CANAJOHARIE — Driving into Canajoharie is like driving into most small towns: There are a few old-timey shops and cozy eateries, but nothing shouts “Georgia O'Keeffe, Andrew Wyeth and Mary Cassatt works on exhibit.”
Well, nothing except for the Arkell Museum at the Canajoharie Library.
With its exhibitions “Masterworks” and “Masterworks: On Paper,” the museum has pulled out all the stops, including works from O’Keeffe, Wyeth, Cassatt, George Inness, Anna Mary “Grandmother Moses” Robertson and Winslow Homer.
Many of the works are in the Arkell's permanent collection, though it’s a best-kept secret that the museum has been trying not to keep. The “Masterworks” exhibit has helped spread the word, but many locals aren’t aware of the magnitude of the Arkell’s collection.
“A lot of it is word of mouth,” said Jenna Peterson Riley, the curator of education and public engagement at the museum.
And there’s plenty to chat about, with a variety of impressionistic works and photorealistic selections, among other pieces.
Wyeth’s wintry watercolor, “February 2nd,” is perhaps the most unexpected. Even in its seeming banality - the expansive, snow-covered field with the modest house and the bare tree - it’s perhaps the most eye-catching in the “Masterworks: On Paper” section. It seems impossibly realistic: Every bit of tree bark seems to have unique ridges that seem rough to the touch. It stands in stark contrast to many of his other works, which feature earthy tones.
As Wyeth once stated, “ ... Winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something awaits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”
In the same section of the exhibit are several Winslow Homer watercolors, which are only rarely brought out due to their age and the fragility of the pieces. The Museum has 14 the curators have changed out throughout the course of the exhibit, placing a few on display at a time.
His nautical watercolors have kept visitors coming back week after week to see the exhibition, rightfully so, as each tells a story as classic feeling as “Moby Dick” or “The Old Man and the Sea.”
“Masterworks,” which is featured adjacent to “Masterworks: On Paper,” features some of the most decadent pieces in the show. A work by Albany painter Walter Launt Palmer, “Morning Light,” shakes off the notion that a winter scene must feel bare and chilly. Palmer layers blues, pinks, yellows and purples to bring out the rich heaviness of the upstate New York countryside shortly after it’s been coated with that first thick layer of snow.
There’s also the portrait of “Anne” by George Bellows, a stunning expressionistic piece with a stark contrast between the dark, shadow-like background and the brightness of the girl’s expression.
“Everyone finds something in this exhibit,” Riley said. The show will be up until Dec. 30. For information, visit arkellmuseum.org.
At MASS MoCA, Barbara Takenaga’s “Nebraska” mural will be on exhibit through Monday.
The piece is an unexpected one for the artist, who is known for small-scale pieces with intricate patterns of swirling dots. But with the piece at MASS MoCA, she takes her classic style and expands it along Hunter Hallway, evoking the feeling of expansive space and starry skies. For information, visit massmoca.org.