Sunday, September 11, 2011

WALKABOUT: 2011 South End Art Hop in Burlington

by Janet Van Fleet

I started hopping on Saturday morning just before 10:00 at the farthest point south, and staggered to the finish line at 5:00 that afternoon. Even with seven hours under my belt (or, more accurately, under my flip-flops), I didn’t get farther north than the Soda Plant. I promise to hop from north to south next year, or perhaps someone else will step forward to help cover more of the action.

Important Note: I took LOTS of photos, but am inserting them in this review in smallish sizes to make it possible to accommodate lots of them. You can always click on an image to see it in a larger format, and then return to the text.

My guide through the thickets of Art Hop was the formidable Mark Waskow (see 7 Days profile from last week), who has worked on the Art Hop for 13 seasons and has installed literally miles of artwork over those years. We were joined by his life partner, Sue Higby, director of Studio Place Arts in Barre. SPA closes its galleries on this weekend so everyone can cruise over to Burlington for the Art Hop.

We started at Burton Snowboards, where I found the 3-dimensional work most appealing. Shown above (foreshadowing the number of miles soon to be covered) is Shoe Lotus, one of three sculptures by Jeff Arbor. It is held together and supported in the lotus position by tied shoelaces. Six pieces by Lorraine Reynolds (at right), who describes herself as a "revealer of ghosts", were all gems. Unfortunately the area where the pieces was installed was not very well lighted. This is one of the realities of installing a great deal of art in spaces not designed for that purpose. I was particularly taken by the small piece on the upper right called Man of Science, which was priced at $175. This may be a good time to say what a good opportunity the Art Hop is to buy some very impressive work for very reasonable prices. You need the art, and the artists need the money.

We tried to hit The Bobbin Sustainable Design next, but they weren't going to open until noon, so we had to move on. Next stop was the Howard Center, which always has interesting things by their clients. One impressive piece was R.M.S. Titanic by Howard Christopher Osborne, who is extremely knowledgeable about the Titanic. He created the piece by driving his wheelchair over paint to create patterns in the painting. The treadmarks add a lot of resonance to the story of the downed liner.

Flynndog was showing michael smith, Ethan Azarian, and a few of their collaborations. Ethan had lots of little paintings (like red shoes, really fabulous) for tiny prices. I loved michael's new work on cardboard, many with 3-D elements (like The Man and American Roots Rocket), plus I have a weakness for fish (see right).

VCAM had a bubbly Rebecca Schwarz installation out front featuring lots of round plastic caps, tops, and assorted cool stuff. Inside were Jody Stahlman's large nudes with mastectomy scars, Dana Walrath's huge drawings featuring an appealing poppet called Alice (see below). We saw very able, controlled, and beautifully mounted paintings by Fabricio Lara (later seen in greater number at the All Wellness site). I'm not usually very interested in photographs, but the photos in the hallway by Zoe Barracano and Heather Grey were really fabulous.

Select Design always has a very classy act for Art Hop. This year they had work by 3 BigTown Gallery artists; especially compelling are Duncan Johnson's wooden pieces made with painted (and apparently weathered) and pieced wood.There was also a room full of Axel Stohlberg's little sculptures, each only $100.

Other cool things: two walls of charming found-materials wall pieces (much of the materials, according to his statement, from a recent home renovation) by Philip Herbison. Chairs were also an organizing theme, with three chair-related pieces: Benches made by Nick Lamper from Lake Champlain Driftwood; a very cool chair by Aaron Stein with sandblasted license plates on the base, tire-faced feet, and a deliciously huggy black leather bucket seat from a car about whose make and model the folks at Select Design were not sure; and finally, all incorporating the "chair" theme, a wall (see left) with eight pieces created by Select Design's employees to benefit the Bentley Davis Seifer Memorial Foundation. This year's Art Hop is dedicated to Bentley Davis Seifer, a 12-year old child whose parents were active members of SEABA, who died on July 12 in a drowning accident. This year's art hop is dedicated to his life and works.

Lisa Lillibridge and Adam Devarney share the studio we visited next. Both are impressively focused, professional, and prolific. I first encountered Devarney's work in the show at Select Design a few years ago -- pieces with a standing hand topped by a tank. He has since moved on to a series of fliers and spacemen (see the mural on the side of the SPACE gallery), but said he has recently returned to the earlier motif in larger collage/paintings. Lillibridge had a (wonderful) piece on the bench that she was working on entitled Wonder. Lisa also was offering small pieces for sale, with the proceeds donated to Bentley Davis Seifer Memorial Foundation.

At RL Photo the main frame was work by Clark Derbes. In addition to a wall installation of ovoid blocks of wood painted with concentric circles (like braided rugs) and one painted right on the wall, there were a number of 3-dimensional pieces of wood painted with his signature blocks of color (see The Three R's at left), and some employing shades of grey. There was also a great big encaustic entitled Triple Hollow Box.I was taken by a small untitled piece by Scott Dolan (at right) that appeared to be ink or watercolor, though the price, at $1,200, was surprisingly steep.

One end wall was dominated by a piece called Ambassador to the UN, by Eric Eickmann, a joyful jumble of markmaking that seemed designed to create clarity but kept moving the eye around to ask the question again.

Champlain College's Miller Building is an impressive new space, with a hospitable beverage bar where we fixed ourselves a free cup of tea and had a bit of a rest. In the first floor media center, there were 4 interactive sculptures by Joshua Siegartel. I liked Alchemist's Kit best, with its drawers of organ-like specimens, glassware, and test tubes. Just inside the door was a perfectly executed and tender graphite and charcoal sketch by Toni-Lee Sangastiano, whose hand is a modern miracle: "Poobah," Fire Eater, 2005, $150. Unfortunately it was covered with glass and impossible to photograph. But I hope you will go see it for yourself.

Upstairs on the third floor across from the elevator, Matt Larson exhibited a series called mostly Shifting Mosaic, followed by a variety of Roman Numerals -- groupings of elegantly arranged squares with the appearance of transparency. I thought "One Trick Pony", but a really good trick!

Straight back at the end of a hallway, Mimi Magyar's large, highly detailed (not to say obsessive) purple pen and ink pieces in arrays of quarter-inch grids were having a great conversation with Eben Ernstof's black and white circular pen and ink drawings. Down another corridor it was, as always, nice to see Holly Hauser's pastel-flavored, slightly-sideways celebrations of home and its domestic contents, delightfully enhanced by the addition of her young daughter's pieces, especially the blue confection whose title I couldn't read.

Finally, we arrived at the beating heart of the Hop on Pine Street, and had a quick cruise through the Maltex Building. Heidi Spector's striped panels with shiny, reflective resin surfaces were the first pieces I saw that day covered with resin -- the others were Jesse Azarian's acrylic piece called Night Cap in the juried show (that I heard won a shared 3rd place) and a small group I spied on my way through the Howard Street studios (sorry, didn't write them down...). I had another fish happiness with Rachel Laundon's big trout sculptures, and, on the theme of water-dwellers, a series of pastel drawings by "Cricket" of squid, octopus, and a seahorse.

Across the street at the juried show, there was a much smaller collection of works than in previous years, selected by guest Curator by Lauren J. Wolk. The winners had not yet been posted when I visited. But a big crowd favorite was Matt Neckers' mixed media horse (left, with a mixed collection of flashlights on one side, and horseshoe nails on the other (shown here with Mark Waskow).

By the time we departed through the back door we were ready to assume a sitting position and consider how to spend the time we had remaining. Big thanks go out to Marie Davis, who created a circle of chairs for us in her studio and joined us in convening a meeting to make a plan. She had just created a new work area in her space with a mini-bed, and I yearned to be horizontal, but instead sat with my two fellow-hoppers and committed to a plan for an hour and a half more targeted hopping.

As we wove our way through the Howard Street studios, my eye was caught by a wall of small drawings and paintings by Kristin Richland, especially a small piece that appeared to be done with colored inks called In the Field, a fox looking back over its shoulder. I later saw more of her work at the Soda Plant in the Backspace and SPACE galleries. She has a confident hand, a subtle color sense, and some kind of emotional attentiveness, though she apparently identifies herself primarily as an illustrator.

Nancy Dwyer, chair of UVM's Art Department, has a studio sandwiched between those of Steve Buddington and Peter Fried. We spent a lot of time talking about her latest project, a collaboration with Tarrah Krajnak, with a working title of Co-Dependent Objects. She says that as her work is mostly text-based and Krajnak's usually focuses on narrative and the human figure, they agreed that there would be no text or figures in the collaborative work, which Dwyer would sculpt and Krajnak would photograph. What is developing is fascinating: Dwyer is sculpting forms created around (but detachable from) positive forms such as a chair, a stool, and the corner of the room (you can see one wrapped around the legs of the stool between Dwyer and Sue Higby). These sculptural objects are then photographed isolated from their co-dependent object, and the effect is to make these objects feel isolated, maybe even dejected, lonely, bereft...

It was great to visit with Catherine Hall in her studio and talk about new work incorporating her small wax face-casts in small paintings that seemed to have some kind of implied narrative. We also visited with Linda Jones.

Up at the Soda Plant, John Brickles' new space (Brickles Gallery) was packed! There were people lined up several deep to pay for purchases. Hal Mayforth was also exhibiting in the space, and I was delighted to see that John has established a permanent wall for the work of his wife, Wendy James. They were also showing five small oil paintings by Wendy's daughter, Abrie Mozeika.

The walls in the Soda Plant seemed a little bare without all the juried show work that has been hung there chock-a-block in previous years. Instead there were scattered installations related to the idea of light -- John Perry's holograms were outside Brickles' space (we saw a large hand grasping and then letting go of a rope as we passed by), and there were several overhead projector installations, one with a spinning glass plate that cast twirling light on the big wall at the top of the ramp up from the Backspace. In the smaller hall leading to the Pine Street exit, we saw a number of small lightboxes by Django Hulphers. I especially liked Making Monsters (at left).

So, that's all the light I have to throw on this year's Art Hop. How lucky we are to have this impressive (and, frankly, overwhelming) event! However, I don't know how anybody sees even 50% of the work on display during the Art Hop, but maybe that's OK, as there's so much human traffic moving around that everyone and everything must get an audience and some interaction. I hope so.