Friday, March 15, 2013

MIDDLEBURY: "The Blue Swans" - Seven Women @ The Jackson Gallery

March 1 – 31, 2013
Artists’ reception: Friday, March 15, 5 to ­ 7 pm

The Jackson Gallery at Town Hall Theater
a review by Alice Eckles

The Blue Swans, a Middlebury based artist group consisting of artists Klara Calitri, Linda Hampton Smith, Molly Hawley, Patricia LeBon Herb, Phoebe Stone, Sarah Wesson, Mary Swanson, and Yinglei Zhang, has been together since 2009 when Patricia LeBon Herb asked some of her artists friends if they wanted to start a women’s art group as a way to create community for themselves around art making. Another artist, Mary Swanson, who created the “Art House,” a space where musicians, artists, and writers could exchange ideas, perform, and take refuge, was also instrumental in bringing this idea to fruition. The group meets up once every two months for a potluck and to get feedback on their current art works, and their group shows have evolved out of these meetings.

The Blue Swans have shown art together at The Ripton Church, The Ilsley Public Library, and The Art House. And now they have their first show as a group at The Jackson Gallery. Whether you walk in off the street or from the a theater production upstairs it feels as if you are walking into a conversation among friends sharing the special places and spaces that belong to them. The viewer feels invited into the cozy, peaceful, and beautiful views - both inside and outside.

“Looking up,” a 36”-by-24” acrylic by LeBon Herb is a stylized blue landscape featuring water, ice, sky, or perhaps even mountains. It’s hard to tell which and it doesn’t seem to matter. These precisely drawn dynamic layers are like a blue tapestry, each wave woven in to support our knowing of the place. The stylized lines convey movement as of clouds or water and are reminiscent of a Japanese woodcut, and her signature resembles in a way, the type of signature seal stamped on Japanese woodcuts.

Sarah Wesson’s “Inside, Outside,” a 15”-by-12” oil on masonite is a wonderfully cozy view of a pink couch and the view out the window into a wooded back yard. It looks so real you just want to snuggle into the cushions with the soft green pillow and striped throw blanket. Without being hyper-realistic, it’s very convincing, and very seductive to that part of us that just wants to take a nap.

Molly Hawley’s “Two Rocks,” a 24”-by-30” oil, is a picture of one glorious day! We’ve all at times had moments, the lavender hour as photographer’s call it, when the light is just right and a scene becomes miraculous. Hawley’s “Two Rocks” captures that moment. The wind blown grasses in the foreground are somehow delicious and inviting, making one really want to be there to touch those tall grasses, pull them, smell them, and make a nest of them.

Klara Calitri’s “Still Life with Pears,” and 22”-by-30” oil on canvas is a homey and pleasant still life. Her pitter patter touch with the brush gives the pears and flowers a cared for look, drawing attention to the way things have to be made little by little with the guidance of human touch, and natures touch. The predominate use of various greens, blues and yellows provides a relaxing setting for the sweetness of the many petaled pink flowers.

The name for the group borrows from the Blaue Reiter a German group of artists active in Munich 1911-1914. So where does the swan part come in? The "swan" was taken from Mary Swanson’s name, one of the founders of the group now living in the Bay Area. There is something very powerful about a group of artists… or a movement of them, something in the evolution of a functioning art group that adds so much to the inspiring paintings and monoprints of these individual artists. Klara Calitri, the senior member of this group who will be approximately ninety this year was the instigator of this particular exhibit at the Jackson Gallery, and Molly Hawley is their most recent member. Elinor Friml hung the artwork and sent out the press releases. Each of the seven artists in the group contributes beautiful and interesting artwork in this exhibit that you won’t want to miss, bring a friend and enjoy the view be it a cozy couch, a mysterious night sky, or a surprise street scene. If you are worried about the ides of March take a load off and enjoy the views these talented artist have brought together at the Jackson gallery, on the basement level of Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater.

Gallery hours are noon to 5 pm, Monday through Saturday, and for an hour before each Town Hall Theater performance.

The Jackson Gallery at Town Hall Theater
68 South Pleasant Street

Middlebury, Vt.
(802) 382-9222

Alice Eckles is writing, homesteading and making art in Middlebury, Vermont. Her book of essays, A Phrase Book for Spiritual Emergencies was published in 2009, and her novel The Literature Preferred by Wild Boar is upcoming. pPlease see her website for details: