(HUDSON, N.Y.) – “Echoes of the Borscht Belt,” a poignant series of photographs by Marisa Scheinfeld, featuring haunting contemporary images of the former thriving resort hotels in the Catskill Mountains region now abandoned, ghostly, and caught in a state of entropy and decay, goes on view at Valley Variety this weekend and will remain on view through the end of the year. There will be a ticketed artist talk and reception with the photographer on Saturday, December 12, from 5:30 to 8:30pm.
From the 1920s through the 1960s, the Catskill Mountains were a popular vacation destination for millions of Americans, many of them Jews. The resorts of Sullivan and Ulster County, often referred to as the Borscht Belt, combined family-oriented activities with nighttime entertainment, especially stand-up comedy, in the region’s theaters and showrooms. At its peak during the post-WW II era, the region sustained more than 1,000 resorts and hotels and over 800 bungalow colonies.
Growing up in Sullivan County, Marisa Scheinfeld visited the area’s resorts many times throughout her childhood. In 2010, she returned to the area to start her documentary photo project. “I feel a strong connection to the region and, as a photographer, I felt inclined to document its history, decline and what has come of it. I was drawn to the hotels because of their rich history but found unexpected beauty in their current, changing landscape.”
“Echoes of the Borscht Belt” presents a survey of this former era while reflecting upon the transformations of time on the built environment. The photographs show the structures, abandoned and forgotten within the mountainous landscape of their former pasts, lying in a state of exquisite and captivating entropy. In September 2016, Cornell University Press will publish a monograph of Scheinfeld’s photographs on the Borscht Belt.
In addition to speaking about her process, Scheinfeld will share her personal collection of memorabilia from the region’s glory days — postcards, menus, hotel ashtrays and matchbooks — as well as images from her “re-photographic” series, in which she used vintage promotional shots of the resorts as inspiration for new photos showing the same settings as they look now, at the artist reception on December 12. Guests will be treated to a tasty selection of Eastern European inspired dishes – including borscht, of course — along with wines thoughtfully selected by Hudson Wine Merchants. Tickets are $25 per person; space is limited. Reserve in aadvance at Valley Variety or online.
Scheinfeld was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1980 and raised in the Catskills. She took her first black and white photography class at age 15 and hasn’t put the camera down since. In 2002, she graduated from SUNY Albany with a BA in Studio Art & Photography, and in 2011, she received her MFA from San Diego State University.
Scheinfeld’s photographic projects and books are among the collections of Yeshiva University Museum, Lynn Kroll, The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, the La Jolla Athenaeum, The Edmund and Nancy K. Dubois Library at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, and the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation in New York City. Her work has been exhibited in New York, Washington, DC, California, Kansas and London.
Valley Variety displays rotating exhibitions of contemporary artists in its expansive and airy space. The Warren Street storefront offers a thoughtful selection of lifestyle products and furniture for everyday living. In addition, the space is outfitted with a chef’s kitchen and hosts product demos, cooking classes and special events. Hours: 11am-6pm; 7 days a week