“Extra/Ordinary” Art Exhibit Opens Dec. 1

November 15, 2023 | Library News

APL and Opalka Gallery celebrate the latest Art at APL exhibition, “Extra/Ordinary,” with an opening reception on Friday, Dec. 1, at 6 pm at the Pine Hills Branch library. The reception is hosted by the Friends & Foundation of APL, and includes light refreshments and music by the Albany High School Jazz Band. The art opening is free and open to the public.

“Extra/Ordinary” highlights work by contemporary artists whose creations straddle craft and fine art. Artists from the region are using braiding, sewing, quilting, embroidery, felting, tufting, and needlepoint tapestry to expand domestic visual approaches to artmaking. The results mark time, include images of contemporary culture, are full of carefully embellished surfaces commemorating life, and represent a materiality that tricks the eye.

The opening of the exhibition coincides with the unveiling of artist Victoria van der Laan’s new installation, located in the library’s atrium. Van der Laan makes textile work using the traditional techniques learned from her grandmothers. Her intention is to champion women’s work broadly and quilts specifically as dually powerful: encompassing both function and art and embodying the ingenuity and artistic voice of marginalized folk, and her distinct voice among them. Gravely concerned about the climate crisis, she uses only secondhand, repurposed, or vintage textiles in her work, as she strives for a zero-waste practice. Her APL installation employs themes of interconnectedness (weaving, knotting, draping), diversity (of form, color, and size), and energy (bold colors and movement) in mind. The installation is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Arts Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of The Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by The Arts Center of the Capital Region.

The work featured in “Extra/Ordinary,” which can be viewed throughout the library, are as varied as they are striking:

  • Barbara Todd pays homage to the history of craft with her work, “Talking to History (After Center Star with Corner Stars),” a quilt completed in black and white, like a memory, identical to an adored colorful historic quilt, “Center Star with Corner Stars.”
  • Kathy Greenwood’s braided rugs gone wild allude to the kind of utilitarian objects women in the late 19th century might have made using all of their household fabrics. Here, Greenwood’s titles—”Hot Mess,” “In Labor,” and “Waste Not”—allude to the intensity of domestic production.
  • Cyndy Barbone also refers to “women’s work” by weaving portraits of women she knows personally who are facing various contemporary personal issues.
  • Joy Muller-McCoola’s felted wool artworks trick the eye with her juxtaposition of soft materials and hard-as-a-rock subject matter.
    Jess Stapf’s work also interferes with our sense of reality; her soft rug surfaces resemble cloud-filled skies.
  • In the needlework realm, Lori Lawrence and Mark Olshansky embrace repetitive and detailed processes of embroidery and needlepoint tapestry that embellish landscape or abstraction. At 94 years old, Olshansky is the oldest artist in the show.
  • Johnathan DeSousa’s work shows a fixation with the digital age. In his sewn assemblages, fabric imprinted with images from the internet are sewn together creating a mashup of narratives.

Art at APL is a curated fine arts exhibition program at the Pine Hills Branch showcasing the work of contemporary artists connected to the Capital Region and beyond. The program, which began in 2013, integrates professional artwork into public spaces within the library, enriches the library experience, and gives visitors something interesting and educational to look at while they browse the collections. “Extra/Ordinary” marks the seventh Art at APL exhibition curated by Opalka Gallery. The program is funded in part by Friends & Foundation of Albany Public Library.

Stephanie Simon

Stephanie Simon is manager of APL's Communication and Creative Services Department, which provides content and information for the library's website, social media, publications, videos, podcasts, and other outlets. Stephanie also manages APL's public relations and marketing efforts.