Foreland’s Eccentric Inflatable Artwork Epitomizes the Exuberance of Upstate Art Weekend

Once again, the Catskill, New York contemporary art complex pleased those who passed through

During the 2021 installment of Upstate Art Weekend, contemporary art complex Foreland officially welcomed guests to Catskill, New York. An amalgamation of three historic buildings, comprising some 85,000 square feet, Foreland interlinks gallery spaces with artist studios, event venues and more. Transfixed by the spectacular destination and its thought-provoking programming, we returned to the riverfront complex for this year’s Upstate Art Weekend, toured the current exhibit (featuring contributions from Document, SITUATIONS, New Discretions and JAG Projects) and spent time admiring one eccentric inflatable artwork devised by Foreland founder, Stef Halmos, herself.

“This is a blow-up of a painting called ‘Gabrielle d’Estrées and one of her sisters,’ that’s considered a ‘lost’ masterpiece of queer art,” Halmos tells COOL HUNTING, as we stand before the work together, noting that the original from 1594 is in the Louvre. “It’s of these two women sitting on a balcony and their strange, stoic relationship. One is pinching the other’s nipple. One of them is holding a little ring.” The blow-up is to scale, and even the shading is astonishingly accurate.

Halmos’ update to the iconographic image (with an unattributed origin) is more than an ode, or a party ornament for a weekend event. “I think it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever made and arguably the dumbest thing I’ve ever spent money on,” she says. “But it’s one of these gestures that explains what we are about. I think one thing that’s very cool about Foreland and what I like about what these girls—our mascots—represent, is that Foreland is an embodiment of this thought that there are no bad ideas in brainstorming. If someone from my team has an idea, we would rather spend the time and effort to flesh it out than drop it for something more reasonable.”

“They flew here on Delta,” she adds. “They were fabricated in Minnesota then packed in a box that was covered in Delta tickets, then thrown into the airplane.” It’s a comical note that underscores Halmos’ playful side, as well as that of her organization.

Foreland spent years in development, beginning with the restoration of its red brick buildings. Now, the venue appears to be in full stride. “It’s gone from being, ‘How are we going to make this thing work at this rapid pace?’ to thinking more broadly about what we want Foreland to be in this community and what we want it to be as an arts tourism destination,” Halmos says. “There’s a bigger five- to 10-year goal. I did not have time to conceive of any of that earlier. I had to build a really, really great team of people first.” Not only has Halmos assembled an all-star team, she’s also cemented an institution among Upstate New York’s thriving arts ecosystem.

Images courtesy of Deitch + Pham for Foreland