Manitoga exhibit features four innovative artists
For the past decade, the stewards of Manitoga, the Garrison home, studio and landscape designed by the late industrial designer Russel Wright with his wife, Mary, have hosted an artistic residency in fields as varied as music, dance and sound. The artists spend time on the historic property to create works inspired by its aesthetic and atmosphere.
The 2023 program showcases the work of four ceramicists, all women of Asian heritage, in an installation called The Art + Design of Ceramics: Layered Voices. Two worked in the mid-20th century and two are contemporary.
The creations of Jade Snow Wong (1922-2006) and Katherine Choy (1927-1958) will be on display from Saturday (June 3) through Aug. 21 in the house, known as Dragon Rock, and studio. The two women combined their artistry with an entrepreneurial drive directed at getting their work seen and sold.
“They succeeded in a time they were not encouraged to” writes James Zemaitis in in his exhibit notes; he curated the installation with Allison Cross, Manitoga’s executive director.
The work of Jolie Ngo and Stephanie Shih will be shown from Aug. 26 to Nov. 13. Cross notes that their pieces “resist traditional definition. They explore the interplay of handcraft, technology and machine production.”
Ngo, who studied at Alfred University, uses 3D printers and incorporates digital imaging. Shih, like Russel Wright, did not formally study art. Her pieces, many of which are playful, relate to manufactured food and are being shown in the kitchen and dining room. The rooms were restored over the past two years, including the installation of a functioning 1960s fridge.
Manitoga had four times the number of visitors last summer than in the previous year, Cross said, many inspired to visit by landscape photos they saw on Instagram. The opening of the design gallery and a collaboration with Magazzino Italian Art in Philipstown also shifted the focus to objects. (Manitoga will collaborate in 2024, both inside and out, with the Noguchi Museum of Queens.)
A Transformative Gift
Earlier this year, Manitoga trustee Gary Maurer and his wife, Laura Levy Maurer, donated $1 million to the site’s collections endowment fund. The gift also included more than 75 items designed by the Wrights in the 1930s, early in their careers. A required annual draw from the endowment will support a newly opened design gallery.
The gift “helps by allowing us to put the design collection forward: to care for it, to display it, into the future,” said Allison Cross, Manitoga’s executive director. “It’s a signal that the institution takes this collection seriously.”
The fiscal foundation has, Cross says, “opened up the gate a bit to be design-focused, and to take some risks, while also always being in concert with the story of a family who lived there at a particular time, and moving it forward.”
Cross hopes to build on the increase in visitors, diversifying beyond the more typical, older guest who is making stops at historic Hudson Valley homes. To that end, it will add special-interest tours and social gatherings as it figures out how to create “smaller, more in-depth, intimate experiences,” she said.
Manitoga/The Russel Wright Design Center is located at 584 Route 9D in Garrison. Access to the house, studio and gallery is by reservation only, and tours range from $30 to $100 per person. Children must be at least 10 years old to visit. See visitmanitoga.org. The Woodlands Trails are open daily during daylight hours.