Today marks the third Thursday without a Metroland since the alt weekly's office was seized by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance for unpaid tax bills, and the feeling that it will never publish again is sinking in. (You can read the details in this Times Union article by Paul Grondahl.) Along with thousands of other individuals and hundreds of businesses, I miss it already.
My own connections to Metroland are many and deep - it was founded 38 years ago by my niece Amy's other uncle, Peter Iselin, a very talented musician whose disco-inspired venture into publishing lasted a surprisingly long time. But Peter was never great at the business end of the deal, and thefre was visible evidence of that early on.
My own favorite recollection from the middle 1980s featured weekly sprints by staffers from the Metroland offices at 4 Central Avenue to cash their paychecks at the bank up the street before the account ran dry. I had a front-row seat to this competition from my shop window on Washington Avenue, and always enjoyed the show.
Things got a little better when Steve Leon took the helm. I freelanced for the paper under Steve in three stints totaling seven or eight years spread over three decades, initially as a photographer and then mainly as a writer, covering a variety of subjects including art (no surprise) and professional basketball (in the heyday of the Albany Patroons).
The rates for freelancers were pretty generous, and I always got paid, though it sometimes took a while. But then the pay lag began to stretch too far, so I asked for a meeting with Steve to clarify my need to get paid timely enough to cover my rent. That's when he showed me a ledger that revealed 120-day accounts payable for advertising that totaled a quarter of a million dollars. This was about 10 years ago - before the Great Recession stepped up and began wiping out newspapers all over the country.
After I quit the paper for the last time, I learned from other freelancers who had hung on that Metroland's debt to them had extended well beyond a year and had mounted into the thousands of dollars for many individuals. To me, this was unforgivable - the paper was essentially floating an interest-free loan on the backs of struggling journalists - yet I still eagerly grabbed and read it every week. Except, of course, in those weeks when it didn't get distributed because the delivery people were also fed up with waiting for their money.
So, when this month's news revealed the paper's tax problems with the state, I couldn't have been less surprised. Also, it rang another personal bell - I worked as a state tax collector from 2012-14. And, from that experience, I could guess that Metroland was buried in debt to the IRS as well, not to mention imaginable lines of other creditors. In another small twist for me, I also learned that another former employer of mine (The Daily Gazette, where I worked for 13 years as an editor) might have wanted to buy Metroland if the debts could have been cleared up.
Now it seems that one possibility is lost, and it's a loss for all of us. Metroland - thanks for a really great run.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Saturday, November 14, 2015
|Patricia Kennedy-Zafred - Childhood Lost: The Doffer Boys, mixed-media cotton quilt|
A first-time (and, according to her, also last-time) curator, Plotner has ably organized a diverse selection of 21 artists from all over the United States to fill this clean and pleasant (if somewhat tight) space with high-quality and engaging fiber-based work. These are not your great-grandmother's log cabin quilts (though quilting is strongly present); rather, this is contemporary art by top-shelf makers who utilize cloth, thread, vines, wire, plastic - and much more - to realize their personal visions.
|Judith Content - Icarus, dyed satin silk|
|Emily Dvorin - Kid Stuff, mixed media|
|Judith Plotner - Brooklyn Ensemble|
printed, stitched and painted canvas
In addition to Plotner, Niskayuna's Lori Lupe Pelish and Russell Serrianne of Glens Falls (the show's lone male participant), represent the greater Capital Region. Serrianne's use of shellacked grape vines perhaps pushes the definition of fiber the furthest - along with New York City artist Nancy Koenigsberg's Melon, a "drawing in metal" that uses nothing but copper wire to depict a pumpkin-ish fruit.
|Lori Lupe Pelish - The Circus Life|
appliqued, embroidered and quilted fabric
Many of the artists in Fiber Currents incorporate words into their work, often for political purposes (such as Highland Park, Ill.'s Kathy Weaver, work pictured below), which places this show squarely in the postmodern time frame - a time when artists have pushed all kinds of boundaries. Though here the primary boundary is one of materials (and it is well stretched by the artists included) it makes sense that these same artists are stretching other boundaries as well.
|Kathy Weaver - Habeus Corpus-The Great Writ|
nylon line and airbrushed, hand-stitched cotton
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
|Frank Wimberley - Blue Wave, 1982 acrylic on canvas|
I'm glad I caught it, even if toward the last minute, because it is a rich compendium of outstanding artists in many media, and because it is a thoughtfully curated show with a compelling theme. Organized by Stephen J. Tyson and Stanwyck E. Cromwell (who also both have work in the show), Many Rivers includes more than 40 works by 21 artists from a broad geography - mostly local, but with roots from many distant lands and islands.
|Daesha Devon Harris - My Soul has Grown|
Deep Like the Rivers, 2012 mixed media
Hudson's combination of disparate media is right in the mainstream of this show - I was struck by the preponderance of collage elements through about half of the work, including Hollis King's wry and lovely graphic Beehive Lady, Elizabeth Zunon's charming children's book illustration I can hear that whistle blow ... and Femi Johnson's Black Betty the Mermaid, which is simultaneously seductive and threatening. Perhaps the best of these mixed-media creations is Daesha Devon Harris' trio of manipulated and embellished photographs, which are placed behind glass that's etched with compelling snippets of folk writing.
|Betty Blayton - Ancestor Bearing Light, 2007|
acrylic and mixed media on canvas
Though the show is a retrospective of sorts, a healthy chunk of the work is dated 2015, so it lives more in the present of these artists - and the broad movement they represent - than it does in the past, which suggests a potent future for the BDA organization as it enters its fifth decade. Kudos to the organizers and to Saratoga Arts for presenting this fine collection.
|Elizabeth Zunon - I can hear that whistle blow ... , 2009 oil paint and collage|