Thursday, September 13, 2012

BURLINGTON: 2012 SEABA Art Hop Over-and-Under View

This past weekend launched SEABA's 20th Art Hop and it was glorious, stunning, loud, messy, and gorgeous - as well as huge. The previously announced 500 artists had swollen to 600 by the time the show began. And what a show it was. If you didn't make the opening weekend, most work will be on exhibit through September, in particular the juried exhibits and group shows. So, walk around, look around, and keep your eyes open. Art: it's everywhere.

In early August, I took over as editor and publisher of Vermont Art Zine from Janet Van Fleet and Marc Awodey, who founded the online publication in 2009 as a labor of love. For the next three years, they published information about visual arts exhibits around Vermont as well as providing valuable resources for artists and galleries. While I've been actively posting and adjusting to life as a blogger, being out on the streets at Art Hop was a welcome relief from viewing digital images. Janet and Marc each posted previously about Art Hop so you can read their take on this year's events.

First, let's take a look at what the Art Hop is all about. Coordinated by SEABA (which stands for South End Arts and Business Association), the South End Art Hop is an annual three-day event, which attracts over 30,000 visitors, mostly from outside Burlington. As described by SEABA, "The South End artist’s studios are open to the public, and local businesses are refit as art galleries and exhibition sites for participating artists. The event celebrates the unique characteristics of the Pine Street corridor, in particular the development of concentrated creative and artistic activity that has been established in numerous re-purposed factories and warehouses within the District. This corridor has been designated, and recognized, as the South End Arts District." In other words, businesses and artists have figured out a way to work together and, in doing so, to maximize their audiences as well as improve the whole neighborhood. I wish the whole world could think this way.

And the place is hopping during Art Hop. No question. After five or six hours of walking, my brain was still humming from the sheer amount of art we saw, not to mention the intensity and depth of it -  from calm, subtle oil paintings to canvases with colors loud enough to blast a hole in our attention to hard-edged sculptures begging to be climbed on. It wasn't always the art that garnered our attention: souvlaki vendors and purveyors of pulled pork sandwiches and delectable flatbread pizzas tempted us just as our spirits were flagging and our feet dragging. Street artists found grassy lots and pavement to hawk their wares on every available bit of real estate.The weather cooperated for most of Saturday (Day 2), which brought people out in droves – and lots of kids too. Check out the strollers and chalk art.

Janet Van Fleet had invited me to ride along with her and two friends, as well as Mark Waskow, SEABA’s president, and the man responsible for curating much of Art Hop. We began at the northern most stop – the Burlington Town Center (aka The Mall) on Church Street. While it's definitely not the South End, it's a new locale for Art Hop, and likely to connect with a new audience. The extensive space has the potential to exhibit a lot of art. The BTC creates a real challenge though for both viewing and presenting visual art. The available wall spaces are high, often too high to see the work comfortably. Still, it was fun to stand back and view each area of the installation and enjoy the curatorial cohesiveness, which helped give it a vitality that could compete with the noise of commerce all around it.

While David Powell's work often invites closer inspection, his series of acrylic paintings on exhibit here spoke boldly to the viewer and provided a characteristic tongue-in-cheek humor that played with the surrounding environment. "Happiness" sang out from an empty box, as did "Security." It was impossible to capture the vitality of these paintings on camera so you'll have to stop by to see for yourself. 

Paige Berg Rizvi - five works float above the AT&T store
Paige Berg Rizvi's paintings beg for a closer look. Although her work plays well from a distance (again, the paintings are hung fairly high), there are details and patterns that insist on being seen close-up. Or perhaps it's the effect of the magical elements in the paintings that makes our minds want to verify what we are seeing.

Fortunately, you can see one of her pieces up close at the SEABA Center where her large-scale encaustic painting, "Galena," won Third Prize in Art Hop's Original Juried Show.

Paige Berg Rizvi - a closer look

Will Patlove's acrylic paintings on canvas are as sculptural as they are painterly. Specially-constructed structural braces inside the stretcher push the canvas to create geometric forms pushing the boundaries of  2 and 3-D art. Light plays a critical role in viewing these paintings, which is a bit of a drawback in their location here. The work however, is strong enough to be evocative within the limitations of the locale.

Many other works at the BTC are must see, including those by Nicholas Heilig, Matt Larson, and Ethan Azarian.

Wasko used the space outside a set of elevators in the BTC to particular advantage with the installation of Ché Schreiner's acrylic paintings. The space itself begs for some visuals and Schreiner's work answers that need nicely. Now if only the powers that be at the BTC could see that at least a few of these paintings deserve a more permanent home. I'd be so much happier waiting for that elevator if I had Schreiner's work in my sights.

There's lots more to say and lots more to write about the Art Hop. Click on the writer's name to read other stories by Janet Van Fleet, Marc Awodey's coverage of the outdoor sculpture, and RobHitzig's great finds. The schedule for September can be found on SEABA's site or click here.