I am a still life painter – but instead of painting traditional subjects like fruit, I paint pictures of paper. This confuses people because they believe my paintings are collaged but they are not.
Each letter, envelope, or stamp is painted with many layers of acrylic paint. All the writing and fine detail work is done with archival pens and by hand. I work from real letters and memorabilia that I have gathered over many years and from all over the world.
I find great beauty in these old papers. They are nostalgic reminders of things that no longer exist and histories of bygone times. In these timeworn relics, we find loved ones, parents, old friends, and our old selves.
Most of the letters can be read. They come from different decades and locations, but their content is amazingly and endearingly timeless.
My paintings are about tracking the days of our lives. What we did when, who we saw, wrote to, thought about. Now more than ever, during this (pandemic) pause in our lives, we count and consider each day.
Space and color are key elements in these minimal compositions as the ephemera transform into abstract shapes. Because each letter has its own story, here, surprisingly, abstraction and narration go together.
Today when emails are quickly read and deleted, these paper keepsakes survive.
As the truth of art allows us to take one small thing and make it stand for so much else, these images represent relationships that were maintained across distances and referential dialogues extending through many years.
A tattered sweater or a box of old playing cards can remind us of a past time and, carefully placed, an empty notebook can evoke an elusive and often ambiguous new meaning.
Playing cards can become our companions on a rainy afternoon or our accomplices in a magic trick. They suggest that we ponder the notion of chance and unpredictability in our lives.
As an inquiry into the complexities of our relationships and sense of place, the interplay between what is written and what is left bare challenges us to think about what we keep and what we cast off.
My paintings present life not as then versus now, but as an inescapable circle of time and memory.
Fern T. Apfel has exhibited widely in the Hudson Valley & Capital Region of New York where she lives. Apfel is a two-time recipient of the Individual Artists Grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts and a four-time recipient of a Mohawk Hudson Regional Purchase Award.
Her pictures are in the permanent collections of The Hyde Collection, The Tang Teaching Museum, The Albany Institute of History & Art, SUNY Albany Museum, The Shaker Museum Mount Lebanon, The Columbia County Historical Society and Museum and The Art Students League of NY.
She was a Fall 2019 finalist for The Hopper Prize and a 2019 grant winner from the Martha Boschen Porter Fund, a Fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.
Her work was featured in the Sept-Oct 2019 Issue of Art New England Magazine. She is a Fall 2019 finalist for The Hopper Prize and is a 2019 grant winner from the Martha Boschen Porter Fund, a Fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.
In recent years, Apfel has exhibited work at PULP Gallery in Holyoke, MA., Paradigm Gallery in Philadelphia, PA., Fish & Dish: A Fresh Take on Still Life curated by Jason Andrew at the Woodstock Art Association, First Street Gallery’s 2020 National Juried Exhibition juried by Andrew Arnot, President and Owner of Tibor de Nagy Gallery, NYC, the National Prize Show at the Cambridge, MA Art Association, juried by Sharon Butler, of Two Coats of Paint, Making a Way at the South Bend Museum of Art in South Bend, Indiana, and in the Zeuxis Society’s exhibition In, On, Of Paper at the There Space in NY City. Two of Apfel’s paintings were selected for InstaSelect V2 at the Mark Borghi Gallery in Sag Harbor, NY.
In 2020, Apfel’s painting won Best in Show at The Art Center in Troy, NY, juried by Ian Berry, The Director of The Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College.
In February 2021, Apfel was featured on WMHT/PBS’s A House for Arts.
Currently, Apfel has a solo exhibition at the Courthouse Gallery in Lake George, NY.
Upcoming, Apfel will have work at Collarworks Gallery in Troy, NY and Gallery 263 in Cambridge, MA.
In January 2023, Apfel will have a solo exhibition in the Main Gallery of The Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, NY.
Apfel studied at The Art Students League of New York and SUNY New Paltz.
2023 Main Gallery, The Art Center of the Capital Region, Troy, NY (Forthcoming, January, 2023)
2022 Courthouse Gallery, Lake George, NY
2016 Word & Image, Davis Orton Gallery, Hudson, NY
2011 Studio Wall, The Art Center of the Capital Region, Troy, NY
2007 The Book Pictures, The Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, CT
2007 Inks & Collages, Café Gallery, Old Chatham, NY
2002 Museum Peace: Reflections on a Collection, Columbia Co. Museum, Kinderhook, NY
2002 Museum Peace: Reflections on a Collection, Hudson Opera House, Hudson, NY
2000 Daily Grace, The Shaker Museum & Library, Old Chatham, NY
1999 Daily Grace, Berkshire Community College, Pittsfield, MA
1999 Daily Grace, Westfield State College, Westfield, MA
Two & Three Person Exhibitions
2022 Clement Gallery, Troy, NY (Forthcoming, August 2022)
2021 The Hallway at Second ST Studios, Troy, NY
2020 Pulp Gallery, Holyoke, MA
2019 Upstate Invitational, Laffer Gallery, Schuylerville, NY
2019 Beyond Limits, Albany Center Gallery, Albany, NY
2018 Narrative, Concepto Gallery, Hudson, NY
2016 Mohawk Hudson Invitational, Albany Center Gallery, Albany, NY
Selected Group Exhibitions
InstaSelect V2, Mark Borghi Gallery, Sag Harbor, NY
Tip of the Tongue, Gallery 263, Cambridge, MA
Painting at Night, Collarworks Gallery, Troy, NY
In, On, Of Paper, Presented by Zeuxis, There Space, NY, NY
One in a Year, The Painting Center, NY, NY
Pieced Together, Albany Public Library, Curated by Opalka Gallery at Russell Sage College, Troy, NY
The Vision of Care, Woodstock Art Assoc. & Museum, Juried by Robert Shane, Art Historian
Artists of the Mohawk Hudson Region, Albany International Airport, Albany, NY
Making a Way, South Bend Museum of Art, South Bend, Indiana
Making a Way, Salem State University, Salem, MA
Biblio Spectacular, Main Street Arts, Clifton Springs, NY, Scott McCarney, Juror
Fish & Dish: A Fresh Take on Still Life, Woodstock Art Assoc. & Museum, Woodstock, NY Jason Andrew, Juror
Artists of the Mohawk Hudson Region, Albany Institute of History & Art, Albany, NY, Susan Cross, Head Curator, Mass MoCA, Juror
National Juried Exhibition, First Street Gallery, NY, NY Andrew Arnot, Tibor de Nagy, Juror
National Prize Show, Cambridge Art Assoc, Cambridge, MA Sharon Butler, Juror
From the Pages 2, Paradigm Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Artists of the Mohawk Hudson Region, The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, NY, Valerie Palermo, Juror
Upstate Invitational, Laffer Gallery, Schuylerville, NY
Nine by Nine, Pulp Gallery, Holyoke, MA
Ear to the Ground, Ely center for Contemporary Art, New Haven, CT Julie Torres, Juror
Home, Collar Works Gallery, Troy, NY Cara Manes, Curator, MoMA, Juror
Artists of the Mohawk Hudson Region, SUNY Albany Museum, Jean Shin, Curator
Undercurrents: The River as Metaphor, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, New Paltz, NY Livia Straus, Hudson Valley MoCA, Juror
What is Leaping in your Heart, Collarworks Gallery, Troy, NY, Alexandra Foradas, Curator, Mass MoCA, MA
Reclamation, Collar Works Gallery, Troy, NY Ian Berry, The Tang, Juror
Recent Acquisitions, The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, NY
The Arkell Museum Juried Art Show, The Arkell Museum, Canajoharie, NY
Give & Take: Decentralization Individual Artist Grant Recipients, Catskill, NY
Worlds of Wonder, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, New Paltz, NY Ian Berry, The Tang, Juror
Small & Seductive: Contemporary Art from the Institutes Collection, Albany Institute, Alb., NY
Out of Print, Albany Public Library, Albany, NY
TYPO: Artists using the Alphabet as Visual Language, Greene Co. Council, Catskill, NY
Hudson River Contemporary, Boscobel House, Garrison, NY
Eye Rhymes, The Tang Teaching Museum & Gallery, Saratoga Springs, NY
The Imagined Word, Albany International Airport, Albany, NY
The Collage Show, Spencertown Academy, Spencertown, NY
Midyear Exhibition, Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
Work: Shaker Design & Recent Art ,The Tang Teaching Museum, Saratoga Springs, NY
Recent Acquisitions, Schenectady Museum, Schenectady, NY
Artists of the Mohawk Hudson Region, University of Albany Art Museum, Albany, NY
Fern Apfel at the Lake George Arts Project, Look TV, by Dayna Peck, April 1, 2022
Lake George Artist Paints the Loving & Speechlessness of Heartache, North Country Public Radio, by Monica Sandreczki, April 2, 2022
Abstraction & Narration Fold Together in New Exhibit, Saratoga Today, March 10, 2022
Art Seen Magazine, The Curator’s Salon, February 2022
WMHT/PBS: A House for Arts: February 10, 2021
Fish & Dish: A Fresh take on Still Life, Art Valley: Art & Culture in the Hudson Valley, April 10, 2020
Dispatches: Stories from Four Gallery Destinations: Art on the Outskirts: Western Mass’s Edgy Art Scene, Art in New England Magazine, Sept-Oct 2019: The Gallery Issue, p. 42-44
Create Magazine, Spring 2019
Glue Sticks & Growth: Artist & Alumna Fern T. Apfel reflects on inspiration and taking one’s time, TheLittleRebellion.com by Joshua Goberdhan, Dec. 6, 2018
Invitational Show features often challenging work of four gifted artists by William Jaeger, Times Union, Albany, NY, June 2016
Fern Apfel: Painting, type and Ambiguity by Jesse DeGroodt, The Chatham Press, Sept. 2013
Berrry, Ian. Work: Shaker design & Recent Art. Published by The Tang Teaching Museum & Art Gallery, Saratoga Springs, NY, May 6, 1993
Select Awards & Recognition
2020 Best in Show, Fence Select, Ian Berry, The Tang Teaching Museum, Juror
2019 Martha Boschen Award, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation
2019 Finalist, The Hopper Prize
2018 Best in Show, The Laffer Gallery
2018 Alumni Jurors Award, State University of NY Jean Shin, Curator
2015 The Hyde Collection Purchase Prize, The Hyde Collection
2014 Albany Center Gallery Award in Honor of Les Orbach, , Stephen Westfall, Juror
2010 Best in Show, 14th Annual Juried Show, Columbia Co Council on the Arts, Janet Riker, Juror
2008 First Prize, 12th Annual Juried Show, Columbia Co. Council on the Arts
2005 Clement Greenberg Award, Midyear Exhibition., Butler Institute of American Art
2002 Individual Artists Grant, New York Foundation for the Arts
2000 Juror’s Award, Mohawk Hudson Regional, Xu Bing, Juror
2000 Purchase Prize, University of Albany Art Museum
2000 Purchase Prize, Schenectady Museum
1998 Individual Artist Grant, New York Foundation for the Arts
998, 1996, 1993, 1992 SOS Grant, New York Foundation for the Arts
1977-1983 Nessa Cohen Memorial Award (2x), Elizabeth Carstairs Merit Scholarship, Board of Control Special Scholarship (2x), Art Students league of NY, NY
The Art Students League of NY
The State University of New York at New Paltz