The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

April 7, 2014

Gilbertsville woman's inventive art wins 'Best of Show'

By Jessica Reynolds Staff writer
The Daily Star

---- — A Gilbertsville woman’s imagination and artistry won her an award at an exhibit featuring the work of more than 65 New York-based artists.

Nancy Callahan’s mixed media sculpture, ‘Mechanized Shorthand Device Plucked from a Stenographer’s Dream,’ won her ‘Best of Show’ at the annual ‘Made in New York’ exhibition at the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, according to a media release. This year’s exhibit features 73 pieces of art, including paintings, photographs, sculptures and drawings, by more than 65 artists from New York. More than 200 people attended the exhibit’s opening reception and award presentation on March 29, the release said, including some participating artists who were visiting from as far away as Brooklyn.

Callahan, an art professor at SUNY Oneonta, said she was “really surprised” and “honored” to have her sculpture picked from, what she called, “lots of beautiful pieces” by artists from across New York. 

“It was so exciting,” Callahan said.

Callahan calls her piece a “sculptural book object,” and said it is the second work in a series that she has dreamed up. The sculptures are the secret imaginings of unsuspecting dreamers, she said, plucked from their dreams, or nightmares. She said she imagines items that a traveling museum of peculiar matters would have on display and the ‘Mechanized Shorthand Device’ is one of these items.

In the early 1900s, shorthand was becoming an increasingly popular way to take notes, Callahan said, and shorthand competitions were common place, during which individuals would see how fast they could write using the method. Callahan said her “device” is based on a historical story of a man who was very stressed the night before one of these competitions. She imagined him going to bed the night before the competition and dreaming up ‘The ‘Mechanized Shorthand Device’ which, she said, took her more than eight months to build.

“It’s a wild, wacky shorthand invention with movable parts,” Callahan said.

Between teaching Screen Printing, Print Making and Artist’s Books at SUNY Oneonta, Callahan said she spent 35 hours per week for eight months, using trial and error all the while, to build the sculpture which, she said, features a hand generator and lights. The piece, which was made of pine and stained to look like antique cherry wood, also features many little moving gears and dials that were found at antique shops or junk stores, Callahan said.

“I researched hand generators and movable mechanisms to see how they work, so that I could include them in the piece,” Callahan said, “I also had to learn more about wood working.”

Callahan’s first piece in the inventive series came as an imagined creation from a lexicographer’s (someone who writes dictionaries) dream. The next piece she hopes to create will be based on the imaginary dreams of an early educator and the differences in teaching boys and girls back then, she said.

According to the release, the first and second place winners were Central New York women, as well. First place winner was Gail Hoffman of Syracuse and second place went to Melissa Zarem of Ithaca.

Along with her award, Callahan won a check for $500 which, she said, she will use to buy more parts for future sculptures.

“I really enjoyed showing people how it works and demonstrating the generator and lights,” Callahan said. “I want to continue to make art that is interactive.”

The ‘Made in New York’ exhibition will be open through May 25, 2014.