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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Mountain Lake Workshop opens at VCU gallery

By Sally Harris

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 01 - August 29, 1996

Selected artwork from the Mountain Lake Studio Workshops, originated by Virginia Tech art Professor Ray Kass, will be shown at the Anderson Gallery at Virginia Commonwealth University August 30 through October 6.

Included in the exhibition will be works by five of the artists who worked at the Horton Center near Mountain Lake: the late American avant-garde composer John Cage, folk artist and evangelist Howard Finster, Japanese sculptor Jiro Okura, the official artist-in-residence for the New York Sanitation Department, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and Mountain Lake founder Ray Kass. This is the largest exhibit of these artworks ever displayed together since the beginning of the collaborative workshops in 1983.

The opening for the exhibit will be 7-9 p.m. August 30 at the Anderson Gallery at 907 1/2 West Franklin Street, Richmond. It is open to the public. As part of the festivities, Dika Newlin, a well-known performance artist, local celebrity, and professor of music at VCU, will perform John Cage's famous work "4.33" and other selected pieces beginning at 8 p.m. in the gallery. Mountain Lake Workshop Director Kass will lecture on the history of the workshop Sunday, Sept. 22, at 2 p.m. at the gallery.

The gallery's regular in-season hours will resume at this time. They are Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 1-5 p.m.

An 80-page catalog written by art critic Howard Risatti will accompany the exhibit. The catalog, which has 20 full-color reproductions and about 40 black-and-white photographs documenting the activities of the Mountain Lake Workshop, is available for $15. Contact Kass at the Virginia Tech Department of Art and Art History, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg VA 24061-0103.

The Mountain Lake Symposia and Workshops began in the early 1980s and were part of Mountain Lake programs that included artists' conferences, lectures, exhibitions, and collaborative workshops conducted by guest artists. The programs were named after the nearby Mountain Lake and resort area in Giles County, and art critic Donald B. Kuspit, who participated in all the symposia, said, "We were on a magic mountain where we could discuss art to our hearts' and minds' content..."

They also created art. National and international artists and critics participated in the programs. Steven High, who brought the Mountain Lake Workshop exhibit to Richmond, said, "It was in these workshops that artists could come together, working collaboratively with one another and with local participants, to achieve complex artistic products of rich depth and experimentation."

"The spirit of collaboration that has permeated the workshop," notes the introduction to the exhibition catalog, "has been nurtured by the belief that a genuine art and culture can develop from any situation in which there are shared experiences. This is especially so if these experiences are rooted in place and locale-namely, the physical, historic, and psychic spaces people live and work."

Kass originated the Mountain Lake activities to focus on art as a way to create a dialogue about contemporary issues in a community far from the centers of mainstream culture. Since 1980, participants in the symposia have included art critics Clement Greenberg, Russell Kezlere, and Donald Duspit; sculptors Anthony Caro, Nancy Holt, and Mary Miss; and painter Ed Paschke. The workshop has invited internationally known artists to collaborate with students, artists, and interested residents of Southwest Virginia to expand upon the ideas of the visiting artists while "expressing the customary and environmental values of Southwest Virginia," Kass said.

The Mountain Lake Workshop exhibition and publication are made possible, in part, through the contributions of the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Art and Art History at Virginia Tech and the Horton Fund and the Mountain Lake Workshop of the Virginia Tech Foundation, as well as support provided by the Departments of Art History and Art Foundation at Virginia Commonwealth University.

For more information about the exhibition, call the Anderson Gallery at 804/828-1522.