Renowned critic Saltz judges ‘colorful’ 57th Chautauqua Annual Exhibition

Kreable Young | Staff Photographer
“Snowy Owl” by Bill Reid

When Jerry Saltz agreed to be the juror for the 57th Chautauqua Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art, he fulfilled one of artistic director of the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution Don Kimes’ longtime wishes.

“I’ve wanted to get him for years,” said Kimes, who, with the help of his advisory board, finally convinced Saltz to visit the Institution and serve as the exhibition’s juror.

Saltz, an art critic for New York Magazine, has been nominated for three Pulitzer Prizes and his opinion is widely respected in the world of contemporary art. Kimes said the annual process of obtaining a juror for the event often takes years of planning.

“I’ll get people to come out who had never been here before and I’ll work on them for several years,” he said. “Then, once they come out, they get interested in things and they want to come back. Hopefully, that will happen with Jerry too, because he is a really important commentator on contemporary art.”

The exhibition opens 3 p.m. Sunday, June 22, in the main gallery of Strohl Art Center. Saltz will choose the pieces that will receive awards ranging from $100 to $1,000, and $2,500 will be given in total.

This year, there were more than 700 applications — nearly double the number of applications from last year, Kimes said.

Five of the 33 artists chosen happen to be alumni of the School of Art, though Saltz was unfamiliar with Chautauqua while choosing the applicants.

“We’ve never had anything happen like that before,” Kimes said.

Saltz’s choice of artists pleased Kimes.

“Here’s this serious critical voice that picked five former students out of 33 people. One of six people in this show, almost, is a former Chautauqua student. It really speaks to the quality of the program,” Kimes said.

Kimes said the exhibitions vary every summer based on the sensibilities of the jurors, but this year’s exhibition features one noticeable difference.

“The one thing I noticed was color,” he said. “There’s a lot more color in the show than last year.”

According to Kimes, last year’s exhibition featured mostly monochromatic pieces.

One of these colorful pieces in the exhibition is embroidery on linen made by Heidi Leitzke, who spent the summers of 2000 and 2001 studying at the School of Art studying landscape painting and drawing.

After the birth of her son three years ago, Leitzke returned to the hand-held embroidery she had made as a child because of its convenience and small scale.

“The fact that it doesn’t dry out if I put it down and the needle stays right where I left it makes it really accommodating for my schedule,” she said. “So I can still fit in a couple of hours of studio time, it’s just broken up to different times of the day.”

This year’s piece, titled “Gate,” features an embroidered black outline of a wall and gate behind which the overflowing foliage of jagged cerulean and turquoise blossoms cannot be contained.

“I think about things like secret gardens, and so that’s kind of where the piece came out of,” she said. “There’s kind of layers of space, things being contained or hidden, what’s revealed, what’s exposed. Those kinds of things are what I’m interested in.”

Leitzke said her summers spent at Chautauqua still influence her life.

“If I hadn’t spent that time painting, I don’t think I would have ended up spending my life in art the way I am now,” she said.