At the moment, one of the best local art tours can be found looking around Vicky Romanoff’s garage-turned-studio next to her home in Trumansburg. Paintings are stacked everywhere, and there are more paintings in piles and on worktables. Large standing sculptures sit on shelves and in every corner. There are framed posters promoting historic preservation, and a ton of political protest flyers: I particularly liked a series of outsized postcards with pictures of seals that take Sarah Palin to task. Every piece has a title in line with Romanoff’s sense of humor and sense of anger. One piece that I loved was titled, aptly, “Double Feature at Mount Olympus Drive-In.”
Romanoff, a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, has been generating work for decades. She’s had a rather extraordinary life; if you go to Ithaca.com, you can check out a long piece about her that Nick Reynolds wrote a few years ago. And if you’re unlucky enough not to rate a tour of her house and studio, a selection of sculptures and paintings will be on display in a solo show called “Romanoff Redux,” opening at the Trumansburg Conservatory of Fine Arts (TCFA). The show begins with an opening gala at TCFA on Saturday, Oct. 16 from 4-7 p.m., and will run through Sunday, Nov. 21 with open gallery hours every Friday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. There is no admission fee.
Romanoff loves to take refuse, second-hand elements and random detritus and reassemble them into intricate, detailed pieces. The sculptures are often wooden pieces glued and screwed together and mounted on repurposed metal stands, like the guts from a standing stool. Look closely at one piece and you’ll see two small children’s spelling blocks glued above a doorway. From a distance they look like old Philco radios like your parents had, back in the days when the family radio was really a piece of furniture. But step closer and you’ll see that all manner of blocks and bits have been added to some random wooden frames.
As a viewer, I appreciate what film director Roger Corman called kludge, or articulation of the surface, and all of Romanoff’s art, which mixes a dizzying number of media, gives you a lot to look at; be sure to look at them from more than one angle. The sculptures are very tactile. They make you want to touch them. And get to the opening this weekend if you want a personal tour with Romanoff. It’s a trip worth taking.