Friday, September 16, 2011

ESSAY: Studies in Comparison and Contrast at Exhibits Statewide

by Janet Van Fleet

In my work as co-editor of Vermont Art Zine, I get the broad view of what’s happening in exhibitions around the state, and I’ve recently noticed an interesting series of conceptual conversations going on.

For example, at the Bryan Memorial Gallery (see the Press Release below this essay) they’re doing a show called Family Ties, where each exhibitor is related to at least one other exhibitor by either marriage or blood.

Over at Helen Day Art Center in Stowe, two concurrent exhibits (September 23 - October 23, 2011) look at maleness – Manhood: Masculinity, Male Identity and Culture – and femaleness – Wylie Garcia: The Tulle Did Her In. Here’s some of the text from HDAC’s website:

The Male:
This exhibit addresses the lifelong process of choosing how to live, behave, define oneself, interact, and to simultaneously reconcile these choices and actions with our self image and with the expectations of our culture through the lens of male gender. Who are the artists making work about male identity and what does their work have to say about contemporary culture and reality?

The Female
Garcia works in many media, most recently creating wearable art in a project titled “The Dress that Makes the Woman”, a year-long creative and performance piece in which she creates and wears one dress per month, steadily embellishing and modifying it during that time. The product, and the way that she inhabits these dresses accesses her personal family history, a childhood in Houston -complete with debutant balls-, and materials drawn from her personal history and coming of age. Each dress is assembled over time from a garment that figures prominently in Garcia’s past. Her additions relate directly to her daily life and her past, and are often made from materials given to her by her friends and family [emphasis mine] - an extensive group of collaborators.

The T.W. Wood Gallery and Art Center in Montpelier is focusing on women’s art in their exhibit Women’s Work: The Visual Art of Vermont’s Women, up through September 25.

So what’s going on here? Maybe in this war-torn, building-bombed, politically-divisive world there’s a need to assert connection, to affirm commonality even in the face of difference, in the hope that some of the disparate crumbs can be brushed together to make a meal, something like sustenance.

Images: Andrew Mowbray, Parachute, 2009
Wylie Sofia Garcia,
Chameleon, mixed textiles (Photo: Rick Levison)