Saturday, June 30, 2012

PRESS RELEASE: 75 Year Retrospective Exhibit of D’Ann Calhoun Fago at Studio Place Arts (SPA) in Barre

A retrospective of D’Ann Calhoun Fago’s artistic lifetime, spanning 75 years, will be exhibited in the third floor gallery at Studio Place Arts (SPA) from July 17 to September 8, 2012.  The show includes 29 watercolor, ink, graphite, and oil works on paper or board, beginning in 1936 and including a recent drawing that D’Ann made for her son, John, during the winter of 2012. 

D’Ann’s subjects during the early phase of her artistic career, in the 1930’s, provide a rare glimpse of the people who lived in rural Kentucky where she grew up.  Her paintings and drawings from this period depict men and women struggling amidst economic and social hardships; they are knowing portraits.

Using forceful black ink lines, D’Ann captured 3 spirited men in Kentucky Brothel (1936), one emptying a bottle of hooch into his mouth, another gesturing with his clenched fist in the air, while one man watches. She used short, quick strokes of her black ink pen to capture the raucous mood of the room.

At a later date using similar dark ink lines, D’Ann drew a group of glass jars standing in rows in Canning Jars on Pantry Shelf (1976), in which the carefully placed jars rest on the corner shelf, next to other containers waiting to be filled.  The jars could be filled with sweet Southern peaches or spicy tomato sauce; these details are unclear while the order and comfort of country living is in full view.

D’Ann’s paintings in oils and watercolors include portraits, rural garden settings, and ordered domesticity.  An early portrait, Man on Porch, Hazard, Kentucky, (oil, 1938) shows an older, suspendered man, resting on a rustic, wooden bench with his arms crossed.  His facial expression suggests a brief rest after a hard day’s work, after many days of many years of hard work.  His face reveals satisfaction.

D’Ann painted portraits of her neighbors while living in New York.  She used brown, earthy tones and broad strokes of her watercolor brushes to capture a sturdy, working woman Bronx Portrait (1967), in a brown dotted dress pausing by the door with a fresh up-do, possibly in her Sunday’s best.  Another coffee-toned painting from the same period, Bronx Couple (1967) shows a woman wearing a plain kerchief while speaking to a man. The massive man looks away, appearing to be lost in remote thoughts.

The 75 year retrospective or D’Ann Calhoun Fago’s work shows a variety of people, places and everyday objects with arresting authenticity.  Meet D’Ann at the opening reception at SPA on Friday, July 20 (6-8 PM).

Background:  Born Dorothy Ann Calhoun in Lexington, Kentucky in 1917, with art training from the University of Kentucky, and an MFA from Columbia University, D’Ann studied under modernist painter Edward Fisk.  She hop-scotched from Kentucky to New York City, to an artist colony in upstate New York, and then settled in Bethel, Vermont with her late husband Vincent Fago, former editor of Marvel Comics.  D’Ann strongly believes in art as a tool for social change; early in her career, she worked extensively with rural people in Georgia via the Meader pottery family.  Later, as a back-to-the-land artist, D’Ann used her keen management and warm interpersonal skills in her role as Director of the Vermont Art and Crafts Service during the 1960s and 70s.  She is broadly acknowledged as a founder of Vermont’s crafts movement.  Funding for the Vermont Art and Crafts Service was abruptly severed in 1977, and afterwards, D’Ann settled into pursuing her own artwork.  D’Ann recently participated in the Hale Street Gang: Portraits in Writing project, and she works often in her rural studio in Bethel with sweeping views of her gardens and local mountains.

Images: D’Ann Fago in her studio; Canning Jars on Pantry Shelf, ink, c. 1976; Man on Porch, Hazard, Kentucky, oil on board, c. 1938. Photos of the artist and her artwork are by Jack Rowell.