Thursday, December 3, 2009

REVIEW: Two new exhibits at Catamount in St. Johnsbury

by Janet Van Fleet

The two new exhibits at Catamount in St. Johnsbury are Critters and Thea Storz and the Kirby Quilters, both on exhibit through the end of December, with a public reception from 5:00pm – 7:00pm Friday, December 11. The public is cordially invited to attend this reception free of charge. Refreshments will be served.

The Kirby Quilters, one of the most community-spirited and committed organizations in the Northeast Kingdom is celebrated in Thea Storz and the Kirby Quilters. The exhibit spotlights the work of group member Thea Storz. Storz, who recently finished The Great Kirby Documentary Quilt, a huge project featuring hundreds of images of the town's people, after three years of work. The exhibit shows a selection of Storz's quilts and photos (many of which, such as the image at right, appear on the quilt as cyanotype prints on fabric). Also on display are a variety of group and individual quilts that the Kirby Quilters have completed over the years. The Great Kirby Documentary Quilt (seen at right in the image above left) is the centerpiece of the exhibit, displayed on several standing racks in the gallery. A visitor could spend an hour looking at all the photos on fabric that both celebrate and monumentalize the individuals and families who live in Kirby. This is exactly the kind of exhibit that we hope for in a community-based visual arts venue, and Catamount should be commended for mounting it.

In the other half of the gallery, Critters features animals, both wild and domesticated, variously depicted by Catamount Gallery Group artists.

One of my favorites was Patty Mucha's Two Cats, with a Japanese-y gestural ink drawing of leaping cats.

Bob Manning's A Vermont Family, a Work in Progress (left), 1999-2009 features a jumble of painted cutouts of the human and animal members of his family. Many people really DO feel that their animals are part of their families.

Friends (right) by Amy Delventhal is another look at the bonds of affection between human and animal, in the girl-and-her-horse mode.

And finally, it was good to see a piece that wasn't as immediately accessible. Meryl Lebowitz's mixed-media piece Taming the Best (That's what it said on the tag; did it mean Taming the Beast?) is a wonderful riot of animal-and-plant colors, mixed with crushed bottle caps and bits of photographs. In the center is a photo of a person guardedly holding out a hand to what might be... US, the viewer, seen though an aperture ringed by either teeth or machine bolts. Or both. Wow, lots of think about!