Courtesy of ballerina Debbie Wingert and her husband Elliott Arkin, I just spent a few days as visiting docent at Belvoir Terrace in the Berkshires, an arts camp for talented young ladies from all over the world. My job was to look at the work of the young artists and offer critiques of their efforts.
Jeff Koons would be very happy at Belvoir, for his silent influence is everywhere. Goofy tributes to his balloon dogs are a staple and figurative surrealistic sensibilities rule the sculpture. The Belvoir tower, a local landmark for a camp built on the side of a hill, served as a jumping off point for flying dancers as well as for images of Warholian flowers and swimming musical notes in the pieces under construction.
Nevertheless, when asked who their favorite artist was, many of the girls answered "Jackson Pollock," with one querying, "Is he dead?" The students, from China, Japan, Venezuela, France and the Dominican Republic, among other places, have already visited Art Basel and the Venice Biennale, as many have parents who are curators and collectors.
Works in the printshop tended towards brooding self-portraits and the paintings were extremely conservative in the figurative mode. One couldn't help but conclude that, with the influence of the likes of Elizabeth Peyton and John Currin, the study of man, or woman, is solely confined to images of man or woman.
The girls took a trip to Storm King, which was not particularly popular, as the guards there are now discouraging touching the sculpture, then finished off the afternoon at Dia Beacon. Many indicated that they would pursue art as a vocation and their mastery of artistic implements at a young age indicates they all have a shot at success.
Four classes a day made your correspondent feel extra-ancient, longing for the cool night air of Western Massachusetts, where the for sale signs abound outside houses and the local motels are pretty empty during the week. As art continues to be the one sector moving upwards economically, the line of talent, as measured by Belvoir Terrace, remains long and strong.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).