GLENS FALLS -- Featuring black and white panoramic shots of familiar places and gilded works from distant lands, the latest exhibitions to open at The Hyde Collection invite one on a brief journey.
“J.S. Wooley, Adirondack Photographer” and “Images of the People: Russian Lacquer Painting,” give visitors a glimpse into the Adirondacks at the turn of the century, and offers up stories from Russian history and folklore.
The Wooley exhibition, the larger of the two, opens with sweeping panoramic views of Lake George, background information on the photographer and a caveat. Wooley (1867-1943) was a successful local photographer who captured social scenes around the Adirondacks, especially at Silver Bay YMCA, and some of the region's most picturesque views. However, he largely focused on documenting the lives of white people and left out minorities, many of who worked in the Adirondacks in the summer.
Throughout the exhibition are “Who’s not in the frame?” panels, which include information about those Wooley left outside of the photographs. They add much-needed detail and context to what seems like a glaring omission.
While Wooley left out a crucial group of people, what he captured in terms of local landscapes was incredible. Take the bright panoramic of Lake George from the Northern end of the Tongue Mountain trail. With a few period cars in the foreground and sweeping mountains in the background, Wooley captured a view that may look different today but that many still venture up to see each summer.
In another work, which Wooley took to the sky to get, he captures the grand-looking Fort William Henry Hotel from above. The photo, taken “from the air” as Wooley notes, is surprisingly crisp, with the eerily calm lake in the foreground.
A significant portion of the exhibition, which was organized by Richard Timberlake and Caroline Welch, focuses on Wooley’s time as the official photographer of Silver Bay YMCA. He held the position for 16 years, documenting the camp’s visitors, activities and social events, like the “Silver Bay Association Theatrical” from 1913. In another panoramic shot, Wooley captures the cast, all posing in their costumes, with a mountainous backdrop behind them. The camp, which is still in operation today, continues to put on a theater production each summer, more than 100 years after Wooley’s photo was taken.
Beyond the Adirondacks, Wooley also embarked on many photography trips across the country and abroad. He organized many trips, acting as both a guide/tour director and photographer. On journeys to Belgium or Paris, he grabbed shots of his tour groups and the views they came across. The photographer would then create magic lantern shows, similar to slideshows, and present lectures of his travels. Just as they transported people during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the images do the same for viewers today.
In an adjacent gallery, viewers are transported again, though to a different time and place.
“Images of the People: Russian Lacquer Painting,” which is available to view both online and in the gallery, features intricately painted boxes from Palech artists. Known as the “icon village” and located around 200 miles northeast of Moscow, Palech was an epicenter for icon-painters from the sixteenth century until the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. After that, icon painters pivoted to painting detailed scenes of Russian history and fairy tales on lacquered boxes.
In one work, created by Nikolai Pavlovich Lopatin, the artist depicts the story of “The Frog Princess.” Three central figures are depicted with bows and arrows, with castles on either side of them. The piece is framed with golden designs, as is the case with most of the works in the exhibit.
Nearby, in one of the larger featured works, is a painting of Duke Stepanovich overcoming wolves and armed bogatyrs on his journey to Kiev. Painted by Irina Valentinivna Fedotova, the piece is complex, incorporating several scenes along the top of one box.
Each work in the exhibit is layered with stories and it’s worth slowing down to go through it, though due to new safety restrictions, slowing down isn't easily done. Since opening earlier this month, the Hyde has had to whittle down its hours to Friday-Sunday and put a time limit of one hour on each visit to help with the visitor flow.
Both fortunately and unfortunately, there’s a lot to see in that single hour and lingering on any one piece or exhibition - something visitors frequently did before COVID-19 - is not recommended.
Beyond these two exhibitions, which will be up through at least the end of the year, visitors can explore pieces from the permanent collection in the Hyde House, including works by George Bellows, Peter Paul Rubens, Winslow Homer, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and others.
The Hyde Collection is open from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Reservations must be made in advance via hydecollection.org. Admission is free to essential workers and their families in August. General admission is $12 for adults. For more information visit hydecollection.org.