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RI Archives: Arts

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Echoes Of The Borscht Belt (Plus Latkes) At Valley Variety

By Jamie Larson

There’s a German word, sehnsucht, which means a longing for a place you’ve never been. Marisa Scheinfeld’s beautiful photographs of the crumbling ruins of Borscht Belt retreats in the Catskill Mountain are arresting in this same complex, yet relatable way.

Scheinfeld will be speaking about her project, Echoes of the Borscht Belt, at Valley Variety, on Warren Street in Hudson on Saturday, Dec. 12. The event includes an appropriate dinner of borscht and latkes prepared by the Savory Delicatessen food truck. Chuck Rosenthal, the designer and owner of Valley Variety, an elegant and modern spin on a house and kitchenware store, will be displaying and selling a selection of Scheinfeld’s work through the end of the year. At the event, Scheinfeld will share many more of the pieces, which depict the way nature and man have taken over and repurposed these once grand and historic hotels and resorts.

The Borscht Belt was a lavish string of primarily Jewish hotels that dotted the Catskills and operated with renown from the 1920s until the 1970s when tastes changed and the resorts closed their doors.

“Nature is reclaiming these spaces,” the artist says. “They’re falling apart, or oddly being put back together, by people for other uses like paintball or a skate park.”

The images drum from the audience a complex range of emotions. They are certainly a bit sad, expressing the loss of these grand historic structures with their stories and classic design.

A Scheinfeld piece hangs in Valley Variety above a seating area.

“There’s definitely a pathos running through the project,” Scheinfeld readily admits, “but there’s also a beauty in the transformation.”

In many photos, the way nature has crept into the spaces works as though it were a designer’s vision, as in the image of a perfect carpet of moss below a deck chair. Scheinfeld says she never moves any object for a photo, instead catching these relics frozen in time during their various states of change.

“I don’t look at this project as being about death or entropy,” she says. “So much of what is captured in the photographs is about new life.”

Before Rosenthal reached out to her, Scheinfeld had only shown in galleries and museums. This show accentuates the art and furnishings and both are heightened by how they are paired. Seeing the work in context with how you live (or how you’d like to live) adds yet another layer of connection to the forms of art involved.

“The intention was to create these spaces that give you a sense of living in the design,” says Rosenthal. “It’s the beauty of old and new.”

There’s also a kind of temporal mirror going on. The sleek lines of the furniture on display are similar in many ways, if not directly inspired by, the early 20th century modern design elements slowly spiriting away in the photos.

Saturday’s event and the duration of the show are excellent opportunities to enjoy both the exhibit and the store. Valley Variety and Scheinfeld do what they do at a very high level, so their abilities combined are well worth checking out.

Scheinfeld has an as-yet-untitled book coming out in the fall of 2016, containing the full Borscht Belt project. The book will be beautiful, we are sure, but by working with other writers and a historian, Scheinfeld also is creating a meaningful narrative around the grand history and emotion of a region and generation gone.

Echoes of the Borscht Belt Artist Talk and Dinner
with Marisa Sheinfeld

Saturday, Dec. 12, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Tickets for talk and dinner: $25
Space is limited. Please reserve in advance.
Valley Variety
705 Warren Street, Hudson, NY
(518) 828-0033

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 12/07/15 at 11:47 AM • Permalink