For some, politics is a lifelong calling.
For others, it’s but one stop on life’s journey.
Ann Thane served as mayor of Amsterdam for eight eventful years, but she has no plans to return to politics. In fact, she laughed when I asked her whether she had any political aspirations. Since losing her re-election bid in 2016, her focus has been art.
“I just want to make art,” Thane told me. “I loved (being mayor), it was my favorite job ever. But I don’t think I’d ever do it again, because politics is terrible.”
What’s not terrible is Thane’s art.
I took a drive up to Fulton-Montgomery Community College last week, where some of Thane’s work is on exhibit at the school’s Perrella Gallery.
The pieces on display are colorful, bold and bursting with life and energy.
Most of them are illustrations of female nudes created using a variety of mediums, including colored pencils, pastels, spray paint, ink and collage.
Untitled multimedia work by Ann Thane. Marc Schultz/Staff Photographer
In her artist’s statement, Thane says that “I work to express the beauty of the female form, psychology and sexuality. I portray singular subjects that give voice to my own struggles with aging, dignity, grief, vanity and power.”
“I think it’s important for women to make artwork about women’s bodies,” Thane said.
The first piece that greets visitors to the gallery is a prototype for a larger mosaic, titled “Mother Madonna of Amsterdam NY,” that Thane will create in downtown Amsterdam, in a small stone grotto in a parking lot owned by Catholic Charities.
The divine-looking young woman depicted in Thane’s prototype will be composed of handmade tiles, cut glass and mirror. It will make for a stirring and bold piece of public art, and people can track Thane’s progress on a Facebook page titled Mother Mosaic of Amsterdam.
Thane hopes to start working outside on the mosaic around Mother’s Day. The project is funded by a $2,500 grant from Saratoga Arts, and will involve students from Amsterdam High School, who will help Thane with the background.
“When I was mayor, I pushed public art heavily,” Thane told me. “It’s great for the community and the people who live there.”
The artwork featured in the Perrella Gallery exhibit, titled “Bodies of Work,” was mostly made during two different periods in Thane’s life: her college days at the University of Delaware, where she studied fine art and art history, and her current, post-mayoral life.
For decades, Thane barely made any art at all.
She was busy, of course – working as a graphic artist, serving as director of Amsterdam’s Walter Elwood Museum, raising children and eventually running the city of Amsterdam.
Then, in early 2017, she stumbled across her college artwork while cleaning out her attic.
“I realized I loved my stuff,” Thane said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ So I started to try (making art) again, and I liked it.”
Thane, 62, still works – she’s the director of local government services for the New York Department of State.
But it’s her passion for making art that drives her.
“I know that’s why I’m here,” she said.
“I work when the spirit moves me, and that’s pretty much all of the time.”
“Bodies of Work” will run through March 27 at the Perrella Gallery.
Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]