By Marisa Valentino
The Watermill Center is ringing in 2021 with its Winter Viewpoints series, a continuation of the annual Viewpoints Nights @ The Round Table series. Initiated in 2018, the conversation series provides a platform for discussion with artists, staff and community members, all around the large round table in The Watermill Center’s dining room. Hence the original name “Nights @ The Round Table,” explained The Watermill Center’s public programming and residency coordinator, Kelly Dennis, in an email.
Of course, the unprecedented effects of COVID-19 have altered the ability to gather in person around the table, which is why The Watermill Center has shifted gears and is offering the Winter Viewpoints series virtually via Zoom. The series of talks by local and international artists kicked off January 6 with a workshop titled “Historical & Contemporary Approaches to the Daxophone” hosted by the Daxophone Consort. Next up on Wednesday, January 13, at 5:30 p.m. will be North Haven visual artist and fiction writer Erica-Lynn Huberty who will present “Running from Houses/Retreating to Houses,” a talk focusing on themes present in her work.
“We are fortunate that the artists and community members who accepted our invitations deeply connect to diverse audiences to reflect on their values,” Dennis said. “Their work captures imaginations and passions for further insightful exploration and creation.
“It is exciting for viewers to make connections with the speakers as they share new ideas with their refreshing perspectives, discover the silver linings of the times that we are in, and act to truly make a difference,” Dennis added. “Our staff and speakers are still adapting to the technological challenges of presenting online, so we appreciate the encouragement, engagement, and feedback of viewers more than ever.”
The Winter Viewpoints lineup is mainly composed of artists who were scheduled to participate in other events at The Watermill Center that were postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“We wanted to offer them something to support them because they are artists that we know and love,” explained Elka Rifkin, the director of The Watermill Center. “We really want to help further their work as best we can.”
Huberty, for example, was scheduled to take part in a mini-residency at The Watermill Center, which had to be postponed due to COVID-19. Her art pieces explore the historical tradition of “women’s work” by combining textile and sewing practices with watercolor and ink, embroidery, crochet, knitting and loom-woven components. Her art and written works delve into the relationship between the marginalization of women in today’s culture and the devolution of the health of the planet and our bodies.
The title of Huberty’s talk is inspired by the phrase “women running from houses,” a common theme in the cover art of 1960s Gothic romance novels. The talk will examine women’s positions in communities.
“Women have long embodied the role of homemaker, homesteader and the damsel trapped in the house,” Huberty said. “But they’ve also occupied a more hidden role as caregivers, nurses, scientists, discoverers, specimen collectors, dinosaur hunters, renderers of botanics and fauna, explorers of the as-yet unexplained.”
Huberty analyzes the home as a reflection of society, paying specific attention to the position of women within it, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s a really heavy theme running through both my visual work and my writing of the marginalization of women and stereotypes of women, which I think is really exacerbated by this pandemic,” Huberty said. “Women, as caretakers, as caregivers, not as really being in the workforce, but actually supporting the workforce silently.”
She hopes her talk will inspire conversation and encourage viewers to think about these topics and how they influence their own situations.
In addition to Erica-Lynn Huberty on January 13, the Winter Viewpoints series features composer Adam Lenz and musician Zach Rowden on January 20, and multidisciplinary artist duo Ximena Garnica and Shige Moriya on January 27. All talks begin at 5:30 p.m. and will by livestreamed to The Watermill Center’s Facebook page. The series is free and available to the public. Visit watermillcenter.org for details. For a Zoom link to the program, register online at eventbrite.com/o/the-watermill-center-73457629.