Friday, October 23, 2009

WALKABOUT: The Bennington Museum

by Janet Van Fleet

I blush to admit that this is the first time I've visited the Bennington Museum. I was surprised to find a wonderful mix of historic and contemporary exhibits, ranging from an exhibit (through Nov. 8) called Patience to Raise the Sun: Art Quilts from Haiti and their Power to Change Women's Lives to exhibits of historical artifacts, early Bennington pottery, and a huge collection of Grandma Moses paintings. The quilt exhibit shows work created through PeaceQuilts, a humanitarian organization relieving poverty in Haiti by establishing and supporting women’s quilting ateliers.

I met briefly with Jamie Franklin, the museum's curator, who encouraged me to have a look at the small exhibit space for contemporary regional artists, actually a hallway, but well lit and nicely hung. Currently on exhibit is Scapes: Recent Paintings by Renée Bouchard (thorough November 7), who says in her artist statement that she is "preoccupied in my recent paintings with the simultaneous exploration of landscapes, skyscapes, and mindscapes." The exhibit contains about a dozen oil on canvas paintings, along with a few smaller works on canvas paper. Bouchard's works are focused and confident, and reminded me a bit (with their very impasto, nervous surfaces) of Jack Yeats, the painter-brother of the Irish poet W.B. Yeats.

The paintings have ebullient elements that suggest humor and fun, such as China Man's Hat 2009, with a line-drawn hat masquerading as a sailboat, and Monument, Bennington VT, 2009, featuring a phallic Bennington Monument bathed in a pink glow.

The Bennington Museum has an active call to regional artists (defined as residing in Vermont and nearby areas), for the first half of 2010. They are open to work in all media, from photography, illustration, and sculpture to traditional crafts and oil paintings. The curator said they typically invite 3 artists out of 20 who apply. Pick up applications at the museum, or call 802-447-1571. They will be considering proposals in mid-to-late November, so you should probably plan to get your materials to them by the first week in November.

Stay tuned to Vermont Art Zine in the next few days for a full review of one of the major exhibits at the museum, Revisiting Traditions - Illuminating Our Times, an installation of works by Judaica artist Emmett Leader that celebrate the Centennial of the Jewish Community in Bennington and its origins.