Life, Without Horses
along Broadway in Saratoga Springs, galleries offer first-class
fine art—but one needn’t head indoors for an aesthetic experience
Photos by John Rodat
you’re neither an elaborate-hat nor a boxed-trifecta type,
you may be less than entirely convinced that Saratoga is,
in fact, the August place to be. The equine vibe of the
Spa City in summer is so pronounced as to almost preclude
any thought of other attractions; which is a bummer for
the more modestly adorned and/or the financial-risk averse.
(We’ve got nothing against hats, really, just startlingly
outsized craniums; in an appropriately festive seasonal
chapeau we’d look like parade floats. And we’ve got nothing
against gambling, exactly, but as the track doesn’t allow
punters to make nickel or leftover-drink-token bets, we’re
not really able to participate in comfort.)
there is more to our neighbor up the Northway than that
famed dirt oval and its beautiful people: As full-time residents
of the region, we have 11 non-tourist months to cozy up
with Saratoga Springs and gain near-inside information,
so we know that there are a slew of fine-art-viewing opportunities—including
the impressive Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery on the
Skidmore College campus and a handful of galleries along
Broadway, like Gallery 100, the Lustyk Gallery and the Design
Studio—that make the city a fine day trip. And, if it’s
worth the while in March, why not in August, amid the his-and-her-Rolex
on a gorgeous day in the thick of the season, we headed
up to Saratoga for an afternoon of non-track- related culture.
The ultimate—though unfulfilled—goal was the Tang, where
the current exhibits include a collection of international
contemporary painters, and an enticingly titled show, Elevator
Music 2: Investigations in Experimental Sound. (Both
of which, we reasoned, had a pretty low likelihood of stallion.
These works might show up at the Whitney, but we didn’t
think the reverse would be true.) But first, full of art-appreciative
optimism, we stopped at one of the smaller galleries along
Broadway, where in a quiet, well-lighted and comfortable
space we found lovingly rendered paintings of . . . aaaaccck!
there was just one depiction of the track—and that one was
of the course buried under a thick blanket of snow, rather
than replete with dirt-churning hooves—but the bulk of the
paintings were in some way celebratory of Saratoga and its
general upstate environs. There was a series depicting Lake
George so adoring it made the Hudson River School look blackly
humorous by comparison; and there were two different artists—among
not more than a half-dozen, or so—who seemed to specialize
in Saratoga street scenes. The same scenes, it should be
noted, that could be viewed out the front windows of the
gallery. In fairness, there were two artists whose work
was utterly horseless, and lovely besides, but still this
just didn’t seem right. And then we overheard a gallery
staffer discussing a painting with another patron: “You
know which painting I could sell 20 times? This one here.
You know who loves this one? Mary Lou . . .”
didn’t give the door the chance to hit us in the ass.
Tang’s call increased, but we didn’t want to dismiss all
the small galleries based on the mercantile motivations
of one. In window after window, though, the ponies: Watercolor
ponies, pop-art ponies, action-painting ponies, Japanese-woodcut-style
ponies. We wandered, amazed, until in the window of a clothier
we saw horses modeling sportcoats—then we just had to sit
good thing we did. Otherwise we might have missed it. There
on the side of a newspaper-vending machine: art! Unexpected
and obscure, it suddenly reordered the town around it. The
stenciled figure of a cartoonish face, greeting passersby
with what was either a winking or a wounded eye represented
by a simple X. Crouching down to get a better look allowed
a dual view, of both the picture and of the street life
strolling past, as if the stencil were offering comment
and testimony to the impact of the August crowd. Is Saratoga’s
guerilla-art mascot (the machine was, after all, dispensing
The Saratogian) amused or angered by throng
of tourist life in summertime Saratoga, we wondered. Is
this ageless, somehow androgynous figure—reminiscent of
Belgian illustrator Herge’s Tintin—a protest of Saratoga’s
trammeled innocence, or a snarky acknowledgment of a secret
resistance? A scrappy “you’ve come a long way, baby” pride?
it’s probably the logo of some garage-based skateboard-apparel
entrepreneur. But, it didn’t have any horses—so it was cool.
And it opened our eyes to the variety of stray and/or synchronistic
moments of artsy frisson along Saratoga’s main stretch.
Like the scrollwork iron fence set back between two storefronts
on Broadway. Partially obscured by climbing greenery, the
white-painted gate invites the viewer forward to press against
the bars, beyond which a well-manicured yard sprawls. Back
across the lawn, two white plastic lawn chairs are set side
by side; one stacked with a small pyramid of bright red
apples. It’s an Edenic scene of temptation and—due to the
locked gate—the implication of punishment that heightens
desire and drives temptation to irrevocable action.
maybe it’s just hard to carry a whole armload of apples.
But still, no horses. (Or, maybe the apples are there just
to taunt the horses? Horses that would be there if
not for the fence? Brilliant use of negative space to parody
the very defining character of the city during track season!)
these chance viewings it was fun to try to interpret all
of Broadway in this manner. There was the provocative performance
piece that featured a stream of coffee-colored water streaming
down Washington Street, a piece that challenged Starbucks-bound
pedestrians to reconsider their motivations: How far out
of your way will you go for that Grande Mocha Latte? Will
you attempt to leap the muddy current, cross nearly to the
Eddie Bauer, or boldly remove your flip-flops and ford the
muddy gush—as did two hippieish girls, only to pass the
chain caffeinator altogether. A consumerist parable? Hey,
the cut-out choirboy bearing the stringless guitar, silent
soundhole formally reiterated by the character’s wide-open
and voiceless mouth? Scathing commentary on the scandals
plaguing the Church, the legacy of mute shame? Well, probably
not. That seems like a stretch. It’s just an street-level
come-on for a guitar shop, after all.
what of the youthful neo-primitivists gathered on the park
benches that line Broadway, bedecked in ragged black, festooned
with metal bangles, bright and inky with body art? Reminders
that art is everywhere, that creative expression is an inborn
instinct—as is its apprehension? Mobile emblems that even
in the most commercially vetted and sanctioned districts
and seasons art conspires to disrupt? Or, you know, just
with such weighty, theory-heavy considerations, we grabbed
a snack and slid back down south without ever making it
to the Tang. But there’s always next August.
Park (Saratoga Springs, 587-3241). Tue: the McKrells
Alley Bar (Long Alley Road, Saratoga, 587-9766). Sun:
karaoke with Wayne from King Entertainment.
Tue: karaoke with Mark the Shark.
(Phila and Putnam streets, Saratoga Springs, 583-6060).
Thu: Kevin Mullaney Trio. Fri: Acoustic Circus.
Sat: Pangaea. Sun: Richie Ortiz. Wed: Soul
Restaurant (390 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 587-6262).
Fri: Bobby Dick and the Sundowners. Sat: the
Bluz House Rockers. Sun-Mon: Al Bruno.
Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 583-0022). Thu:
open mic (7 PM); Melanie. Fri: Tracy Grammer.
Sat: Songs of Woodstock with the Sean Rowe Project.
Sun: Laurel Masse.
Caroline (13 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0155).
Thu: Bipolar. Fri: karaoke with DJ Chris. Sat:
Bipolar. Sun: karaoke with DJ Chris. Tue: karaoke
with DJ Chris. Wed: Thirteen Four.
Club House (30 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0686).
Fri-Sat: DJ Daniel Van D, hiphop, club mixes.
Lounge and Restaurant (168 Saratoga Ave., Mechanicville,
664-9033). Fri: John D’Aloia.
Doc’s Steakhouse (63 Putnam St., Saratoga Springs, 581-7011).
Fri: Folding Sky. Mon: open mic with Sean Rowe.
Inn (1 Gridley St., Saratoga Springs, 587-4909). Thu:
the Groove Syndicate (6 PM). Fri: the Burners UK
(6 PM). Sat: Blue Hand Luke (6 PM). Sun: Bourbon
Renewal (6 PM). Mon: Jeff Walton (6 PM).
Inn at Saratoga (231 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 583-1890).
Sat: the Ria Curley Jazz Group.
Maple Avenue (9 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-CLUB).
Fri: Lou Smaldone Quartet. Sat: Adrian Cohen Quintet.
Caroline Street (1 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-2026).
Thu: Joe Gitto (6 PM); Dave Payette Duo (9 PM).
Fri: Joe Finn (6 PM); John Sauer, Mike Delprete
(9 PM). Sat: Joe Gitto (6 PM); Joe Gitto Trio
(9 PM). Sun: Jason Ennis Duo (7 PM). Mon: Mike Flanagan
Duo (8 PM). Tue: Masters of Nostalgia (7:30 PM).
Wed: Lee Shaw Duo (8 PM).
Restaurant (Route 9P, Saratoga Lake, 584-6882). Thu: Noreen
Pratt (6:30 PM). Fri-Sat: Colleen Pratt, Peg
Delaney (7:30 PM). Sun: Noreen Pratt (7 PM).
Parting Glass (40-42 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-1916).
Fri: Midlife Crisis. Sat: Cryin Out Loud. Mon:
the Off Track Band. Wed: the Burners UK.
Gaming and Raceway (342 Jefferson St., Saratoga Springs,
584-2110). Fri: the Bluz House Rockers.
Springs Brew Pub (14 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 583-3209).
Thu: Kevin Mullaney and Electric Life.
(168 Lincoln Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-4030). All shows
at 6 PM. Thu: TS Ensemble. Fri: Milo Z.
Sat: the Big Smoothies. Sun: Soul Session. Mon:
the Smooze. Wed: Barrence Whitfield and the Savages.
Divas, Saratoga Arts Council Theatre, 320 Broadway,
Saratoga Springs. Nancy Timpanaro-Hogan and Laura Roth star
in a cabaret spoofing divas old and new. Through 8/28. $25.
Hall, Davidson Drive, Saratoga Springs. 8/22, 3 PM: The
Beaux Arts Piano Quartet will perform. $22. 584-4132.
Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga
Springs. 8/19, 8:15 PM: Pianist Martha Argerich joins the
Philadelphia Orchestra for a program of works by Schumann,
Stravinsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. $57.50-$15. 8/20, 8:15 PM:
Marvin Hamlisch conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra in a program
of music from the movies. $62-$15. 8/21, 8:15 PM: Charles
Dutoit conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra, with mezzo-soprano
Nancy Maultsby and the Boys Choir of Harlem, in Mahler’s Symphony
No. 3. $57.50-$15. 587-3330.
Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga
Springs. 8/22, 2:15 PM: The Saratoga Chamber Music Festival
concludes with Who Knows the Glass Armonica, featuring Dennis
James. $33.50-$28.50. 587-3330.
Museum of Horse Racing, 191 Union Ave., Saratoga. 8/19,
10 AM-noon: Bill Heller will sign copies of Saratoga
Tales. 584-0400 ext. 117.
Springs Public Library, 49 Henry St., Saratoga Springs.
8/19, 7:30 PM: Writers on Reading group, featuring author
Lynn Veach. Free. 584-7860.
Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, Union Ave., Saratoga
Springs. 8/25, 11 AM-noon: Guests in the Gallery: Racing
Officials. Free with museum admission. 584-0400.
Springs Public Library, 49 Henry St., Saratoga Springs.
8/24, 10 AM: Brown Bag presentation in the Community Room,
“Remembering the Oklahoma Training Track: Voices from the
Backstretch.” Free. 584-1198.
Museum at Saratoga, 69 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs.
Tuesdays, 10 AM-noon: Tuesdays for Tots, for ages 5 and under;
create projects and experience new art materials. 584-5540.
Sparks, 42 Phila St., Saratoga. 8/25, 10 AM-noon: 6” round
plaque of your own design workshop. Every Saturday, 7-9 PM:
“Kids Nite Out,” pizza and pottery. $20 per child. All workshops
ages 8 and up without supervision, younger children welcome
accompanied by an adult. Registration required for all workshops.
Springs Farmers Market. High Rock Park, Saratoga Springs.
Saturdays, 9 AM-1 PM; Wednesdays, 3-6 PM.
Mohawk-Hudson Cycling Club hosts its annual Century Weekend
at Saratoga Spa State Park on 9/11-12. Cyclists may ride routes
from 25 to 100 miles. Advance registration is $10, $6 for
MHCC members. For more information and registration form,
for Orphaned Pets Exits (HOPE) is holding a silent
auction on 8/26, beginning at 6 PM, at the Arts Center, 320
Broadway, Saratoga Springs, to raise money for veterinary
care and nutritional needs of shelter animals. 428-2994.
a fashion show with a twist, will take place at 7 PM on 8/20
at the Gideon Putnam in Saratoga Springs. Proceeds benefit
the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. $75 per person,
includes cocktails, fall fashion show, and live auctions.
218-1148 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
daily through Sept. 6, except Tuesdays.
Location 267 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-6200.
Admission $3 grandstand, $5 clubhouse; children under
12 free; seats are $6 and $7, respectively.
Parking $10 per car at the track side and $5 across
Union Avenue at the Oklahoma Training Track. General
parking is free.
Racing Nine or 10 races a day; pari-mutuel wagering
on every race.
First Race Post Time 1 PM (except Travers Day, Aug.
28, when it’s 12:30 PM).
Major Stakes Races The Alabama Stakes (Aug. 21); the
Hopeful Stakes (Aug. 21 ); the Saratoga Breeders Cup
(Aug. 22 ); the Travers Stakes (Aug. 28).
By Martin Benjamin
trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velasquez are all smiles
while walking through the clubhouse at Saratoga Racetrack,
and small surprise: Pletcher has 19 winners to his credit
so far this season, and Velasquez has been to the Winners
Circle 32 times. And as if that werent enough, in the
recent $200,000 Vanderbilt Stakes the duo tied the six-furlong
record, unmatched for 32 years.
outside the Saratoga County Arts Council
Who: Lydia Parks
From: Philadelphia, Penn.
What are you doing here?: Im here for the
Whats the best part about Saratoga?: I like
the architecture and I like the choice of colors on the houses.
If Saratoga were a movie, what would it be called?: The
Adventures of Spit and Spat