Venezuela spin on Lavado, Rojas artwork at Re Institute
MILLERTON—Virginia Lavado and her husband, Camilo Rojas, met 36 years ago in their birthplace of Caracas, Venezuela. They then spent the next three decades studying and working in Maracaibo, Los Angeles, New York City and finally, Millerton, sharing living and studio spaces and mutual aspirations of creating art. Their latest mutual aspiration was to move to the country and build a studio space where they could spread out, work on a large scale and (best of all, perhaps) leave their work out all night and not have to clear it off the dining room table every evening.Rojas has taught for most of his life here in the United States, at schools such as New York’s Pratt Institute and the School of Visual Arts and, most recently, at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie. While commuting from Brooklyn to Poughkeepsie, Rojas began to explore the area around it and eventually he and his wife decided to find a little house on a piece of land where they could build themselves an art studio.They found just what they were looking for in Millerton, and have spent the past two years designing and building the three-story studio. Much of it was created using materials they found on their property. The ground floor is used as a wood shop and printmaking studio. The second level provides a large workspace for drawing and photography, and computers for film and photo editing. The third floor houses hundreds of books, many of which the couple carried with them from Venezuela. They are carefully arranged on shelves that span one entire wall, from floor to ceiling. Scattered around the room are more books, old magazines and assorted “found” treasures such as a discarded cello (which Rojas intends to learn to play) and a pair of wooden snowshoes.The vade mecumNow that they have finished acting as day laborers on the building project (carrying lumber and boxes of nails for their workmen and also learning to use chainsaws and tractors), Lavado and Rojas are once again devoting their energy to their artwork — and will show it, in its newest incarnation, in a show at Millerton’s Re Institute on Boston Corners Road on Aug. 20 (the reception that day is from 5 to 7 p.m.).The show is called Vade Mecum. The artists were at a bit of a loss to explain exactly what that means in relation to their work. The best answer, of course, is that the work speaks for itself. A vade mecum is like a chapbook, a small portable guide that someone keeps by their side and refers to constantly. Lavado is the one who creates miniature books of her finely detailed work, some of which she hopes to include in the Re Institute show. Most of the work that will be on display in the institute’s big red barn, however, will be unusually large, at least for Lavado. Her work is usually more on the scale of one-foot-square.But she was worried that her work would disappear in the barn, with its monumental ceiling height and white walls. So for this show she has created a whole new collection, of works that are 8 feet tall.These new works reflect the luxury of the new studio, she noted. In their old workspace in Brooklyn, she never could have worked on canvases this large. Rojas (who, as a teacher, is a bit more of a renaissance man, dabbling in drawing, photography and video art) has created monumental works for the show that include an 18-foot-by-16-inch photograph of trees used in building the studio. He also has a series of sepia-toned photos of himself, dressed in workboots and a hardhat, holding building tools such as chainsaws. These images were inspired, he said, by the dignified repose of samurai and noblemen in the history films of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.Vade Mecum will open at the Re Institute, 1395 Boston Corners Road, on Saturday, Aug. 20, with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. The show will run through Sept. 4 and may be viewed by appointment. For information, go online to www.thereinstitute.com.