Tuesday, April 21, 2009

REVIEW: Thomas Mulholland, Bulletins From Neptune

By Theodore Hoppe

Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe wrote in his essay, What is art...What is an artist, "Art can be many things and one example may look quite different from the next. But something called ‘art’ is common to all." He goes on to say, "For art to be an effective instrument of social betterment, it need(s) to be understood by as many people as possible." It is in this vein that Thomas Mulholland has created Bulletins From Neptune.

Just about everything about Bulletins from Neptune is surprising. For starters, instead of displaying his art in an art gallery, Mulholland took an unconventional approach and transformed an unoccupied store at 13 Main Street in Montpelier into his own gallery for a month.

The show itself is about bulletins and bulletin boards. A bulletin board is a place where people leave public messages to advertise things to buy or sell or announce events. It is Mr. Mulholland's idea that bulletin boards take on the unintended and accidental qualities of a collage construction. Bulletin boards as an art form, a merging of both words and visual art, draws on the work by the cubist Georges Braque in paintings such as "Pedestal Table."

Bulletin boards can also provide information. Teachers use them effectively to make their classrooms visually appealing and stimulating to students. It is in this way that Mulholland, as teacher and artist, chooses to display both drawings and thoughts. The walls of the store space have been filled with large cobalt blue bulletin boards surrounded with simple burnt sienna wood frames. In another surprise, half the them, the ones along the left side, are intentionally blank, creating a stark minimalist feel to the space. The spaces along the right side of the space are filled with "bulletins" collected over the past fifteen years. These drawings are about complex and perplexing notions, the quiet ecstasy of a germinating seed, a brief philosophical kiss. There are words that dance, lines that whisper. All have a simple, clean and graceful manner.

The artist has some other surprises too: Some of the blank bulletin boards will be filled in as the show progresses. There is a design drawing for a granite sculpture that was proposed as a war memorial for the front of Montpelier City Hall. There is a sculpture of a chair made out of copper and copper plumbing pipe. There is a piece of a tree resting on a bed of smooth stones in the store's front window, the artist's homage to a tree that lived a poetic life.

In all, there is much more here than meets the eye. Thomas Mulholland is answering the questions, "What is art...What is an artist?" in a way that is as open as Main Street.

Bulletins from Neptune will be at 13 Main St. in Montpelier until May 10, 2009. The hours are Thur.-Fri. 5-9 P.M., Sat. 3-8 P.M. & Sun. 2-6 P.M.