Artist tackles weighty topics with a hint of whimsy

The cyclical nature of power struggles is at the root of Sideways Glances, an exhibition of paintings and prints by Tatana “Tana” Kellner that opens at the Garrison Art Center on Saturday (Feb. 17) with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m.

Tana Kellner
Tana Kellner

Those looking for overt depictions of a dark world will have to peer a little closer to unveil it. Kellner, who was born in what was then Czechoslovakia and raised there until her family’s 1969 move to Toledo, Ohio, says that while she embraces weighty topics such as politics, the economy, the environment and social justice issues, she often uses satire, whimsy and an element of surprise to bring viewers into the conversation. 

She’s happy to be showing her latest work at the Garrison Art Center, where she has exhibited previously. “This show is about what’s going on in the larger world in terms of conflicts,” she says. “It’s about how to have some kind of meaningful life in the face of it. While this is a response to the news, it isn’t necessarily that. I’m interested in pieces that have an emotional weight. What becomes of the world once you step out from it?” 

Kellner, who lives in Rosendale, has been an artist for four decades. The daughter of Holocaust survivors, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toledo in 1972 and a master of fine arts from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1982.

“Many times I don’t have a specific idea, just a lot of stuff floating in my head,” she says. “I was thinking about Black Lives Matter, for example, and found that my work then reflected isolation, angst and uncertainty. There are a couple of pieces in this show — one is ‘Fight’ — that address these issues.” 

She has described her art as being rooted in printmaking. “I like the graphic nature, as well as its historical role as the medium for the masses,” she writes in her artist’s statement. “Covered in dust, rubble and layers upon layers of sediments, history and politics are only revealed after digging up a lot of dirt. I work with images in a similar way, digging through layers of information to arrive at the final images.

“I’ve been working since the pandemic on paintings and prints which are about being both a part of something and an individual,” she says. “The chasm interests me: How do you reconcile that people are being killed in other parts of the world? That dark cloud hanging over us — we don’t know all those threads are possibilities and uncertainties — that’s my kind of work.”

The Garrison Art Center, at 23 Garrison’s Landing, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Monday. See or call 845-424-3960. Sideways Glances will be on view with Painting Out Loud, an exhibition of paintings by Stanford Kay. Both shows run through March 10.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Rooney has been writing for The Current since its founding in 2010. A playwright, she has lived in Cold Spring since 1999. She is a graduate of Binghamton University, where she majored in history. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: Arts

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