For most of us, 2020 was a year we’d rather forget. Yet we all can admit, albeit reluctantly, there were some aspects of it that do merit reflection. The depth of our resilience became evident, for instance; so did the extent of our ingenuity. And for Scarsdale’s many creatives, the pandemic led to some of their most striking work yet.
Now, there’s a chance for Scarsdalians to see a few of the remarkable projects that sprang from this unsettled period: HINDSIGHT is 20/20, an exhibit displaying the work of 11 local artists, debuts this Saturday, May 1, at the Scarsdale Public Library. Featuring paintings, works on paper, photography, sculpture, textiles, poetry and the written word, it chronicles our town’s creative reactions to the pandemic.
To personalize the experience, the show’s contributors will come together via Zoom on Tuesday, May 11, at 7:30 p.m. to discuss how the pandemic affected their work (to register, visit https://bit.ly/2QzQxDy) and exhibit tours will take place Saturday, May 15, during the library’s Love Our Library Spring Celebration.
A joint effort of the Friends of the Scarsdale Library and the Scarsdale Library Board of Trustees, the show is comprised entirely of works by female artists.
“It’s coincidence, but we all kind of like this,” said Greenacres resident Lauren Bender, who curated the exhibit. Along with a team of other Scarsdale residents, she began working on the project, which was delayed due to COVID concerns, last August.
“We are finally hanging [the art], and it’s a salon-style installation,” said Bender, a private art adviser and independent curator by trade. “That’s what I had envisioned all along, because I wanted to evoke a sense of order and sophistication, and really exhibition-quality work. But I wanted there to be a rawness to it, and a grit.”
Even before entering the library, visitors will encounter a few HINDSIGHTexhibits on its grounds. Among the eye candy is a field of handcrafted poppies plus several glass totems, all created by artist Simone Kestelman, and “Knitting Together,”consisting of pompoms and crocheted streamers, the brainchild of Greenacres resident Tanya Singer and local artist Sarah Divi. The latter artwork hangs from a tree on the north side of the library lawn, its colorful yarn strands swaying in the breeze.
“I call that tree the Whomping Willow,” laughed Singer, referring to a tree in the Harry Potter books that attacks whatever comes in range of its branches. “Somehow, the yarn keeps getting eaten by the tree, and I have to keep coming and rescuing it. It’s a very 2020 feeling, this struggle between man and nature.”
While Divi crocheted the streamers, the pompoms were largely the creations of local children who’ve taken classes with Singer via her business, Ewe Can Knit. “We did multiple pompom workshops with the kids,” she said. Class fees were donated to Green Bronx Machine, a nonprofit based in the South Bronx that provides in-school gardening curricula to underserved communities around the world.
Her young students, Singer added, have been excited to see their handiwork on display: “Kids went there and took pictures with their families,” she said.
“Knitting Together”has also garnered the attention of ArtsWestchester, which asked Singer and her students to make pompoms for a similar creation to be displayed in its White Plains gallery starting May 7. (The SPL’s version of “Knitting Together” will be on display “until the tree wins,” Singer quipped.)
HINDSIGHT’Sindoor exhibit is where the majority of the artworks will be, however — among them, photographs by Greenacres resident Marnie Gelfman. “I think everybody tried to make sense of this time,” she said, adding that the pandemic hit just as she was completing a master’s degree from Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. “I was on lots of Zooms with my family,” she remembered. “And I started photographing the screen and then painting the expressions, painting the feelings, whether it was fear or joy, or hope, or whatever I saw, and then social distancing walks. That was my response to this time — ‘How can I document what I’m seeing, what I’m feeling?’”
Gelfman is also organizing the HINDSIGHTZoom presentation, assisted by Scarsdale High School sophomore Olivia Liu. She’s drawing inspiration from informative Zoom talks conducted by her new Pennsylvania alma mater. “I think if we can put an element of education into this, it will really help allow viewers to understand the process, which I think is as important as the product,” she said.
Another photographer whose works will be on display is Sharon Draghi, who lives in Quaker Ridge. Approached by friends months ago about participating in HINDSIGHT, she was intrigued: “The theme of the show, trying to be creative during this very challenging time, appealed to me. That’s what I was doing,” she said. “I was using my photography as a way to kind of help me process COVID, and express my emotions and fears in a creative way.”
One of Draghi’s eight photographs in the show is “Overcompensating,” a self-portrait in which her head is submerged in a bowl of M&Ms.
“I was sitting around and I was just thinking, ‘All I want to do is, like, drown my anxiety in chocolate,’” she recalled. “The vision of that photograph came to my mind because I thought I needed chocolate to kind of get through the scariest moments.”
Draghi said her pandemic-oriented photographs are, interestingly, a natural extension of her previous ones. “This continuing theme of solitude and inner life runs through my work and always has … so all these things kind of came together with the work that I’ve done in the last year,” she said. “It’s been interesting having to make so much work about myself, but it’s been very illuminating for me.”
The show as a whole, meanwhile, promises to be illuminating for the rest of us. Said Gelfman: “It’s wonderful and then unusual to have a group of people with whom you can just create together in a very organic way.”