I arrive at the Wadhams Library early for an evening that celebrates the art of Edward "Ted" Cornell and his Art Farm at Crooked Brook Studios. I've blogged about Ted before in the context of a documentary about NYC's Public Theatre icon Joseph Papp. Ted worked at The Public Theatre with Papp long before settling into his artist life in the Adirondacks.
The Wadhams's librarian sums Ted up perfectly tonight introducing him as "a Renaissance Man" who has been instrumental in getting lots going in the North Country. He helped get things underway at The Whallonsburg Grange Hall and has left his mark on The Depot Theatre in Westport, as well as on the library itself.
I have visited Ted's Art Farm on several occasions, but I never before got the whole story and step-by-step history of this outdoor art field. Ted's talk is interesting, engaging, and inspiring but it is uniquely Ted, so my best advice to get the real sense of it is to visit the Art Farm yourself and spend some time with Ted Cornell.
Through an array of compelling slides and narrative, Ted tells the crowd that has gathered tonight to hear his story of how it all began—"my neighbor's silo all came down in one weekend." Most of it was in the gully and Ted says, "that's where it was going to stay." He goes on to say that his fascination with junk preceded his move to the Adirondacks. He explains that Brooklyn is a place full of rusting junk where genius is rediscovered..."Our sun is a Brooklyn of celestial objects."In any case, the silo was the start and was soon dubbed the "Phoenix of Wadhams."
Ted's pieces are all earthy and formerly utilitarian. He has transformed them into unique objet d'art with meaty philosophical explanations of their current function.
In addition to the slides of his pieces then, now, and in between, Ted also displays detailed drawings that indicate these works are not just accidents but created with a plan in mind. One audience member jokingly shouts out, "You sure you didn't do it after?"
We see the cranes it takes to carefully move pieces of his work into place, hear about the concrete it takes to secure them, coupled with intriguing titles like the Angel of Inerrancy which conveys well-meaning souls to hell.Other highlights of the presentation are the stone cones—especially the floating stone cone. Ted explains that "a pile of stones is the oldest and simplest made thing."
In addition to being a sculptor, Ted is also a talented painter. Some of his murals hang in very public places in the Adirondacks: The Depot Theatre in Westport, the Town Hall in Essex, the history museum in Elizabethtown.
Ted also gives us a sneak preview of what's coming up at the Art Farm this summer. He refers to a lot of his work as a slow joke. You'll have to make the trip to his place in Wadhams to find out exactly what he means by that.