Wednesday, February 18, 2009

OPINION: Is there a Vermont style or styles?

This is Sam Thurston's response to a discussion question of his we posted on February 12, 2009: Is there a Vermont style or styles? Further responses have been posted as they were received.

Interstate Winter by Elizabeth Nelson
acrylic/photo on canvas 10" x 10"

by Sam Thurston

There are indeed lots of Vermont landscapes but I do not see a Vermont style there. The Mary Bryan landscape style (at least until recently - I have not seen the most recent show) does not look especially "Vermont" because the landscapes shown there have much the same style whether done in or outside of Vermont or by Vermont residents or not. I also do not see a Group of Seven similarity to Vermont landscapes. To me the group of Seven is more in a symbolist style while Vermont landscapes seek realism, however selective. Marc Awodey's landscapes do not look especially like Vermont so I am not including him in the above analysis. But to try to understand the Vermont landscape style - I guess there must be a Style there - it is such part of Vermont and our experience - I could mention Liz Nelson, who paints a lot of Vermont landscapes. She seems to accept the Romantic nature of her vision of the land and tries to nail it down realistically - but then she can not keep the lid on - and her unconscious plays a major role and the work loses its starting point which is to be more tied to the real. This is especially the case with her night landscapes. Perhaps that points to a Vermont landscape style.

If I took a stab I might say Cheryl Betz and Alexandra Bottinelli show one example of a Vermont style. Their work, more abstract than realistic, has a very inner approach. It seems to grow out of the winter isolated rooms we often inhabit up here. Even when, in the case of Bottinelli, the work is social or even a little goofy, it does not have the "wink,wink, get the joke?" quality of big city art. Isolation keeps us from that type of thinking. I am proposing isolation as a style factor. This idea grows out of Clair Dunn's post.