She was resolute in her determination to create art on her own terms.
I have known Syracuse artist Arlene Abend for thirty years. We met when I joined the now defunct Visual Arts Committee at the Civic Center. We held juried exhibitions and installed the work of local artists on the walls of the space – a captive audience situation, which lead to several sales. My sister even bought someone’s art from there and I met my first patron who ended up buying several of my paintings over the years.
I left the program after about four years. I wanted to do member exhibitions and everyone felt that was self-serving. Later, they moved the exhibitions to the PBS building (was it? I don’t really remember) but they did start having those member’s shows.
I have always felt the same way about the Everson Museum of Art. They would bring in these out of state artists who’d get recognition from our less established museum subsequently gaining the confidence to go on to illustrious careers. I couldn’t understand why the Everson didn’t cultivate from within. That seemed the perfect opportunity – to big up our talented local artists and catapult us towards successful art careers nationally. It would be a win-win as it would generate interest and revenue for the museum because there would be so many wealthy and amazing artists who would give back. I guess I was never thinking universally, but selfishly (my vortex contains the dream of showcasing my art in all four of the upper galleries – I can 100% fill them), The idea that we are an art community that helps and supports each other – is that too daft?
Well, it’s finally happening. Elizabeth Dunbar has begun this trajectory and we can currently see this manifestation in the form of a feisty little ninety-year-old woman who is currently showing her sculptures in the Robineau Gallery at the Everson Museum of Art.
We create our own realities and Arlene Abend’s road has been one primarily of family and deep-rooted friendships combined with the solitude of her artistry. Every one of us has stated a collective “it’s about time” in reference to this exhibition!
The bumpy amorphous shapes in her metal wall sculptures sort of mirror the curves in her path/emotions in her path – health issues, worry, relationship heart break, disappointment, money struggles, fears…and yet, the tiny humanoid figurines showcase her whimsy and humor, her belief in the human spirit even while the resin pieces indicate a sort of trapped suffering.
This exhibition has always been in Arlene Abend’s vortex – of that I am certain. It’s almost as though the resolution was in lowering the resistance. Lessening the struggle in favor of the resiliency of the human condition. Here she is at the apex of her career, all ragged edges, highs and lows, structures and voids, liquids solidifying inside her mind for all of us to witness – a life lived with an expectation to share it in all its incarnations.
It really does not matter how much time it takes for a dream to come true. That’s the beauty of it.
Arlene Abend – RESOLUTE is on display through April 17, 2022. Visit the www.everson.org for information regarding hours of operation and admission price or call (315) 474-6064.
The Everson Museum of Art
401 Harrison Street
Syracuse, NY 13202