Friday, February 13, 2009

WALKABOUT: St. Johnsbury

by Janet Van Fleet

This is the first WALKABOUT piece for Vermont Art Zine. The idea is to take a camera with you as you do an Art Walk or visit a new town and check out its art chops. Collect cards, take a few notes, and voila – everybody gets to go on the trip with you!

My first stop in St. Johnsbury was 190 Eastern Avenue (right, on the bottom floor, behind the Do Not Enter sign), the Gatto Nero (black cat) studio/gallery of Kim and Bill Darling, which features intaglio printmaking. There were signs in the window saying they’ve got a show up now including themselves, Jesse Kaupilla, Bruce Peck, and Twin Vixen Press’s Briony Morrow-Cribbs and Helen O'Donnell. It was about 1 PM and they weren’t open and there were no hours posted, so I gather it must be open by chance or appointment.

A brief walk down Eastern Avenue brought me to the new Catamount Arts space (right next door to their old space), in the big, imposing Masonic Hall. The Masonic Lodge gave the building to Catamount in return for a no-cost lease in perpetuity of the top floor, which will continue to be used as the Lodge meeting place. The bottom two floors, which opened in October, 2008 after extensive renovations, now feature (in addition to two movie theaters, classrooms, and other appointments) a large gallery that can be configured for multiple exhibits.

There were two shows in the gallery (running from February 2 - 28), one with work by Sachiko Yoshida (above right, with many watercolors, often featuring finely-observed hydrangeas) and an exhibit of work by Alan Arnold entitled Prelude to a Dream (a movable partition separated the two exhibits). Arnold’s colorful work was not titled or labeled, and was hanging salon-style. In a statement he described himself as a visionary artist, and said he had an affinity for “primitive art.”

In a nearby space by the elevator, an exhibit of stained glass by Elizabeth Robbins presented (along with a few other pieces propped up in a nearby deeply-recessed window) an entire alphabet of glass panels that were painted with a technique that involves mixing glass with minerals or metals, adding a binder to fix the pigment, and firing, sometimes many times.

Around the corner on Railroad Street I checked out the Backroom Gallery of the Northeast Kingdom Artisans Guild, which mounts a new show every six weeks or so . Symmetries has pen and ink drawings by Ellen Dorn Levitt (who has taught digital design, printmaking, and book arts at Lyndon State College for 16 years) and selected works in clay (see right) by Ann Young (an artist from the northeast kingdom who works in ceramics, wood carving and painting). The exhibit is up from January 17th - February 18th.

Interestingly, I had been looking at the website of a gallery called Sunday in New York City earlier in the day, and Ellen Dorn Levitt’s paintings (such as the one above) reminded me of paintings by Richard Tinkler who was, I think, Sunday’s first exhibited artist (Read the text about how he creates them; I found it fascinating). Maybe New York and Vermont have a lot in common, art-wise!