A Summer Afternoon with Collages and a Photographic Studio Visit at the BigTown Gallery in Rochester
Henry James said, "The two most beautiful words in the English language -- summer afternoon."
It was a perfect late summer afternoon. The bees were buzzing in the lush flowers in the front of the gallery; inside people buzzed in front of intriguing art; out back the BigTown Big Tent outdoor amphitheater was abuzz as technicians prepared for the first starlight show of the summer. Summer in Vermont is a wonderful time to see creativity, especially where it is well tended by Anni Mackay, who, as usual, brought together a delightful mix of artists to fill your mind and heart with the creative spirit.
Currently in the gallery are two artists, octogenarian collagist Varujan Boghosian and the anthropologist-like photographer, Erick Hufschmid. It is an ingenious pairing.
Hufschmid photographed the busy studio where Boghosian creates his collages. These photos are mysterious; the colors rich. A tumble of wooden tops in blue and red. A large carved stone head hovers over a tiny red ball. An old upside down green baseball game. A ticket stub; tiny leather Chinese slippers. All these and more are a hodgepodge of disparate objects, which Boghosian uses in his collages. The photographer uses only natural light and often succeeds in making the tiny appear large, like the pearl tipped sewing pins beside a yellow metal truck. All the archival pigment prints are framed, but one can also purchase the prints unframed or as a set in a beautiful handcrafted leather bound portfolio (made in Bogota, Colombia) set in a cloth box. Hufschmid told me he had to sit in Boghosian's studio for many hours before he could even begin to know what to photograph, it was so dense with interesting objects. He pared down his 1000 photographs of the studio into 18. He chose not to move anything, making use of three cameras, zooming into the objects so that often you aren't sure what you're seeing, which makes for an interesting study.
To create his collages, Boghosian selects from the objects in his studio and combines them to form stories of his making. Maker of the Beautiful was inspired by a short story by Hawthorn (it is also Boghosian's self portrait). Cygnus is a star map with a swan and old paper poker chips. Another collage, Homage to Stanley Kunitz, uses the backside of an old Paris map. There is faded wall paper and hand inked music scores he collects, as well as a paper ledger from the 1600's he found in Italy. The titles alone give you the flavor of his collages: Gauguin Leaves Tahiti, Tears of the Mandarin, Trophy (for Elisabeth Bishop) based on her beautiful poem The Fish.
After enjoying the exhibit we made our way outside and around behind the gallery for a picnic, followed by one of the most remarkable dance performances I have ever seen. The Bridgman/Packer Dance is a couple who have been dancing together since 1978. Their current show is a gorgeous pairing of live dance with video technology. The couple dances in front or behind the screen and often you can't tell which is the real couple and which is the film. Breathtaking.
On a summer afternoon while you're wondering where to stroll, try a jaunt over to the gallery at BigTown. Stroll through two artists' creations. Take in a performance at the BigTown Big Tent in the evening. You too might share the sentiment with our Henry James, that not so perfect but all too splendid gentleman.
This review was first published in the Randolph Herald
Images (photos by Dian Parker): Erick Hufschmid, Untitled, 19.38” x 19.44”, archival pigment print Varujan Boghosian, Gauguin Leaves Tahiti, 23” x 22.25” x 2.75”, construction