How to Foster Intimacy with the Land

Slow Fashion artist and writer Katrina Rodabaugh, was Instar Lodge's September artist-in-residence.  Below is her open letter describing her experience and beautiful experiments undertaken during the month. 

Katrina hanging samples of natural dyed fibers in the studio, from her Medicinal Dye Workshop

Katrina hanging samples of natural dyed fibers in the studio, from her Medicinal Dye Workshop

I was honored to be an artist-in-residence for the month of September at InstarLodge in Germantown, NY. As a local artist who just moved to the area two years ago, after more than a decade in Oakland, CA, I was eager to engage with a local arts space that might foster a deeper inquiry into my own creative practice in this local environment while simultaneously creating opportunities to connect with the local arts community.

When I met with the director, Dawn Breeze, to discuss my ideas for the residency I mentioned that I really just wanted time to explore the connection between artists and the environment; to collaborate; to experiment; to delver deeper. Dawn suggested I simply frame the month as an artist’s laboratory or a creative experiment without any pressure to produce results. This suggestion felt like liberation. The permission to focus on the process of the work and not just the end product was a huge gift but also a huge relief.

Several years ago I shifted my fiber arts work from mixed media installations into social practice projects—oftentimes resulting in workshops, public events, or ongoing collaborations and not consistently creating objects that might be easily exhibited or shared. With a background in environmental studies and nearly two decades of work in urban nonprofit arts organizations the potential for social practice to focus on community engagement, “art as action”, process as important as product, and particularly embracing creativity through an activist’s lens was a very welcome shift in my fiber work.

But sometimes sharing this work with the public can seem like the greatest challenge. Particularly when curators, galleries, event spaces, and artists all need to consider how best to cover their financial needs and that can be unclear with social practice. Not impossible, of course, just less obvious than a finished object that can ultimately be sold through exhibition.

Dawn’s enthusiasm for inquiry and experimentation was a gift. It allowed me to organize my month around a Medicinal Dye Workshop, a few days of collaborating with local artists, and a closing celebration with an open studio and public talk. My question led the residency: How best to create intimacy with the land that might result in stewardship, protection, or ultimately love?

The amazing colors and hues of the Hopi sunflower dye

The amazing colors and hues of the Hopi sunflower dye

As my work currently focuses in sustainable fashion primarily through the actions of mending, growing and foraging natural dye plants, and redesigning or rejuvenating existing garments this question is always at the forefront of my time in the studio. How do I articulate this intersection between land and fiber? How do I create opportunities to engage with creative practice, slow fashion, and connection with the environment? How do I foster stewardship that might result in protection or love? How do I allow deeper intersections between my studio, my classes, and my dye garden?

While the objects weren’t the focus of this residency, of course, there were objects that resulted from a month of working in the space. Each day upon entering the studio I’d chart the phase of the moon, the date, and make a quick moon sketch to pin to the wall. This became a study for a larger fiber piece of moon phases stitched to indigo dyed fabric. As it was a month-long residency it was also gratifying to see the phases move from full moon through waning gibbous, last quarter, waning crescent, new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous and back to full—making one full rotation in my time in the studio.

A stitchwork in progress, using small pieces of natural dyed fabrics

A stitchwork in progress, using small pieces of natural dyed fabrics

I collected various dye plants from my landscape—both grown in my garden and collected from the nearby fields, woods, and parks—and these plants were pinned to the wall as specimens and samples great for plant identification with visitors. I created a community altar and invited workshop participants and collaborators to add to the altar when they visited. I co-taught a class with Good Fight Herb Co community herbalist, Lauren Giambrone, where we considered the intersection of medicinal plants and dye plants—resulting in an afternoon of making remedies and fiber samples with goldenrod, black walnut, peppermint, and Hopi Black Dye Sunflowers alongside other locally harvested herbs.

From this collaboration with Lauren I went on to two more days of testing seasonal dye plants that ultimately resulted in dyeing a secondhand silk top with sunflower seeds and a secondhand wool sweater with goldenrod—both finished projects present at the final open studio. I also had time to dive into a fiber art commission; spend a few days with local artists as we walked, dyed, stitched, shared resources, considered our own entrance into sustainable art and our priorities going forward; and shared an evening discussion with the public at the closing celebration.

The marvelous layers of color found in our Upstate NY landscape

The marvelous layers of color found in our Upstate NY landscape

But aside from the physical time in the space, the time to teach, to collaborate, to share work—the thing I valued most about my time at Instar was the opportunity to focus on one question and let that question lead my work for the entire month. At every step of this month-long inquiry I felt supported by the folks at Instar Lodge and the folks I’d welcomed into my studio as local collaborators.

As a working mother with limited childcare most of my work hours are diligently organized around deadlines, workshops, and upcoming events. But having this time to return to the bigger questions at the core of my work; the space to explore these questions with other artists and the public; and the creative support to prioritize time to consider the direction I want my work to grow—that was the greatest gift.  Thank you, Instar Lodge!


I’m an artist, writer, and crafter working across disciplines to explore environmental and social issues through traditional craft techniques. My artwork, writing, and designs have appeared in various galleries, magazines, theaters, juried craft fairs, and alternative arts venues. I published my first book, The Paper Playhouse: Awesome Art Projects for Kids Using Paper, Boxes, and Books in January 2015. I’ve received artist awards, grants, and residencies from the Vermont Studio Center, Zellerbach Family Foundation, Puffin Foundation, and Creative Capacity Fund among others. My blog, Made by Katrina, won the Country Living Blue Ribbon Blogger Award.

I received my BA in Environmental Studies from Ithaca College and my MFA in Creative Writing/ Poetry from Mills College where I trained and taught in the Book Arts Studio. My work fuses sustainability and creativity sometimes in surprising ways like my current focus on sustainable fashion and mending. My work ranges from large-scale mixed media installations, to social practice projects, to cross-disciplinary collaborations, to textile and fiber objects, to small-batch handmade crafts sold in my online shop.

I teach workshops online and in-person including visible mending, natural dyes, sustainable fashion, fiber arts, and also through social practice projects that engage the public in experimental and hands-on approaches. For over 15 years I’ve worked with nonprofit arts galleries and theaters managing programs, special events, fundraising, and mentoring artists to create successful projects and strengthen professional practices. Ultimately, I believe collaboration fosters meaningful communication that can lead to social action–so I often collaborate with artists and organizations to engage in this practice.

Originally from the small town of Horseheads, NY, I spent the majority of the last two decades in major cities of San Francisco, CA; Brooklyn, NY; and Oakland, CA. In fall 2015, my husband and I bought a 200-year-old farmhouse in the Hudson Valley and we’re currently DIY renovating the house, re-establishing the gardens, and converting an existing carriage barn into art studios. When I’m not in the studio or preparing for upcoming workshops I’m usually busy with my two young sons. For inquiries regarding teaching, collaborations, or commissions please use contact me by email through the contact form on this site. IG @katrinarodabaugh

Keys to the Heart: A Love Story Between Two Players and A Piano

I met Isaac Green Diebboll last fall as a colleague in the Good Work Fellowship, (A fellowship for creative change makers, small businesses and socially conscious leaders in the Hudson Valley Bio-Region) I knew him then as a person working for community development through politics and creative social action in Callicoon, NY, with contagious enthusiasm and authentic goodwill.  I also knew he was an excellent documentary filmmaker and asked him to come document the infamous Nasty Women exhibit this past February.  During the event I brought Isaac on a tour of Instar Lodge, leading him to the antique attic theater.  Isaac immediately put down his camera and went straight to the ancient, dust-covered piano abandoned in the corner, and began playing the most incredible sound.  He then and there asked if he could perform a piece of his titled, ‘Requiem for My Father.’ Without question I affirmed! As we have arrived closer to the performance, clues have emerged indicating there is a story worth learning behind this piece. Isaac recently mentioned having drawings and books he would like to share at the performance. When I saw these documents I knew we needed to sit down and have a chat.  What follows is a brief recount of what I learned in conversation.--Dawn Breeze 4/30/17

Isaac practicing at Instar Lodge on his father's birthday a few weeks back.

Isaac practicing at Instar Lodge on his father's birthday a few weeks back.

‘Requiem for My Father’ by Isaac Green Diebboll is a phenomenon you will not want to miss. It is an originally composed piano solo, except it’s not that at all.  It’s a sound piece imagined and created by Diebboll in collaboration with the spirit of his Father, notable architect John Diebboll.   It is not a piece of written music, it is a collection of fractal sound patterns arranged in the mind of Isaac, that move through his hands touching the white keys of the piano.  The very specific keys that showed him the path into the instrument, which ultimately was the key to the shared heart of a father and son.

When Isaac was 21yrs old, he held his hand over his father’s last heartbeat.  A father whose love was deeper and older than prehistory, he says.  When Isaac felt the last beat from the body, he felt soul-love move into him, a love that literally led him to the piano.  Isaac had never played a piano before his father passed.  But pianos were a part of his life through his father’s fantastical creations of re-imagined piano’s. 

Isaac was in undergrad school majoring in Interdisciplinary Sculpture, and filming a documentary about his father’s passing, documenting the last bites of life.  With abrupt suddenness he was stirred to put down the camera and begin again, by telling the story of the love of his father through the piano.  He realized that the cinematic effects of sound better illustrated the picture he saw, felt, and wanted to share; the piano was a conduit for connection.

For most people an inspiration that calls you towards a tool and a discipline that you don’t know, or are not trained in, goes unanswered.  But not for Isaac (which is a historical pattern of his nature: moving towards inspiration with radical curiosity, audacity, and sensitivity) he instead went straight to Craig’s List and found a free piano.  Generously, his professor at the time let him put the Piano in her office, and Isaac began playing it.  He began by following the ghost lines from the players before him.  He could see which keys had been marked with use and time, and he followed them as his guides mapping his way forward.  ‘Requiem for My Father’ is a relic of this journey to the heart of love, it is the lullaby of the soul.

Isaac’s music which he’s reluctant to call music and prefers to name ‘sound’ has echoes of Philip Glass and other modern composers, like John Cage.  An element of this piece is that it’s never meant to be played on the same piano or on a tuned piano.  Each performance is a unique and dialogical relationship between the piano, himself and his father’s spirit. He seeks piano’s that are forgotten, lost and broken.  He listens with his hands to their unique calling, setting their sound free, while also acknowledging that he is permanently altering their sound by playing them.  Each piece like life—touching and beautifully dying.

Isaac is a rare gem, with infinite facets of brilliance.  His first love was drawing, but he feels his artistic inquiry alive in: math, science, civic engagement, politics and now going forward in urban planning for healthy cultural ecologies.  He is not afraid of being told “he can’t play piano” because he can confirm the magic that he can make sound—like love…which he meets on their terms…

Come listen to love.  Come see ‘Requiem for My Father’.  We will also have original drawings of Isaac’s available at the performance, alongside his father’s highly collectable piano drawings and book ‘The Art of the Piano’.

One of many freehand drawings of Isaac's which will be available at the performance

One of many freehand drawings of Isaac's which will be available at the performance

Learn more about Isaac Green Diebboll by visiting his website

Requiem For My Father: Friday May 5th, 7:30 $10 donation at door, RSVP to ensure seating

The Space Between Two Bridges: Katie Grove

The Background: Where it Started

Antique objects with stories untold. The thrill of opening a drawer in an abandoned house that hasn’t been touched in a hundred years. The creativity that comes with combining ideas, words, and objects in novel ways to create new stories with old materials.

These are the things that inspired me to create the installation: The Space Between Two Bridges, while participating as an artist in residence at Instar Lodge. A combination of antique objects, book forms, matte medium image transfers, and typewritten text, this installation tells the story of ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice (born 1883) all while conveying a sense of curiosity and mystery about the past.

My focus at the residency began with the idea of creating an alternative biography of Margaret Morse Nice that would be based both on facts from her life as well as my own creative interpretations. It was her story, as a female scientist during a time when the field was primarily male dominated, that carried me through the residency. However, it was her book series, Studios in the Life History of the Song Sparrow, that first inspired me. Years ago I randomly pulled it off the shelf in a dusty library and the detailed charts and graphs, filled with data about hundreds of individual birds’ lives, immediately caught my attention.

Now, six years later, thanks to the opportunity to spend a month at Instar Lodge, I was finally able to dedicate the time and energy needed to this project. Throughout the month I witnessed my project shift, grow, and change as I dove deeper into both Nice’s autobiography, as well as into simply playing with materials without overthinking it.

The Process

I begun, just as the birds do, with collecting a large amount of material. I surrounded myself with photocopies of charts, text, and images from Nice’s books, a plethora of small antique sewing objects and furniture, fabric, papers, and of course, my typewriter. I wanted to create an installation that looked almost as if it could have been her office. At first glance you would see a file drawer or a piece of furniture, but open looking closer the drawers would be filled with pieces of a bird’s nest, text, and image transfers from her books.

At first I thought large, creating two installation pieces involving an antique sewing machine and a file drawer. I experimented with quilt forms, watercolors, and other pieces, creating an environment using fabric, nest materials, and embroidery. However, as I kept working I found myself focusing smaller and smaller, finding the most interest in creating tiny one-of-a-kind artist books using antique objects with Nice’s text and charts imposed onto them. I loved getting into the creative flow of choosing strange objects, deciding what part of Nice’s story it could tell, and figuring out technically how to turn objects like a bobbin or a tape measure into a book.

The result is 12 completely unique artist books (and many more in progress). Each one consists of an an antique object imbued with charts, images, and phrases from Nice’s writing, which taken out of context create a whole new story. The books, in addition to the larger pieces in progress, have allowed me to make more progress on this project in four weeks than I have in the past year.


Continuing to Weave the Nest

The most valuable part of my residency at Instar has been simply giving my work the space to evolve naturally. If I were making this on my regular studio schedule I never would have had the time and freedom to simply let it become something new, without pressure. Now I have a new body of work that is  the culmination of both brand new inspirations and ideas and themes that have been bubbling up for years. I look forward to incorporating sound, diving into research on local scientists and naturalists of the 19th century, and finding even more interesting objects that are begging to be made into books! I am so grateful to have had the time, space, and inspiration provided by Instar and can’t wait to see what comes next in this series.


Artist Statement

This series explores the push and pull between ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice’s passion for research, and the demands of being a wife and mother in the early 1900s. These themes come to the forefront in this installation as traditional feminine items, such as a sewing machine, are overtaken by charts, words, and text from Nice’s books. In The Meaning of the Nest, the pieces of a sparrow’s nest interwoven with Nice’s words are spilling out of a drawer, unable to be contained. In the small book Measuring Hours, a quote from her autobiography describing her relentless dedication to research is transposed over and over on a tape measurer. Her love of studying and recording data is subtly emerging throughout these everyday items. These phrases and charts, when taken out of context and combined with curious old objects, create a whole new story saturated with mystery. The combination of Nice’s writings, image transfers of her charts and maps, and antique items with my own drawings and creative interpretations results in an unconventional and whimsical biography of a female scientist who fundamentally shifted the field of ornithology with her work.


Artist Bio

A deep connection to nature and a curiosity to learn is what drives Hudson Valley artist Katie Grove. Her perceptive drawings, etchings, and mixed-media sculptures reflect her interest in combining art and the scientific study of nature. From detailed drawings of the hundreds of pieces in a bird’s nest to whimsical biographies of female naturalists of the 19th century, her work has a strong sense of storytelling. She draws on her backgrounds in printmaking, watercolor, and textile techniques including quilting, plant dyes, book arts and basketry to create a wide range of work. Grove has a BFA in Printmaking from SUNY New Paltz and currently resides in Rosendale, NY. She regularly exhibits her artwork regionally and teaches workshops on art techniques using natural materials. She is a recipient of the Ora B Schneider Regional Artist Residency at Women’s Studio Workshop and has been awarded a 2017 Residency at Instar Lodge. No matter which medium she explores, her work always reflects an awe and appreciation of the natural world and tells a story about our relationship with it. 

Creating with More Time: Sonia Corina Ruscoe

(Full audio conversation below)


I was delighted to spend the afternoon with Sonia Corina Ruscoe the curator of our upcoming April exhibit, Tragic Instant.  We sat down in the women's writing room and recorded what could be best described as a mash up of Oral History and casual conversation.  Having recently attended Suzanne Snider's Oral History Winter School as a Community Fellow, I am eager to play with audio interviews and enamored with the ethos of Oral Histories, and of course have big OH future plans (give me a taste of something new and delightful and I'm gangbusters).  Some definitive characteristics of Oral History Interviews, is there are no pre-scripted questions, and it is primarily an opportunity for the narrator (what OH calls the Interviewee) to share a part of their life story--and one other peculiarity is long pauses. 

( I also want to suggest that if you have any interest or curiosity in Oral History, Suzanne is enrolling her Oral History Summer School program in Hudson, NY right now!  It is hands down one of the best educational programs I have EVER engaged in!  Inspiring is too small of a word.) 

But, lets talk about SONIA!!!  Sonia, approached me at Instar shortly following the presidential election with a beautiful and compelling project proposal, Tragic Instant.  In it she spoke eloquently about the instants that change everything, with their pain, tragedy, confusion, comedy, the strangeness that emerges at once.  She wanted to frame these quick cutting moments, giving us time as an audience to witness them. 

In our conversation Sunday afternoon, I learned more about Sonia's artistic practice as a self-taught painter coming from a formal photography history, which she shares in her interview.  She speaks of"more time" when creating, and what can happen when time is stretched, and how the slowing down of time is something she relishes about life upstate.

Listen to her interview (press that play button) and enjoy!  View more of her work here!  Come see her upcoming exhibit April 15th at Basilica Back Gallery, participate in the Sedar-Style dinner she's co-created, and join her and the group of 'Tragic Instant' artists for an in person closing conversation--learn more about everything 'Tragic Instant' here!  And consider helping send her to her upcoming European residency and castle drawing experience here!

Katie Grove Studio

In the studio with artist Katie Grove, Rebekah Resident Artist

"This series, The Space Between Two Bridges, explores the push and pull between ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice’s passion for research, and the demands of being a wife and mother in the early 1900s. Her 1937 book, Studies in the Life History of the Song Sparrow, which culminates eight years of studying the minute details of  hundreds of  birds’ lives, provides a jumping off point for the series. It also illustrates her need to observe and record, her pure love of nature, and the struggle for balance between home and work. These themes come to the forefront in this installation as traditional feminine items (sewing machines, tape measure, etc) are overtaken by charts, words, and elements of Nice’s studies of the song sparrows. In The Meaning of the Nest, the pieces of a sparrow’s nest interwoven with Nice’s words are literally spilling out of a drawer, unable to be contained. In Measuring Hours, a quote from her autobiography describing her relentless dedication to research is transposed over and over on a tape measurer. Her need to study and record is so powerful that it is subtly emerging in all aspects of the feminine life. The combination of Nice’s writings, image transfers of her charts and maps, and antique items with my own drawings and creative interpretations results in an unconventional and whimsical biography of a female scientist who fundamentally shifted the field of ornithology with her work."  Katie Grove


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By Jennifer Wai-Lan Strodl

An unmade bed. Clump of pillows. How can one man use so many pillows? I dig into the pile and unbury mine. Old weathered thing. Unburdened of its once downy filling. Possibly one of the pillows I snagged from my childhood home when my mother sold our house in Canada. So, faithful sleeping companion, hold my head as I rest from Toronto to Vancouver to Mexico, Harlem, Rhinecliff, Hudson, and here. Pathetic that I don’t to buy myself new pillows. The futon was a wedding gift. The bed frame, a Christmas gift. The duvet, a birthday present. Yet no gifting opportunity for a new pillow. It’s time. Straighten the sheets. Get under the covers. I’ve put on my nightgown tonight. A luxury. Eyes closed. To do list running nonstop through the circuitry of my brain. Hush. Sleep, baby, sleep. No noise but the wind. Window open. Peace. Bedside lamp on. I reach for the book of short stories beside my bed. Read. I’m leaving my thoughts to talk to themselves. Thank you Western world for showing me this habit. I remember glimpsing my friend’s mother at a sleepover once reading before bed. A strange routine. Unheard of in my Chinese home. But interesting. Intriguing. Something to try one day. It helps. I sleep.

Grand Jury Duty

By Annie Bielski  

To smell fresh and avoid responsibilities, go to the department store to look at the luggage.

Discounted notes of springtime new president good posture future transience. Turn over that price tag.


I don’t do bathroom humor or yoga.
I hate waiting on line at parties for bathrooms
because I hate looking like i have needs.
 I just got health insurance.
But I do breathing exercises.
So i thought we could do some of those
together now just to warm up. Lighten up a
little bit.
Try to not breathe
Until you believe you are a well-loved dog


They say time is money I tell the cashier when I buy the two pairs of panties. People thumbed em on the
racks, not like they were all packaged up or whatever, not like they were clean or whatever, people aren’t
clean. Still, I'm a people person.
I’m a get away from me a little closer type person.
And I’m a real mess because I give all my energy to people.
Who wants to tidy a house without a witness?

I used to write about holes.
I’d be like My guy at the bank got a sinkhole in his backyard!
I’d talk about dental cavities
The bath tub
Laboring, digging,
My Debt
But that’s stuff of the past. Now I’m all about filling it up.

 I want to be the lady at the doctor's office who has donated all the magazines.
 She’s torn off her address, but incase she is reading: Please let me find you

Remote Dreams of Creation: An Interview with Artist Ruby Palmer

Original installation ideas laid out in the Ruby's studio, before being written into directions to be reconfigured later by students at SFCC

Original installation ideas laid out in the Ruby's studio, before being written into directions to be reconfigured later by students at SFCC

We recently interviewed local Hudson Valley artist, Ruby Palmer, to learn more about her exhibit, “Subject to Change: a remote installation.”

During the month of January, Palmer followed a similar process to artist Sol Lewitt, writing and mailing specific instructions for wall drawings and paintings to be executed by a team of faculty and students of Spokane Falls Community College (SFCC) in Spokane, WA. Through this project, Palmer was able to explore a new meaning of what it is to create, by relinquishing control of her creation, by placing it into the hands of others and cooperatively imagining into its final form. The end results were better than she could have imagined.

IL: How has this project opened you and your practice as an artist?

The project was ALL about opening up. Since others were actually making and installing many of the ideas which I drew and designed, I had to completely reconsider how I approach making things.  I sent the team of instructors and students elements that I had made in my studio or at least chosen the colors for, and they assembled them with help from my written instructions. It was both exhilarating and challenging for me because I had to really get imaginative with hardware store materials and the given space, which I had never visited. I’ve always been curious about how instructions are written, and how to convey direction, whether it be in a cooking recipe or for IKEA furniture, and it’s a lot harder than I thought!

It was daydream-like in many ways. It actually parallels my creative process as I usually solve problems in my work through sleep or waking dream. I don’t work directly from my dreams, but I do have that moment when waking, where I “know” the answer to a problem. It’s usually a solid response that I trust.

In fact, the whole concept for “Subject to Change” came about that way. I went to bed thinking I couldn’t do an installation so far away, and I woke up with the idea to work remotely, turning it into a game with the students—giving them direction and they would interpret and make the ideas. The results were sort of incidental, and the hope was that they would learn a bit about my process through making.

IL: How do you measure success of this project?

The biggest feeling of success came from the students’ texts and emails to me expressing their enthusiasm and curiosity, and willingness to participate.

That was a relief for me, especially since we’ve never met! The final result was also interesting and dreamlike to see these images appear on my screens and realize I was responsible for them. 

 IL: What’s happening in your studio now?

I’m doing watercolor drawings in response to the Spokane project. I’m back to thinking about cutting into walls and floors and making compositions inside those shallow spaces. Since the opportunities are rare, I’m imagining them a lot.  I’m also continuing my “flower paintings” which I began last spring and are a departure in many ways, but are informing the other work. Who knows where they are going, but they satisfy my need for color, more voluminous shapes, more gesture and less hard edge geometry.

IL: It's not a secret, at Instar we love artist moms and are always interested in what that relationship is like. Can you tell us a little about your own experience of being a mother artist?

It’s a pretty big challenge and I am SO happy to have my kids in my life, I love them so much. I can’t work the way I used to, so I’ve adjusted, and my work has adjusted, for better and worse. Like, I have to leave all the dishes and piles of laundry and have a messy house.  Before I had kids I used to sit around contemplating my work a lot—too much, and now I really don’t have time—I’ve gotta get to the point. 

Ruby Palmer lives and works in Rhinebeck NY with her husband and twin daughters. Since 2016 she started and has run an artist lecture series at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff NY called ARTalks that runs monthly. Her work has been shown in NYC at Exit Art, Smack Mellon, Parallel Art Space, and Morgan Lehman Gallery, at Page Bond Gallery in Richmond VA, as well as Samuel Dorsky Museum in New Paltz, NY and Instar Lodge in Germantown, amongst others. Visit Ruby Palmer’s website to see her multi-disciplinary work. 

Ruby Palmer, “Subject to Change: a remote installation”, 2017 Spokane Falls Community College Art Gallery, Spokane, WA, Photo credit: Chris Billings

The Hidden Past of Now: An Interview with Artist Melora Kuhn

Melora in studio

Standing inside Melora Kuhn’s studio, one steps into her upcoming installation.  An other room, something imaginary with painted walls displaying both the unnatural version of nature and interior settings of some mysterious historical place, a grand trompe l'oeil. Deeper than that, it is a space within a space and moves your thoughts to a mind inside a mind.

Her work confronts modern issues through a historical lense. In past work, Kuhn displays the idea of a known scene confronting the unknown. In paintings such as The Interior Chamber, she moves the viewer from a setting in an interior room to a place where the walls are filling the room with water. Or, as seen in The Wolf’s Cry, dogs and wolves battle in a Habsburgian wilderness. Her art provokes themes of class, race, and unspoken histories that can too often be lost in the fondness for a past time.

“I love to play off of reality,” says Kuhn. “I want to understand the thinking system and hidden elements within it.”

Kuhn’s upcoming installation for the Eigen + Art gallery in Leipzig is being finished inside her studio, a converted red barn from the late 1800s in Germantown. As a resident of the area for the last eight years, she has seen not just the small community of Germantown grow, but the Hudson Valley as a whole bioregion. This cycle of renewal and change mirrors her work, but Kuhn’s influences stretch beyond the valley.

Melora's Barn

“The quiet helps you to go deeper in the work,” explains Kuhn. “But those daily interactions [among artists] are missing. It makes you need to seek them out more.”

The as-yet-untitled installation will be shown this spring at the Eigen + Art in Leipzig. Her installation expands her previous work into a fully immersive piece, with painted walls, furniture, and interactive elements.

“I’ve always painted 19th century rooms. Now, I’m making one,” Kuhn explains.

Melorakuhn installation

The scale of her installation, incorporating a fully enclosed room, pushes her to new ways of creation. While she would always mix her oil paints the need for consistency lead Kuhn to developing her own color palette using Benjamin Moore house paint.

“I had to with more space,” Kuhn says. “It was to save time and make the colors consistent.”


As she is putting the final touches on her installation, her work takes on, literally, a new dimension. She moves from paintings of a room to art as a room. This natural evolution of her work goes on to establish what she most wants a viewer to take away from her work.

“To unravel it. To find out where we are now,” says Kuhn.

Melora Kuhn’s installation will be on display at the Eigen + Art Gallery in Leipzig from April 22nd through May 27th. For more information, visit their website.

Reported by William Crane, images by Dawn Breeze for Instar Lodge.

Melora Kuhn was one of the inaugural artists exhibiting in Time & Again in August 2016


A man in a black suit stops
in front of the church as if
he wants to ask it something
Uncertainty is the foundation
of our future A starchy essence
holds the town together
Buildings face one another
Streets intersect I’ve always
been undisruptive As a child
I kicked leaves We listened
to news on the radio and ate
cereal Learning what we can
and can’t count on is fraught
with pain and error Invisible
mechanisms get me from car
to front door I’m stunned
this building hasn’t moved
fifty feet since yesterday
A rope beats on a flagpole
The wind sounds lonely
and strong in the tall pines
The road stretches calmly
in and out of town Nonstop
layering of action and behavior
baffles me Public space
isn’t public Sidewalks
aren’t for sitting Standing
beneath a tree and holding
out your hand doesn’t stop
leaves from falling Courage
building up could fizzle out
or become mute The square
can be crossed without fear
at any time of day Just up
the road is a cemetery
The piling up of thought
creates a backlog Everyone
is looking at me, even
the garbage truck drivers

copyright c Karen Schoemer 2016

Karen is the Virginia Scholar for Autumn 2016


(For Robert Kelly)

A chain lets go of a rocket-shaped car
The sun above the pier is a prop
I don’t trust men in fluorescent vests driving green golf carts
If an accident happens it won’t be to them
Confidence is measured by an ability to avoid disaster
He quit drinking after he fell trying to climb the fence into Trinity churchyard
He said, “Do you think our friendship can stand another fuck?”
A cook is never the animal he butchers
Modernism, abstract expressionism, the Black Mountain School
I don’t know what movement I’m part of and I’m not part of it anyway
Bellied fathers, boys in cargo shorts
It’s difficult to sympathize with or relate to others
The loudspeaker plays “God Bless America”
Resistance is conspicuous and confusing
The beach is fully half water
Bullet trails cross the surface of waves
The wind hits me all at once and is constantly renewed
It’s sensual and loving, like a snake
No one can tell me how to do this
My feet are firmly planted
Every experience is singular
A bomb in Paris, corruption in government
will not expand into the future
This is a mild form of suffering


copyright c Karen Schoemer 2016

Karen is the Virginia Scholar for Autumn 2016

(A collection of images by Karen Schoemer during residency)

(A collection of images by Karen Schoemer during residency)


Jays screech on either side of me.  
A train passes north to south.
The sky is white along the tree line.
Insects sing to summer, which is leaving soon.
I said, “Tell me things you’d tell me if you were drunk.”
It’s a game I play, myself against an opponent I can’t see or describe.
I lean into his shoulder, cupping into memory.
The chain of events peters out, ending mysteriously.
A catbird complains, then falls silent.
Leaves spread and scatter light.
Why is it as if there’s always something wrong?
Minute injustices I’ve committed follow me across night into day.
From afar everything seems innocent.
All words are one, each pinned to each object in the field of language.
I don’t hear the jays—I note their absence.
Then I hear them—a ghost sound.
copyright c Karen Schoemer 2016
Karen is the Virginia Scholar for Autumn 2016


Some strange bird is crying.
I hear a rumble, maybe a train.
Around the rim of the field trees begin to turn.
Summer holds on, as winter does, long after you expect it to be gone.
I said, “I love you because you let me.”
I still don’t know if I was right.
A loving gesture in the context of alienation is lonelier than silence.
The thread of disaster is impossible to follow through time.
Blackbirds rise in small bunches and resettle.
The sun sinks behind hills and stretches a shadow.
How do words join action? By what slender tissue?
My mouth is hard and flat, thinking about it.
Language plays with me, pushes me around.
Consciousness fools me into thinking I’m subject instead of object.
Water flows under the bridge and is gone.
The certainty of love rises after anger dies down.


copyright c Karen Schoemer 2016

Karen is the Virginia Scholar for Autumn 2016

(Collection of images by Karen Schoemer during residence)

(Collection of images by Karen Schoemer during residence)