A blog about Hudson, New York

Monthly Archives: February 2012

Catty Remarks

Sometimes I think if I ever see another drag act, I’m simply going to scream. But then I catch Musty Chiffon on an especially good night and rethink my own disinclinations. At the reliably enjoyable Animalkind Fashion show at Club Helsinki,  Musty was in good form and kept the display of clothes being auctioned at a witty clip. “I don’t care if you take the outfit out in the alley and burn it. Just think of the kittens,” she would plead during a lull in the bidding. (Which actually went well considering the, shall we say,  uneven quality of the items being sold. When one particular lackluster ensemble reached the $300 mark, another observer remarked, “ I think the bidders must be as high as the bids.” ) Musty* also led a terrific ensemble of ersatz hicks (Robert Caldwell, Jenny Baldwin and Windle Davis) in the country song “Plain Brown Wrapper,”  which Larry Bangor and Dini Lamot, (aka Musty) wrote for Tom Lehrer’s birthday ages ago (1974). –Scott Baldinger

(Musty—and everyone else who had access to a mike– should also be commended for never  using the word “pussy.”)


Synchronicity and Starchitecture

Even though it’s difficult to reach consensus in this town, sometimes a collective consciousness bubbles forth simultaneous and similar thinking about things. Just as people were getting together to come up with ways to improve the 7th Street Park and its environs, came word (via Sam Pratt, relaying a New York magazine blog post) that Marina Abramovic,  Hudson’s own world-renown performance artist,  had hired starchitect Rem Koolhaas to renovate the Community Theater, the 1930s movie palace right off of the park, which Abramovic purchased a few years ago.

Although it turns out that the Pritzker award- winning architect would be designing the (gutted) interior, just the merging of the words Koolhass and Hudson got hearts racing, for most out of excitement and perhaps a few trepidation, since he is far from what would call a contextual architect. For myself, as a new member of the Historic Preservation Commission, I wondered if I might be faced with some difficult choice between preservation and a larger appreciation for good architecture, which certainly includes modern variations. Briefly contemplating this prospective dilemma, I envisioned great mergings of the old and new such as Norman Foster’s redesign of the Reichstag, pictured below. Foster popped through the top of the building and created a dazzling rotunda that is both cutting edge and grandly classical in spirit.

Koolhaas, devoid of any classical inclinations at all, is a great architect who works in a deconstructionist vein  that is very much his own: like others of his caliber, he creates buildings that are events (almost always successful ones.) When I was in Seattle a couple of years ago I made a special trip to see Koolhaas’s library building there, and, not disappointed, took this photo (which doesn’t do it justice–I literally could not fit the grand totality of the building into the limited aperture of my lens).

If very unakin to anything in Hudson, at least intentionally, Koolhaas buildings are dramatically urbanistic: perhaps better than any of his peers, he understands what makes cities deliriously exciting places to both look at and be in. (His book Delirious New York, published in 1978 was the appropriately named kickoff to his career, though as a journalist, not architect.) My thinking at least is that it would sometimes be better for us to have the real thing—even if it breaks a few eggs– than the historical simulacrums being erected or “restored” by Eric Galloway all over town. (Although luckily no one is discussing the razing of the handsome theater building, it would be great if an architect of Koolhaas’s –or any other reasonable—caliber would design a building from scratch on some vacant or ungainly lot, such as one the Hess station sits on.)

Happily, an equally sound (and vastly more realistic) one for Hudson’s purposes turns out to be the actual  plan: Along with Koolhaas’ inside job, local architect Dennis Wedlick will work on the façade of the theater, a synthesis  that demonstrates to the world  how smart the town can be. At the same time as Abramovic embarks on  raising the eight million dollars needed for the project, we can start our own plans (I proposed the idea of designating the park a historic landmark, one way to focus efforts on restoring it to the elegant public space it once was)  and celebrate little improvements to the area abutting it, such as the continued presence of the diner, the food coop, Park Falafel and Pizza,  and the sprightly shop window at the newly relocated B’s Hats. —Scott Baldinger

2012, A Space Odyssey

Artist Laetitia Hussain’s installation at Basilica Hudson was the kind of event that could only have taken place in Hudson at this time in its gestation, filled as the town still is with massive and rough-hewed spaces that have yet to find any single permanent use. With its jagged, white geometric forms (glass panels suspended from the ceilings, ten light and film projections, and multiple polygon boxes arranged on the floor, each of which were for sale at the opening this Saturday for $20), it was an impromptu celebration of the grandly inconclusive voids still available here, makeshift yet reminiscent of far more costly creations by Maya Lin or the magnificent cominglings of space and sculpture on permanent display at Dia Beacon. An eye- gratifying juxtaposition to the middle brow and yet somehow far more pretentious offerings at other galleries in town, it was the kind of large -scale artistic vision that made even the freezing cold enjoyably conceptual. (The Basilica space is unheated at the present time; the breath one could see in the air added to the mystique of the moment.)

Basilica is thinking major these days.  Following Hussain’s exhibition, the space will turn into a sound stage for a major Hollywood film production. Elsewhere in town, on a far smaller, more humbling scale, are the photographs of Peter Spear, whose milieu is the emptiness of so many of Hudson’s less-celebrated areas, the poorer lots and byways only a block or so away from its more glamorous ones. His book The Friendly City is available at various shops and cafes in town, and an especially evocative print of his (below) is available at Small Batch Editions, a nifty site put together by Melissa Stafford, formerly of Carrie Haddad Photographs. –-Scott Baldinger

Sic Transit Gloria Tuesday

A shop-window display for Valentine’s Day with an appropriately dark if not necromantic streak (appropriate for Hudson that is) can be viewed at Gail Peachin’s antiques shop, Fern (610½ Warren Street). Here Peachin has strung together dozens of anonymous old photo-album snapshots of couples, turning them into an original tribute to love, friendship (and, just suggestively, the way of all flesh).  They make you wonder, not only about love and death, but if people were better looking back then. “No,” Fern neighbor David Dew Bruner said, “They were all just better groomed.” –Scott Baldinger

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