Monday, May 7, 2012

PRESS RELEASE: Sweet at Studio Place Arts (SPA) in Barre

“Sweet dreams” is a common bedtime wish that is the spirit behind the main floor show at Studio Place Arts (SPA). Part Willy Wonka factory tour and part bakery case, the Sweet! art exhibit reveals the serious and amusing relationships that artists and others have with sweet treats.
Sweet! includes 26 artists, from Vermont primarily but also from New York and the Midwest. Their media choices range from the traditional such as graphite, watercolors, and oils, to the far less traditional: bright furry fabric, strawberry-flavored Twizzlers, melted Gummy bears and an old door. Taken together, the show has an imaginative streak that, when fully digested, leaves viewers with much more than sugary, throbbing numbness.
Spaulding High School art instructor, Mary Reardon, who took up a temporary studio residency at SPA for the winter season to focus on a new body of work, demonstrates her facile use of pencil tones by capturing the rippled chocolate, soft cream fillings, and dappled cake surfaces of Hostess Ring Dings, Twinkies, and Cupcakes. In gray pencil tones, these luscious and often trivialized treats emerge as serious portraits.
A large expanse of the back wall is occupied by 10 pastel-toned, watercolor paintings of candies by Alan Alejo of Burlington.  These affectionately rendered, small paintings are presented behind glass with silver frames, and they conjure memories of banks of glass candy cases in neighborhood shops that specialized in sweets and wide smiles.  Rather surprisingly, the paintings of paper-wrapped candies like the Nut Zippers Squirrel and Mary Mary Jane Jane seem just as seductive as the “naked” Jelly Belly and Lifesaver images.
Food in motion is featured prominently in the gallery.  Spiraling peppermint hard candies are dynamically painted in Peppermint Racetrack by Jessica Nissen of Middlebury.  There are rainbow colored Gummy bears floating, surreally, against a dark black sky, painted by Suzy Kopf of Brooklyn.  A fork propelled by a large rocket ship is aimed at a dollop of whipped cream on a cherry pie slice in Stellar Pie, by Jonathan Schnapp of Rochester.  From his Dropped Food Series, Robert Brunelle, Jr., ofJericho, presents a painting of a chocolate layer cake tumbling from its plate, with a lighted candle intact.
A large sculpture of carved, wooden doughnuts, created by art student Roxanne Burton, You Are What You Sweet, looks like a big, rogue wave rising from the platter with sugar-coated surf.  Comically, Nancy Drew is attempting to solve mysteries involving fluffy meringue topped, chocolate pie (Lethal Layers) and a layer cake dredged with toasted almonds (Died and Went to Heaven) in Burlington artist Jude Bond’s Nancy Drew and the Baked Goods series.
A gigantic layer cake painted on the surface of a wooden door by Lisa Lillibridge, Burlington, possibly best captures the reasons behind our passion for sweets.  Her large-scale painting, I Made It For You, is a towering treatise to the deep emotional connections that many of us have in our memories of sweeter times.

Images: Partial installation shot
Watercolor paintings of candies by Alan Alejo