9.06.2009

What I Saw This Summer, Part 5: Art and Life in Battenville, New York

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.Marketing Mondays will be back on the 21st.
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Some years ago I lived in Washington County, lush dairy-farm country that shares a border with Vermont, about 200 miles upstate. (Well, lush in the summer; snowy and cold as freezing hell in the winter.) My longtime friends Gerald Coble and Bob Nunnelley live there in an early 19th-Century farmhouse, which they've meticulously restored inside and out. (The house was glimpsed briefly as the domestic setting for Robert Redford's The Horse Whisperer.) I get my own wing when I stay over--a second-floor room, accessed via its own staircase, with a four-poster and a bathroom with a pedestal sink. It's hard to leave.
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Art and life at the Coble/Nunnelley residence in Battenville, New York
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Coble and Nunnelley have the most integrated lifestyle of any artists I know: artmaking, gardening, cooking, woodchopping, socializing, exhibiting--the very antithesis of nine-to-five--an idyllic and productive life in Battenville, a tiny town allong a stretch of Route 29, which runs parallel to the Battenkill River not too far from Saratoga. Coble constructs collages and assemblages in a small studio overlooking the Battenkill while Nunnelley paints on the second floor of an old tavern across the road (another meticulously restored building). Let's visit.

House and Garden
I'm showing you just a glimpse of the house and its grounds--I was visiting, not shooting for a shelter magazine, after all--but I think you get a sense of its utter fabulousness.


 

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Tuscany on the Battenkill? Corners of the garden above and below
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This is the inside view of the screened-in summer room with its owners, Bob Nunnelley, below left, and Gerald Coble
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The porch outside the kitchen. Look familiar? It was in a scene from The Horse Whisperer. The Battenkill River is down the hill to the right
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.From the kitchen looking into the dining room, with a view of Coble's most recent work. Closer view below
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I love this work, so evocative. An image of the Three Graces, spools of red silk thread and a swatch of fabric suggest not so much the Roman goddesses of charm, beauty and creativity but the Norse goddesses of fate, the Norns, who spin , weave and clip the fabric of life
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The Coble Studio
Coble's studio is not far from the porch with the firewood, at the back of the house overlooking the Battenkill. It's an intimate space, which seems appropriate for the kind of work he creates: introspective, poetic assemblages that evoke nostalgia even for an imagined past.
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A corner of the studio, with a detail below





Another corner, with a work in honor of Emily Dickinson, below. The white kid gloves, so hauntingly suggestive of life in another time, come from friends who pick them up at yard sales

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A doorbell to the past? I love this one. It's as if you could press that button and be transported to the time and place of that chunk of wall enclosed within the frame


The Nunnelley Studio
Across from the farmhouse is this 18th Century tavern, which the artists have restored with historical accuracy. Nunnelley's studio is on the second floor--reached by the narrowest, steepest stairs I've ever climbed. But before we ascend, I want to mention that just to the left of this building is the childhood home of Susan B. Anthony, which was recently willed to the state. (Sorry, my pictures were too dark; I shot them as night was falling, but the link has a picture and good info.)



The second floor of the tavern, above, is Nunnelley's studio


.Above and below: Two views of the studio's viewing room, shot from opposite ends
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.The recent painting above is my particular favorite. Nunnelley's Matissean style was established when he was in art school. The ink-brush painting on paper is from his days as a student of David Smith. I love the calligraphic elements in his work, and his palette which is so reflective of the Washington County light
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This is where the work on paper is done. To the right is a smaller room where Nunnelley paints
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Below: the inspiration wall in his painting room. Many images are of Nunnelley's own paintings, along with photographs he has taken and reproductions of other painters' work
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Next "What I Saw" installment: An alfresco "studio" in Salem, New York

7 comments:

sophie munns said...

This is a wonderful glimpse into the lives of 2 truly inspiring artists Joanne...what a treat to find this post this evening. I love that all aspects of their daily lives are approached with artfulness and dedication... and their respective studios and work I would love to see more of!
Also liked the previous post on artists Farrell and Alexander!

rappel said...

this is arm chair traveling at its best. thanks for posting.

Joanne Mattera said...

Thanks for the kind words, Sophie and Rappel.

Every artist in this series has a website. You can access each website by clicking onto the artist's boldface name.

Zappha said...

Looks like a wonderful place to stop, rest and be transported to another realm. Lovely.

David Richardson said...

small world dept. My wife and I were married in Battenville in 1983. Her parents own the old mill and the farmhouse at the other end of town. Your friends had one of their small out buildings open years ago as part of an open studios tour.

Nancy Natale said...

A lovely visit, Joanne. The mix of art and life these two guys share is lovely and inspirational. It must be a real treat to have them as friends.

Judy Watkins said...

It is the best place in the world and you have really done it justice Joanne. It is so hard to describe that we just take friends there. (A little hard on our hosts but they are always gracious.)

Judy and Ben Watkins