Exhibition Exploring Artists’ Life in Lake George Opens at Local Historical Museum
“Spirit of Presence and Place: Stieglitz and O’Keeffe, the Lake George Years” opened at the Lake George Historical Museum on Saturday, May 18.
Sponsored by the Lake George Historical Association, the exhibition features a diorama created by Clarke Dunham depicting life in Lake George in the 1920s and 30s, when Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe were among the lake’s most prominent residents.
“With the diorama, we wanted to present Lake George from the Hill, the farm where Stieglitz and O’Keeffe lived and worked, to the miniature golf course owned by the grandfather of Alex Parrott, the president of the Lake George Historical Association,” said Lisa Adamson, the museum’s curator. “Stieglitz sometimes played that course daily.”
According to Adamson, “Our directors have always wanted to affirm the relationship between Lake George and O’Keeffe and Stieglitz with a display, and the opening this summer of The Hyde Collection’s “Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George,” presented us with a new opportunity to call attention to that relationship. After speaking with Erin Coe, the curator of the exhibition at The Hyde, we recognized that as a local historical museum, we should focus on something other than the lives and work of the artists. We chose to focus on their connection to the community. The lake and the Village inspired them, and they left us with a legacy.”
A $5,000 grant from the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership helped make it possible to commission the diorama, which was installed shortly before the museum opened on May 18.
Dunham described the diorama as “an exploded color post card” of how Lake George Village would appear as viewed from the lake.
“As the eye moves upstage, toward the rear, images are flattened. But downstage, everything is three dimensional,” he said at the exhibition’s opening.
“This is a conjectural restoration of how Lake George Village appeared during the era of Stieglitz and O’Keeffe. We received new information as recently as yesterday,” Dunham said.
“Can we be wrong? Yes! But not often. Everything portrayed is factual, but not everything is contemporaneous. The trolley ceased operating in 1927, even though we wanted to portray the Village between 1925 and 1935. The tracks of the incline railway to the summit of Prospect Mountain were removed during World War I, but the path remained clearly visible, and the railway is an important part of the Village’s history. We weren’t certain whether the Horicon docked at the Village pier with her bow pointed up the lake or in the opposite direction. We made informed artistic choices. We’ve not only done the best we could, we’ve done better than that,” Dunham added.
According to Lisa Adamson, local residents helped fund the diorama by sponsoring individual pieces, among them, the Lake George High School Alumni Association, Pam Morin and Kathy Flacke Muncil.
Dunham, a well-known model builder, former Broadway set designer and fabricator of museum exhibits, donated a portion of his time to the project in order to reduce costs, said Alex Parrott.
The diorama and the Stieglitz-O’Keeffe exhibit, which includes reproductions of Stieglitz’s photos and O’Keeffe’s paintings, will remain on view as a permanent installation within the museum, said Adamson.
Events related to “Spirit of Presence and Place: Stieglitz and O’Keeffe, the Lake George Years,” include a presentation by Marisa Muratori on the artistic heritage of Lake George on June 13 and 6:30 pm and the publication of a book by Teri Gay that includes 40 images by O’Keeffe, Stieglitz, 19th century artists and Seneca Ray Stoddard.
“Like the exhibition, Teri Gay’s lecture, “Spirit of Presence and Place,” is an overview of our area and how the geography of place impacted the artists, and how their” presence” impacted our history,” said Adamson.
Copies may be reserved in advance of publication from the Lake George Historical Association at a discounted price by visiting the museum or calling 668-5044.