Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Award Winning Beading Artist to Demonstrate at Gallery 54

July's First Friday celebration at Gallery 54 in Skaneateles promises to be magical. Titled Beading Beyond Jewelry beading artist Judi Witkin will be demonstrating one of the world's oldest of arts as she creates a “kaleidocycle” between 5 and 8 pm on July 6. While Judi creates her intricate, colorful and magnificently detailed beaded wonder visitors will be able to enjoy several additional examples of her award-winning creations.

A Judi Witkin Kakeidocycle
Known throughout Central New York for her beaded jewelry, her demonstration is designed to go well beyond jewelry. Judi tried her hand at several artistic endeavors while serving the Syracuse City School District as a special education and pre-kindergarten teacher. It wasn't until she retired in 2010 that her passion for beading truly blossomed.
A beaded ornament

Showing all the angles
I've found beading to be very seductive,” she says of the ancient art. “It's an art that, while practiced for centuries all over the world, is always new.” She notes that while it's not difficult, it is challenging with an element of math that she enjoys as well. “It is the only medium that I feel expresses my creative energy and ideas,” she says. Besides an uncountable variety of stitches to be employed, Judi hastens to note that “new kinds of beads are being invented all the time.”

She opened her first studio in Syracuse's Delavan Center shortly after retiring from teaching and became one of the owners of Gallery 54 in Skaneateles, NY in 2014, where a wide selection of her jewelry as well as other decorative beaded pieces are regularly available for viewing as well as purchase.
Employing every twist and turn

The Syracuse based artist lists such renowned beaders as Marcia DeCoster, Laura McCabe, Sherry Serafini and Mikki Ferrugiaro as both her inspiration and her mentors.

An active member of the Bead Society of Central New York her work recently captured first prize at the 2018 International Bead Expo.

In addition to this demonstration visitors will be able to enter a raffle to win a free pet portrait to be painted by another Gallery 54 artist, Kathleen Schneider. One dollar tickets will gain entry to the raffle and be donated to Spay and Neuter Syracuse.

Judi's demonstration will be from 5-8 pm Friday, July 6 and the evening will also feature music by Jane Zell along with light refreshments.

Gallery 54 is an upscale, artist owned and operated gallery and gift store. It was recently recognized by the Post Standard as one of the thirteen best gift shops in Upstate New York.

The gallery is open Sunday-Thursday from 10 am to 5 pm and Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm. It also is open 24/7/365 at:

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Judi Wins

First Place for Judi's creations
The International  Bead Expo came to Central New York recently and was held at the Liverpool Holiday Inn. Crowds from throughout the region converged on the expo and the many vendors there to address the needs of beaders throughout the area.

An important part of Expo was a contest for beaders with the theme of "Ultra Violet" based on Pantone's color of the year. The contest was sponsored by the Bead Society of CNY. Gallery 54's own Judi Witkin came out on top taking home First Place in the contest.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

It's Time to be - “Touched”

Anyone who has ever wondered what it is like to “be touched” by art needs to mark the First Friday of June on their calendars and make plans to attend Gallery 54's traditional opening of a special guest artist show at the gallery, here.

"Here's Looking at You: People and Pet Portraits by Kathleen Schneider" will feature Kathy's pleasing to the eye impressionistic style with a special focus on pastel nudes and portraits, even pet portraits.

While many Central New Yorkers with an interest in art may already be familiar with the work of June's guest artist, they won't want to miss this special collection of her watercolors capturing the beauty and essence of the people and animals.

This is sure to be a special evening with the opportunity to interact with Kathy and discover the looseness of the watercolor medium she has chosen for the work she will have on display, especially the effect she is able to achieve in the painting of light.

The self-taught artist finds her work most rewarding “when someone is drawn to it” as visitors to this special opening are sure to be. She will be anxious to talk with everyone about her painting process and the “zone” she often finds herself in while creating a new painting.

A “signature member” of the Central New York Watercolor Society, Kathy's show will offer the opportunity help support Spay and Neuter Syracuse by entering a drawing to win a portrait of your pet created by the artist herself.

Music will be provided by Chris Molloy and his Electric Blue Harp and a wine tasting will be provided by Bellangelo Winery from Dundee, NY. As it the gallery's custom, light refreshments will also be served.

Gallery 54 is an artist owned and operated gallery specializing in fine art and craft by Central New York artists. The gallery is located at 54 E. Genesee St. in Skaneateles. 

Gallery hours: 10-5 Sun - Thurs. and 10-6 Fri.-Sat. 


Monday, April 16, 2018

May Guest Artist is For the Birds

 Paul Schantz may be described as a builder who just couldn't stop when he retired. In his own words, “I just decided to build small homes.” Well, not exactly. Small homes, for sure. But, not just any small homes.

No two Paul Schantz birdhouse are alike . . .
but many will intrigue you
As someone who, since 1975 spent a career involved in designing, constructing, and remodeling homes he saw first hand the waste created by building demolition and construction by-products. Combine that with a lifetime interest in conservation and preservation, seeing scraps from various projects headed to the landfill bothered him.

All of a sudden a long-enjoyed interest in wildlife, birds, in particular, blossomed into a retirement avocation building birdhouses. Paul chuckles when he notes that “birdhouses do not have zoning requirements to adhere to, or need building permits or certificates of occupancy.”

All of Paul's birdhouses are original designs and constructed of repurposed materials. No two are the same. If you think that sounds simple enough you may want to visit Gallery 54 where he will be the Guest Artist for May and June. When Paul says no two birdhouses are the same, that really is an understatement. Indeed, at the recent Carol Watson Nursery fundraising show in LaFayette, NY he had more than 150 unique creations.
This birdhouse started out as a 100th
Anniversary tin of Log Cabin Maple Syrup

There doesn't appear to be any such thing as a typical Paul Schantz birdhouse. Construction materials may be as far ranging as old barn wood, maple tree syrup taps, sap bucket lids, door knobs, old tractor funnels, lunch boxes, and antique lanterns . . . to mention a few. The birdhouses are as likely to be found mounted on a rustic fence post or resting on a fine oak table or fireplace mantle as hanging from a tree.

While they are respected as artful renditions of their distant cousins, the common “cookie cutter” birdhouses, Paul certainly does not suggest that they need to be treated with kid gloves. “My birdhouses,” he says, “are indeed small homes for birds. They are designed and constructed to be used.” With that in mind backing off a couple screws is typically all that's needed to be able to clean out the latest inhabitant's nest before readying for a new season. After seasonal cleaning Paul recommends storing these artfully created birdhouses indoors during the winter months if only to assure their function for many years.

With more than 600 birdhouses created so far, it's hard for most people to understand where he gets
A small sample of the many birdhouse designs Paul has.
his ideas . . . ideas that have already incorporated such unique and diverse building materials as an old SU souvenir basketball, a maple syrup can, slate from an old roof, house siding shingles, oil cans, and the list goes on. There is one thing you won't find on a Paul Schantz birdhouse though . . . a wooden dowel as a perch. That would be too common.

Stop by Gallery 54 and scoop up your birdhouse while Paul is our Guest Artist in April and May.

The opening for his showing will be the First Friday of May, May 4 from 5 - 8 pm. In addition to light refreshments, guests will enjoy a wine tasting by Anyela's Winery and the guitar music of Jane Zell.  

Check out our online store at Gallery 54 online store 
for more 

fine art and craft of other Gallery 54 artists.

Friday, April 13, 2018

"What's that galloping sound," you ask?

One of the newest additions to Gallery 54 is a horse, would you believe. Well, maybe not a horse, but a pony. Okay, not a real pony. Would you believe a rocking horse? Of course, this is Gallery 54 so, "One of the Best Gift Shops in Upstate New York" according to the Syracuse Post Standard so it's not just any rocking horse. It certainly not like you might expect to find in most any other modern-day toy store.

Carefully handcrafted is one thing . . . and it certainly is. But, it is not only carefully, but lovingly handcrafted by Gallery 54 woodworker extraordinaire Fred Weisskopf. This particular rocking horse will make most people harken back to bygone eras when true craftsmanship was the norm.

used cherry, walnut, and birdseye maple to create this one of kind heirloom piece. "No special tools or techniques needed," he says, not mentioning his years of experience that culminated in this work or the 30+ hours he committed to its creation.

You shouldn't expect a piece like this to stay in the gallery very long, so why not stop in today and grab something special for someone special in your life.

Gallery 54 is open Sunday - Thursday from 10 am to 5 pm and Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm.

Check out our online store at Gallery 54 online store 
for more of Fred's work as well as the 
fine art and craft of other Gallery 54 artists.

Monday, April 2, 2018

It's time for another new artist

I wrote that headline because I wanted a way to use the word "time" in introducing a new artist.

Introducing a new artist could be routine for a gallery such as Gallery 54. That is unless you understand that art and artists is what this gallery is all about. So every introduction of a new artist becomes a highlight 
Recently, Gallery 54 welcomed Leonie Lacouette and an initial collection of her elegant clocks. One of the first things other gallery artists, and more importantly, customers will recognize is that Lacouette “reconciles the strict geometries palette of colored patinas on the copper and nickel that predominate her designs.”

Her clocks are “created from a basic language of circles, squares, ovals and rectangles. The clocks are not only beautiful, but often playful. A recent description of one of her clocks describes the “otherwise hidden movement of the pendulum” swinging back and forth, “revealed by a perfectly circular hole punched through the face of the piece to create a dynamic (and unexpected) game of 'hide-and-seek'”.

Lacouette has been making clocks for 25 years. It started for her as a practical way to make a living, at the same time “using the aesthetic training she'd received in art school.” She explains that she needed a clock for her studio and saw an ad for clock mechanisms. After ordering five, she made one for her studio and the rest to sell. They sold quickly and the clocks hanging in Gallery 54 readily illustrate,

Hailing from Manhattan, she recalls that “everything was go-go-go, always accumulating more stuff-stuff-stuff, having lots of things. It feels great,” she says, “to have something simple and beautiful, a style that I can call my own.”

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mixed Media Artist to Demonstrate at Gallery 54

From Potsdam, NY to Point Loma in San Diego, to Skaneateles. From the Tree of Life, to Between Heaven and Earth, to the Japan Bird Project it's hard to pigeon hole (pun intended) Warner Varno and her art. The word “beautiful” might suffice, yet somehow it even comes up short.

Warner Varno
Warner and her art, mixed media on canvas, are featured at Gallery 54 throughout the month of January and into mid-February. On January 27 besides the impressive pieces on exhibit and available for purchase, Warner will demonstrate the techniques that resonate in her work between 12 and 3 pm.

She began creating her art during study halls and her lunch period while still a high school student at Jordan-Elbridge High School. However, she says it wasn't until she was studying fine art and anthropology at SUNY Potsdam that she became truly engaged in learning. “ I was learning so many different things at such a rapid pace as a double major; I really needed to process all the thinking through my art, all my questions and feelings about what I was learning as well,” she says.

Her attraction to art was found, in her words “. . . in a pull to process the world around me and what I was learning through making the work. I ask questions as well as record events and information and ‘write’ stories through my artwork. Making art for me is how I process my internal and external world, it is how I ask questions, analyze and record new information, and sometimes to gain a level of 'understanding' I would not have access to otherwise.”

Most recently,” she notes, “I have found 'play' to be a highly attractive quality of my art making process as well as the element of surprise. I surprise myself now more than ever, letting go of some control and allowing the work to puzzle itself out to a feeling of completion.”

Warner describes her work, especially the larger pieces, “as ‘bone gardens’ of a sort,” adding “but I am also a storyteller. I am interested in layering both the media and the subject matter, almost weaving these elements together, sometimes literally and sometimes using transparency. I paint about life cycles and like to envelop all of that inside something I feel is beautiful in its own peculiar way and also celebratory of the lived experience of being human.”

Some of her work exhibited at Gallery 54 originated in a show titled Bright Wings, held at Point Loma in San Diego. Another element, The Japan Birds Project, is a fund raising project for Time for Art class scholarships. Warner has 50 Western Bird Designs currently available and 50 Eastern designs are in the works.

During the demonstration, Syracuse Salt Company will also provide tastings of their variety of culinary salts.

Gallery 54 is an upscale venue for Central New York artists that showcases and sells unique, inspired, and timeless art in a diversity of mediums.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Gallery 54 artist featured in Auburn Citizen

A Denver, Colorado-based art enrichment program is opening a second branch on Mary Street in Auburn. 
Central New York native Warner K. Varno, a master teaching artist and founder of Time for Art, said she's starting off the new year with a soft opening, but she has big plans for the program's future. Classes in drawing, painting, sculpture, mixed media and recycled art for those in kindergarten through sixth grade will start after school Mondays and Wednesdays in January, in addition to a Saturday studio time.
Central New York native Warner Varno is a master
teaching artist and founder of Time for Art, a 
Denver, Colorado-based art enrichment program. 
Varno is opening a second branch of Time for Art 
on Mary Street in Auburn.
Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen
Varno is lifting the new business off the ground as the sole art teacher, but she plans to pull in others as the program grows. She hopes to make Time for Art a nonprofit organization, too. Much of what she's working to establish in the Auburn location comes from the work already happening in Denver — summer camps, after school programs, studio time for all ages to work on projects. She's also developed scholarship programs for families.
"Especially people pulling in from rural areas around Auburn, I want them to be able to afford it and get high quality instruction, and not just from me," she said. "It's a slow incremental thing. We're here, but we're not ready to go. We have to go through this phase of transition."
The transition involves the 23 Mary St. location called The Shop. Julie Varno, Warner's mother, cut and styled women's hair there for 53 years. It started in 1964 as Joy and Julie's, a salon with Joy Tripiciano. Julie took it on solo from 1988 to 2015 before Janiece Oliver came on board, cutting men's hair. The city of Auburn granted a variance to convert the shop into an art school this year, but Oliver will continue cutting hair there at least until the summer, Varno said. 
Born in Auburn, Varno grew up in Elbridge and now lives in Skaneateles. It was a while before she circled back to her old stomping grounds, however. After finishing up her degrees in fine art and anthropology at SUNY Potsdam, she worked at Fort Drum conducting a cultural resource survey for Native American artifacts. She left the Army base to paint furniture at MacKenzie-Childs. 
In 1998, Varno headed west, spending some time in Colorado and California. She took an archaeology job in the Sacramento area, while displaying some of her work in an all-women's art studio called Matrix. Through a grant from the gallery, Varno found art in a new light — through education. Bringing art and literacy to a local school, Varno found herself reading to children, many of whom did not speak English.
"We used art to understand the book they were supposed to be reading, and it was so cool," she said. "Art was the language, and a little bit of performance and a lot of visual art. That's when I returned to Colorado and would get the master's and focus on teaching art in schools."
Varno got her teaching license from the University of Denver, specializing in kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum and instruction with a focus on art and visual culture. Visiting multiple schools, Varno found that many students did not have art opportunities, and what classes were available were pitifully short, she said.
In 2006, Varno opened Time for Art in Denver. Her friend and colleague Ippy Farnam is running things there while Varno is getting the Auburn location up and running. Besides the Mary Street space, Varno has also been teaching art and yoga classes at the Skaneateles YMCA and Community Center, and displaying and selling her own art in the Skaneateles shop Gallery 54.
While there are some existing art programs in the area, Varno said what sets hers apart is its more playful nature combined with high-quality art lessons. She incorporates yoga into her classes, using breathing exercises to get children ready to make their masterpieces. 
"The yoga is really like to prepare and just connect with the breath, and get ready to make the art," she said.
As for the art part, Varno compares her teaching style to the old master painters during the Renaissance, teaching apprentices about their own experiences. This is why Varno is looking forward to bringing in other artists to teach, she said, so students can broaden their skills, scope of work and approaches to creation. 
Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.