Monday, March 30, 2009

PERSONAL EDITORIAL - My note to Alex...

by Marc Awodey

The Vermont Arts Council letter that was emailed today was a bit unusual... While I find it extremely distasteful to post the right wing TAKE IT TO THE PEOPLE website link, it was sent out by Vermont Arts Council director Alex Aldrich today, and since I'm reprinting his letter in full - and my email to him in response - the link is unavoidable. My apologies. As I wrote to Alex, I feel it is completely inappropriate for him to be involved in this issue as the Director of the VAC. His letter seems to begin with a statement of consternation that his "Arts Achievement Day" of lobbying efforts was upstaged by the real world, and then, in Aldrich's misguided effort to be "fair and balanced" (as Fox News is fond of being) he has legitimized the "talking points" of the far right. He finally concludes with the asinine statement "I truly don't care what your position ends up being..." If such is true, what was the reason for this  whole exercise, other than to gripe that "Arts Achievement Day" didn't go off as planned?

Your letter was so offensive Mr. Aldrich, that I'm publicly asking you to apologize to the arts community for sending it. If you are unable to see the error of your judgement in sending it, I submit that you are so out of touch with the Vermont arts community that your resignation wouldn't be a bad thing. The VAC under your leadership has simply grown more and more elitist over the years, and now it seems to care only about it's own lobbying efforts. 

----------------Letter From Alex Aldrich...------
  Midway through Arts Achievement Day this past week (March 25, 2009), word filtered out of the Vermont State House that Governor Douglas would veto a gay marriage bill if it landed on his desk.
  Remembering back to the Civil Unions debates earlier this decade, I quickly realized that no amount of quality arts activity taking place in the State House would penetrate the wall of news that the Governor's press conference would generate. Sure enough, in Thursday's paper, I searched in vain for even one reference to the dozens of artists, students, advocates, and arts supporters who put on such a creative show at the State House a day earlier.
  So...bowing to the inevitable, I have come to understand one key thing:
This year, one way or the other, it's all going to be about gay marriage--or civil marriage if you prefer.
  2009 is not going to be "the year that Vermont turned the economy around (or didn't)." It won't be "the year that the legislature finally passed (or didn't) a motion picture incentive bill that offers a transferable tax credit to those making a film in Vermont." It won't be "the year that the legislature increased (or didn't) the Arts Council's state appropriation to a level that matches that of the National Endowment for the Arts."
  Nope. This is going to be "the year that gay marriage passed the Vermont House and was signed into law by the Governor (or wasn't)."

I am forbidden by law to advocate for a particular position regarding pending legislation since I am the director of an independent 501(c)(3) organization that also serves as the official Vermont State Arts Agency. I am, however, allowed to offer fair and balanced opportunities to all people to educate themselves about issues of note.

Trust me, no matter how you feel about it, this is an issue of note.

Many of you have already made up your mind one way or the other on gay marriage. This post, however, is directed to those of you who have NOT made up your mind about whether you support or oppose gay marriage.

Go to the website for those advocating for traditional marriage: Take It To The People. (hyper link provided in his original note )

Then go to the website for those advocating for gay marriage rights: Vermont Freedom to Marry. (hyper link provided in the original note )

Still haven't made up your mind? Go back and do it again, and yet again if you have to. I truly don't care what your position ends up being. I just don't want you or your children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren to feel any regret that you didn't take a position and communicate it to your legislators when you had the chance.

As to where I personally stand on this issue, feel free to draw your own conclusions.

Best Regards,

Alex Aldrich
Executive Director
My note to Alex:

dear alex... did you actually read the take it to the people website???? check out their talking points tab to see the misinformation they are spreading. for "fair and balanced" you may as well post a link to the bill o'reily, or hanity on fox news.  by trying to be "fair and balanced" you are actually promoting an extremist organization that has very little actual support in vermont. it's like saying creationists need to be represented in schools to be "fair and balanced" about evolution... my friend, i'm sorry the marriage equality movement rained on your parade, but your response should have been a respectful silence. by PROMOTING the anti-equality far right (which i'm sure wasn't your intention) you've gone way out of your bailiwick. a personal - NOT VAC - note would have been fine, but this was a real mistake. PLEASE SEND OUT AN APOLOGY. i'll be publicly asking for an apology - or your resignation - on the vermont art zine website. you are not promoting the arts by asking people to become polarized on the marriage equality issue.



Sunday, March 29, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Harriet Wood at Catamount, St. Johnsbury

IN THE MOMENT - Now and Then
April 6 - 30, 2009
Opening April 10 5-7
Catamount Arts, St. Johnsbury

Harriet Wood, who will be showing her large, vigorously painted canvases in the new gallery at Catamount Arts, showed in galleries on 10th St., in New York City in the early sixties and was part of an art movement called No! Art. She has lived in Vermont for 32 years and currently lives and has her studio in South Woodbury.

Image: Inauguration 2009, for Barack & Michelle
Oil on canvas - 44.5" x 76"

Friday, March 27, 2009


For Immediate Release

What: Photography Exhibit- Tim Matson, Pilobolus Dance Company
Where: Pine Street Art Works, 404 Pine Street, Burlington, VT
When: April. Opening Reception, Friday April 3, 5 - 8
contact: Liza Cowan, 802 863 8100,

A rarely shown exhibit of Tim Matson’s award winning archival black and white photographs of the original Pilobolus Dance Theatre in performance and rehearsal will be shown at the Pine Street Art Works (April 3-25). They were first seen in a special exhibit at the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College in 2007. The exhibit coincides with a one night performance of Pilobolus at the Flynn Theater on April 11.

Matson was one of the earliest photographers to capture the original Pilobolus dancers as they began their career as a barnstorming male quartet, and soon evolved into the world famous coed group that has virtually reinvented the dynamics of modern dance. (They have performed at the Olympics, the Academy Awards, the Oprah show, and continue to tour around the world with two companies of young dancers.)
Matson is both a photographer and an award-winning writer, notably of the bestselling Earth Ponds series of books and videos. He currently lives in Strafford, Vermont. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1968, Matson spent time in Vermont, where he met Moses Pendleton, one of the founding members of Pilobolus. Following some time in New York working in publishing, Matson moved to Vermont just as Pilobolus was beginning to choregraph and perform while undergradate students at Dartmouth. Living nearby in Strafford, Vermont, he was invited to photograph the young company. In a grassroots spirit, he took publicity photographs for the company in exchange for a day of the dance group’s labor in Matson’s garden.

Matson photographed the company throughout its formative years in the 1970s. His photos show the dramatic evolution of the unique Pilobolus choreography in performance, rehearsal, film sessions, and behind-the-scenes candids. He traveled with them on performance tours. His Pilobolus photos appeared in publicity stills, posters, and newspaper and magazine articles around the world. In 1978 Random House published Matson's collection of Pilobolus photos in an oversize trade paperback that won two awards from the American Institute for Graphic Arts.
Matson’s photographs at The Pine Street Art Works document the early performances and rehearsals that would come to define the Pilobolus style. His detailed shot from Ciona focuses all of the viewer’s attention on one of the most impressive features of Pilobolus’s dances—the entwined bodies. Another Ciona photograph portrays both the dancers’ aesthetic beauty and their immense strength and athleticism. A series of photographs of the group’s dance Untitled shows the company’s earliest long form narrative featuring many of its signature elements: surrealism, humor, physical power, and nudity.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The latest in LED Sheep Art

ESSAY: The Spell of the Sensuous

by Riki Moss

One of the high points of this year arrived when the NY Times declared – finally! - the death of the Art World, Capital A, spewing its thousand or so now homeless inhabitants back into all those lower case art worlds that have all along been quietly, humbly, spinning everywhere outside of lower Manhattan. The fantasy is over, the offices are closed, the furniture sold. For me, it’s deeply liberating, for there’s no longer any point yearning - always unconsciously, of course - for a Chelsea gallery to validate my work and to make me as rich as Julian Schnabel. In this new cultural implosion, it’s OK to be a player in your own back yard once again; with so little to reach for, you might as well stay home. For me, that means Vermont, in the landscape, in community with what is human and what is not human.

Which brings me to "The Spell of the Sensuous", by David Abram, published in 1996. The book speaks to a quality of being in the landscape, the loss of which has moved our culture out of the natural world into one defined only by the particularly human considerations of exploitation, consumerism, conquest, commodity as represented, for my purposes here, by the "A"rt World. In Abrams' terms, we're no longer under the sensory "spell" of the landscape and non-humans; we can’t feel the water moving under the soil, or imagine our feathers beating through air or look an animal in the eye and feel the thrill of its unfathomable lucidity. The result of participating only with other humans and with our human-made technologies is a sensing body seen as a closed system; incapable, uninterested in participating with what is not us.

But the boundaries of the sensing body are not closed, we are porous, open and receptive, making endless adjustments to a constantly shifting world outside us. So it’s all about perception, about how we see.

As a teacher, I've always led with the "seeing" card. I would say, there's no way to draw "right." We need to learn how to see. Yeah, awesome, my students would answer, text messaging in their pockets, and I'd be left holding the empty leash, having to admit that very possibly I had no idea what I was talking about. But now, David Abram suggests that when I’m seeing as an artist, my pores are wide open to the klaidoscopic shape shifting of the world around me. It beckons, I wake up, it calls, I yell back and with skill, I can call forth an appropriate response. I can't define the quality; it resists codificatin - but you always know when you come across it. While many wonderful Vermont artists come to mind, I'm going to play it safe and offer Vincent Van Gogh:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

REPRINT: Lucinda Mason at the Supreme Court, Montpelier

By Maggie Neale

It has been my honor to be able to hang an exhibit of Lucinda Mason's paintings at Vermont Supreme Court. It is a grand space where large paintings can actually be seen; Lucinda's paintings deserve to be seen. She was only 32 when she died suddenly in March only 2 years ago. She had just completed her Superconducting Super Collider Suite and she had used up all her paints and perhaps all her energy. She died peacefully in her sleep, but too young.

Now with her paintings out to breathe again, I can feel her spirit still searching and being joyous too. These paintings are truly magical and wondrous. From her latest writings, she was asking herself questions, such as, "What does space look like inside the nucleus of an atom? Can one paint immeasurable space? Can one paint the essential makeup of energy?"

Because I was asked to take some photos of the installation, the true scale of these paintings shows up when men are lifting them. I was grateful for the assistance of Torin, Darrell, David, and Tracy to hang this show and for the faith of Ticona, Lucinda's mother, that we could honorably bring Lucinda's paintings out for show.

The reception is this Thursday, 5-7 and the show will continue through May 1. It is worth seeing again and again.

PRESS RELEASE: Nancy Stone at Emile A. Gruppe Gallery

Emile A. Gruppe Gallery in Jericho Vermont, presents The Power of Nuance, an exhibit of work by Nancy Stone. The show opens on April 1 with an artist reception on Sunday, April 5 from 3 - 5 PM at the gallery, located at 22 Barber Farm Road.

"My creative process is not so much about what is painted as it is about how it is painted," says Nancy Stone. "Watercolor is a willing partner in this exploration; my artwork invites the viewer to discover and interpret."

The exhibit runs from April 1 - May 17, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: The Paletteers at Milne Room, Barre Public Library 4/4-5/16

The Paletteers (of the Greater Barre Area) is a friendly group of local artists, photographers, and “art appreciators” who meet at the Aldrich Public Library in Barre nearly every month for a delicious potluck, usually with a featured speaker following supper. Now in our fifty-fourth year, coincidentally, we have about fifty-four members! Our vice-president John Weaver is in charge of the scholarship committee, which annually awards a generous scholarship to a deserving local high school student artist. We have three to four members’ shows per year and one is coming up soon. This is a “themed” event, with all entries to be derived from the same one to three selected photographs taken by members of the club. Since our membership includes artists who use varied mediums, are at all skill levels and reflect differing interests, this should be an especially entertaining exhibit. Not all entries need to be for sale, but those that are will be affordably priced and may be purchased by contacting the artist. The show, in the downstairs Milne Room of the library, will be hung on Saturday April 4th by 2 o’clock and will stay up until May 16th. Visitors may see the artwork whenever the library is open to the public, and that is Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday noon-8, Thursday 10-6, Friday noon-6, and Saturday 10-4. If you are interested in joining Paletteers, please call Joan T. Smith (president) 229-0910, Bob Murphy (treasurer) 476-4328 or Sylvia Kennedy-Godin (secretary) 563-3157 for information.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Lucinda Mason, Montpelier ARTWALK, Lazy Pear, SPA Gala, weekend- 3/26, 3/27 & 3/28

The last weekend of March is going to be a hot art time in central Vermont, with THREE stellar events: Thursday 3/26 5 pm. Supreme Court exhibition opening; Friday 3/27 4-8 pm Montpelier Art Walk, and Saturday 3/28; Barre's Studio Place Arts, Gala and All-american sports exhibition opening 7-9 pm. Below are press release details and some images of the of pieces to be seen at the events.


THURSDAY- Macro-Micro, Immeasurable Space and Higgs Boson Particles: Paintings by Lucinda Mason, In Memory.

Immeasurable space and micro space, star nurseries and sub-atomic particles, these phenomena fired the imagination of painter Lucinda Mason and her explorations resulted in the creation of a remarkable series of paintings. Large in format and fairly exploding with energy, Mason’s work invites the viewer to enter
a magical cosmos. A show of paintings by the late artist is being presented by her partner Torin Porter and her parents at the Vermont Supreme Court from March 24 through May 1.

Born in northern Vermont in 1974, Lucinda Mason studied at the Vermont Studio Center while still in her teens. She received her BA from Bennington College in 1998, where she received the Elizabeth Reed Keller Outstanding Painting Award. In 2005, Mason received an MFA with distinction in painting and drawing from Concordia University in Montreal. Mason wrote for Art New England, was represented by Canvas Gallery in Toronto, and exhibited at a number of other galleries in the Northeast.

As an artist in residence at Burlington’s Firehouse Gallery in January 2007, Mason continued her investigation of the energies and elements of the natural world. Asking herself “can one paint immeasurable space?” or “can one paint the essential makeup of energy,” Mason would then strive to answer such questions on her canvases. The artist’s untimely death was a terrible loss to Vermont’s visual arts community, but her bold and expansive vision as expressed in her paintings is still very much with us.

A reception in honor of the artist’s life and work will be held on Thursday, March 26, from 5:00 to 7:00 PM. The public is invited to attend.


FRIDAY- Montpelier Art Walk Scheduled For Friday, March 27. 
Downtown Montpelier will be buzzing with art, creativity, and fun as the latest Art Walk coincides with The Green Mountain Film Festival. The combination of the two events makes downtown Montpelier a premier destination for art, entertainment, dining, and shopping. The art walk will take place Friday, March 27, from 4 pm to 8 pm and includes fifteen art venues, ranging from galleries, restaurants, shops, and government buildings.

In between seeing films and admiring art, art walk participants can also take advantage Montpelier’s many great restaurants. Art walk booklets, listing participating venues, the featured artists, and coupons to local restaurants can be picked up at all sixteen locations around Montpelier. The same information can also be found on-line at


And speakin
g of the Lazy Pear Gallery in Montpelier, they have taken three new artists onboard. The current show, New Artists/New Work, features painters Mary Admasian and Frank Woods, along with stone sculptor Jeane Wolfe, all three of whom are Montpelier residents. The show will be on display from March 19 - May 31, with an opening reception during the Montpelier Art Walk on Friday, March 27, 4-8 PM.


SATURDAY- Studio Place Arts holds its All-American Sports Gala!
Support this community visual arts center while you enjoy lively art, “tailgate gourmet” treats, music by Stretch ‘n the Limits and more at the SPA Annual Gala on Sat., March 28 (7-9 PM). Call 479-7069 for tickets. $15 advance/$25 day of event.

There will be a silent auction with Items for Business & Gift Giving. Yes … cultural institutions are taking a hit around the country. Let’s not let it happen in our own backyard! Your winning bids in SPA’s Silent Auction will energize their educational and exhibition programs. Showcased Auction Items include: 1.Massage by Sundara Day Spa (Retail: $50; Start Bid: $20); 2.Custom Still Life Photo Shoot donated by photographer Andrew Wellman [] (Retail: $1,250; Start Bid: $250); 3.Photomontage by artist Wendy James (Retail $135; Start Bid $50)

More Showcased Items: 1. A 3 Credit Course, CCV (Retail: $600; Start Bid: $300); 2. Year-Round Pass,
Millstone Trails Assn. (Retail: $105; Start Bid: $40); 3. Pair Tickets, Cecil Taylor (jazz pianist), Flynn Ctr. (Retail $72; Start Bid: $35)

Current Shows at SPA, up during the Gala and through April 18:
Whole New Ball Game (main floor gallery)
Paintings and Drawings by Cameron Schmitz (third floor gallery)
Silent Auction to Benefit SPA (second floor gallery) Bidding begins Mar 10 and concludes at the Gala on March 28.

Friday, March 20, 2009

OPINION: Are non-traditional venues a help or hindrance to the fine arts?

By Colleen McLaughlin

I , too, would define “non-traditional art venues” to be any space other than galleries or museums, i.e. restaurants, bookstores, shops, places of business, etc. I also believe that Mr. Kline is quite correct in stating, “These are not easy questions to answer” relative to the definition of “fine art.”

I completely understand the exclusivity that those who define themselves as “fine artists” must surely feel. Kline defines “fine artist” as “someone who primarily devotes his or her life to the creation of art,” or as “someone whose central struggle in their life is to answer the hard questions of our existence through their art.” That may well be true. However, under this definition, the single-mother of four kids with two jobs who only has time to paint every other weekend could certainly meet this definition of “fine artist.” Which leads me back to the initial pondering: Who is a “fine artist?” Perhaps it IS only those with BFA or MFA following their name. After all, they have earned the title of “fine artist” through years of hard work and study. One can not claim the title “Doctor” or “Nurse” simply by knowing how to change a bandage or treat the flu. Yes, an individual may be “artistic,” but not necessarily an “artist.”

But now to the heart of those difficult-to-answer questions: What is fine art??” Is it only art created by those with a BFA/MFA? If the role that fine art plays in our culture is to “expand our way of seeing and understanding the world around us,” then many an untrained “outsider” or folk artist could certainly be defined as a creator of “fine art.”

Does the display of fine art in non-traditional venues trivialize and demean it to the status of commonplace? In my completely biased and unscientific reasoning, I would have to say “No.” I think of the French Impressionists, who were considered radicals, were laughed at, and initially disdained by the art critics of the time. Today, their paintings are “works of fine art.” So, what becomes of the brilliant visionary, who masterfully defines the beauty, mystery, tragedy or comedy of life through artwork, yet does not have BFA or MFA following his/her name? Perhaps in his/her “undiscovered” state, Healthy Living Food Store or the local library is the only venue for potential discovery. Personally, I PREFER art in common places! While I understand the desire of those who have devoted their lives to the study of art to have exclusive rights to the title “Fine Artist,” I am not convinced that they deserve exclusive rights to be seen in galleries and museums. I also appreciate those “non-traditional venues” that recognize and value the role of art in society, and give voice to “the masses.” In fact, rather than “demeaning” fine art, I see those non-traditional venues as elevating themselves to status of “art gallery!” Today’s “belittled art” is tomorrow’s “masterpiece!” And yes, those who TRULY devote their lives to the study and practice of their art will be the ones who are lasting… and with a dash of luck, elevated to the status of “fine art” in posterity… and shown in the world’s finest art museums and galleries…

Thank you, Mr. Kline, for this very thought-provoking and fascinating post…

Above right: "A Granite Plant" by Gayleen Aiken. From the collection of Marc Awodey.
Above left: "Impressionism- Sunrise" by Claude Monet 1872.

OPINION: Thoughts on Vandalism

This is in response to a question submitted by Janet Van Fleet and posted on February 23, 2009. Further responses will be posted as they are received.

By Nicholas Buckalew

There are no grand reasons for the vandalism of artwork. Rather, the explanation for wanton destruction of public displays comes down to a very basic principle: people have a great ability for being foul.

Perhaps artists that have had their works violated want to believe that there is a reason for their piece's deaths grand enough to parallel the eminence of their creation's life. However, as someone that has destroyed public artwork in my formative years, I can tell you that the reasons are lamentably basic: inebriation, greed, boredom, apathy. These are the feelings that I have seen most frequently guiding the hands that are laid violently upon works of art. I have seen it in myself, I have seen it in my companions.

Art is not destroyed because people envy beauty, or because the aggressors see it as a way of expressing themselves, or any other such romantic idea. Art is destroyed because people are often selfish and destructive in nature. As long as people are intrinsically themselves, art will continue to be vandalized. So there.

Above: Michelangelo's Pieta was brutally attacked in 1972, by demented Australian geologist Laszlo Toth yelling "I am God!"

REVIEW: Arthur Zorn at La Brioche in Montpelier

By Theodore Hoppe

Writing a review of an abstract expressionist is more difficult than one would imagine. A case in point is the paintings of Arthur Zorn at the La Brioche Cafe in Montpelier. For Zorn, painting appears to be highly expressive, engaging the canvas as a receiver of emotions. And therein lies the problem. If the art is a manifestation of self how can one speak about the art without speaking about the artist? The expression of art as "self" opens the viewer to both the conscious and unconscious self. The viewer is privy to both the soothing effect the artist seeks to convey, and the sub-conscious moods of the artist.

This subconsciousness appears as an internal argument within paintings that often end in a bold drizzling statement of authority by the artist that can leave the inner voice moody and muttering. Thankfully, this isn't always the case with Zorn. Yellow Vase (right), for example, seems to incorporate all of Zorn's ideas to a successful conclusion. The white flowers are a floral illusion that float on the canvas with sunlight spinning and reflecting off glass and water. The mood is bright and gay.

Spring suggests the struggle of things held for too long in darkness, emerging with the spark of life. Java Jive, installed above the coffee counter, is strong and vibrant, like a french roast and half and half, with its bold black, white, and gold drizzles . Contra Dance has all of the swinging and twirling of a Saturday evening at the Grange Hall.

The La Brioche space is filled with many paintings in this exhibit, and unfortunately not all are hung in good light.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

OPINION: Are non-traditional venues a help or hindrance to the fine arts?

This is in response to a question submitted by Andrew Kline and posted on March 17, 2009. Further responses will be posted as they are received.

by James Vogler
In response to the question of whether non traditional gallery spaces are good or bad for the artist, I would first think that the artist needs to accept that Vermont has few gallery opportunities, and any exposure to the public should be welcome. Having lived in Vermont for 18 years after being part of the New York art world, and recently returning to painting, I had similar misgivings about showing work in anything but a gallery. But reality sets in that Vermont does not have an art district full of galleries to choose from, so I think any chance to show your work is valid. And the artist certainly can choose when and where. Lately I've participated in art projects run by the Art House Coop in Atlanta Ga. Their mission is to engage anyone from professional to amateur in some form of art and to show the results of the projects in as many venues as possible from museums to galleries or any space that will have them. Art appreciation for the public can only benefit from this sort of exposure and promotion. A friend of mine living in Belgium recently mentioned a book she read on the global art market, that singled out America as a leader in the art world for its use of art in more public spaces than any other country, which specifically included offices, restaurants,etc. I think we just have to work with what we have at hand.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

REVIEW: ARA at City Center, Montpelier

by Theodore Hoppe

The Art Resource Association's Spring Exhibit is in full bloom at the Montpelier City Center. The exhibit features paintings in oil, acrylic and watercolor, and includes some pastels and photography by Central Vermont artists. Some of the standouts include two watercolors by Annette Lorraine (right). The well-executed paintings offer a fresh and creative view of Montpelier in a cubist style.

"Summer Clouds", a skillfully executed pastel by Katherina Ravenhorst-Adams serves up a personal view of the mountains from a grassy summer field. If you like story-telling, there is an ambitious piece by Jane Pincus (below). Her acrylic collage painting is a complex arrangement of images that has the power to transport the viewer to a far-off place of mystery that holds some unfolding drama.

"Nova Scotia Sunrise" is an appealing abstract photograph of reflections of the orange and yellow morning light on water by Annie Tiberio Cameron. Arlene Hanson's two photographs also have an abstract sense to them. "Leaves in a Stream" relies on bright color and movement, while "Reflections of Fall" features the stark white of birch against a shimmering red autumn background. The exhibit opened on March 7, 2009 and runs through April 3, 2009. It's also part of Montpelier's "Celebrate Spring" Art Walk which will take place on March 27, 2009 from 4-7 P.M.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

OPINION: Are non-traditional venues a help or hindrance to the fine arts?

This is in response to a question submitted by Andrew Kline and posted on March 17, 2009. Further responses will be posted as they are received.

by Caroline Tavelli-Abar

Thank you for posting!!

“The role that “fine art“ plays in our culture is to expand our way of seeing and understanding the world around us. Artists through their study and perseverance develop a sensitivity and insight to our world”
...Yes, I find this to be true for myself as well

“that the layman does not have."
...There is a wonderful honesty in the vision of a person not used to looking at art that can help artists of any caliber further understand the world around them, and sometimes even clear up blind spots we all have.

“The work they produce deserves more care and reverence than the work of the part-time artists."
...Any art work deserves care and reverence, for some art work is seed for future growth, and just as enlightenment can be reached in the blink of an eye or never despite years of study, so can it be for the artist.

“Displaying “fine art” in nontraditional venues trivializes and demeans it.”
...Another way of looking at this could be that to bring 'fine art' into
common places can bring a new awareness to the people who live, work, inhabit, and use our common places, and inspire change. The Rochester Vermont Post Office 05767 for example has put on one show a month since December and is still looking for artists to share their vision - and the sheer delight those shows have brought deserves our reverence, just as the work does. They were not perfect and yet they filled an institutional space with a glimpse of imagination, and the art transformed the space, not by
trivializing the space but by bringing a glimmer of understanding into the void. Art and understanding like a weed creeping up everywhere no longer contained might be in need of curators!

“By its very nature it is not meant to be seen as commonplace. To experience
the work in its fullest it needs to be shown in a place that has been set aside solely for that purpose.”
...Sometimes to see oneself in the best possible light, with the right dress, hair and makeup, can inspire others to dream of glamour. However, a gilded cage may not always be the best place for our wild and vibrant nature.

Above right: Caroline Tavelli-Abar's painting The Pink House, 2008, 22 1/2 x 30", mixed media (silver leaf, ink wash, charcoal), from a private collection, exhibited in the Rochester Post Office

OPINION: Are non-traditional venues a help or hindrance to the fine arts?

This is in response to a question submitted by Andrew Kline and posted on March 17, 2009. Further responses will be posted as they are received.

By Eva Schectman

When I use the term "non-traditional venue" I am referring to restaurants and other types of compatible, but not necessarily related businesses/organizations/institutions, such as bookstores, the lobbies of banks and indoor malls, government offices, and the occasional upscale shoe store or designer clothing boutique.So, having established where, in my inquiry, fine art is exhibited outside galleries and museums, I will now focus on possibilities of "help" and "hindrance".

If we are looking purely at helping the fine arts, then I have my doubts that non-traditional venues help them, assuming that fine art is defined as something created by "a 'fine artist', someone who primarily devotes his or her life to the creation of art. Someone whose central struggle in their life (is) to answer the hard questions of our existence through their art." (a definition Andrew Kline offered in his post), then I really wonder if placing the products of this struggle in venues that co-exist with eating a meal, trying on shoes, or, perhaps, glimpsing on the way to the lavatory, is at all helpful.

But rarely is it possible to set aside the needs of an art form, in this case the fine arts, from the needs of fine artists. Artists have needs beyond the struggle to answer the above mentioned existential hard questions. We also have to answer the more mundane questions, such as "How am I going pay the rent this month?" and "Do I have enough money to pay for my annual check-up AND groceries in the next two weeks?"

Non-traditional venues have fewer hoops to jump through (applying, curating, advertising, and selling) in order for an artist's work to be seen by the public, than traditional venues. So although one wants to show ones work where it will look the best as well as be seen by the people who will appreciate it the most (an aim one hopes to achieve at a traditional venue), it's not always possible or practical to do so.

So non-traditional venues offer a service that traditional venues aren't, usually, able to offer - a simple, accessible, inexpensive way of having one's work seen. The sacrifice one makes by having one's work shown cheek to jowl with other products/services often looks like a fair trade-off.
Ultimately I don't see non-traditional venues as the primary instrument of the diminution of fine art, but only a symptom, and entrepreneurial effect, of our larger society's denial of the importance of fine art. So although I believe non-traditional venues don't necessarily help the fine arts, they aren't any more of a hindrance than society at large.

PRESS RELEASE: Craig Mooney and Helen Shulman at West Branch Gallery

STOWE -- Spring comes early to the West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park, where Human Landscapes, a two-person exhibition of paintings by Craig Mooney and Helen Shulman, opens March 7. Mooney’s intimate yet gestural figurative works bring a renewing freshness to this exhibition, which also features sun-drenched cityscapes and visions of the Vermont springtime. The texture and palette of Shulman’s earth-toned, studied compositions are warm and sensitive. Taken together, their works have a sensual ease inviting to viewers eager for brighter days.

The pairing of these two artists draws out timely themes in both. Observers of Craig Mooney’s paintings will recognize the same blend of painterly strokes and dramatic light that characterize his landscapes in these figurative works. His figures exist in the liminal space between peaceful solitude and pathos. Helen Shulman’s innovative wax and oil painting technique layers their textures into tactile colorscapes that refer to the landscape while remaining abstract. Shulman’s paintings seem to increase the gravity of Mooney’s figurative works, with Mooney’s moody palette brightening the tangerine warmth of Shulman’s paintings.

The works in this show seem to glow with a quiet self-reliance soothing in these turbulent times. With their subtle gradations of color and texture, they suggest the quiet persistence of art through good times and bad. The work is on view March 7 through April 26.

OPINION: Are non-traditional venues a help or hindrance to the fine arts?

This is our second March question, submitted by Andrew Kline

Thanks for this opportunity to have an exchange of ideas on the subject of Art. The question of the day is: “Are nontraditional art venues a help or a hindrance to the fine arts? First of all what do we call nontraditional art venues? Do we mean any exhibition space other than a museum or gallery? I would further assume that what is meant by "non-traditional venue" is some kind of business location like a restaurant or book store. And then there is of course the question of what is “fine art”. These are not easy questions to answer. To me they go straight to the heart of what art is and what role it has to play in our culture.

We live in an egalitarian age where the making of art is supposed to be available to everyone. Any body with a camera, paint brush or a word processor is suddenly considered an artist just by trying to produce an image or a poem. And that is all well and good. Everyone has a creative side that they should be allowed to develop. But that in and of itself does not make them artists. Let alone “fine artists”. A “fine artist” is someone who primarily devotes his or her life to the creation of art. Someone whose central struggle in their life is to answer the hard questions of our existence through their art. Their work deserves better presentation and more respect than the other “masses produced art”. So if we mean “fine art” being enhanced or hindered by it being exhibited in nontraditional venues I would say “Hindered”. If we mean “non-fine art work”, art of the masses, I would say “Helped”.

The role that “fine art“ plays in our culture is to expand our way of seeing and understanding the world around us. Artists through their study and perseverance develop a sensitivity and insight to our world that the layman does not have. The work they produce deserves more care
and reverence than the work of the part-time artists. Displaying “fine art” in nontraditional venues trivializes and demeans it. By its very nature it is not meant to be seen as commonplace. To experience the work in its fullest it needs to be shown in a place that has been set aside solely for that purpose.

Photo of City Market by Marc Awodey

Monday, March 16, 2009

WALKABOUT: UVM's Davis Center

by Marc Awodey

Even though there has been all sorts of talk about weak economic conditions, the University of Vermont seems to have embarked on a building spree. Its Davis Center opened last year, and the architecturally interesting building serves as a UVM community center - and, by the way, a showcase for fine art. Both revolving shows and permanent installations can be found in the somewhat cavernous new building, if you spend some time walking around in it.

Finding all the art is a bit tricky, and items are often not labeled well. There is a huge painting, perhaps 6x10 feet, on canvas that’s not fully attributed, but the piece is a strong abstract expressionist utterance. Nearby is an untitled piece by a UVM class of 2010 student Sasha Fisher, done in a similar style, so Fisher is probably the artist of the monumental piece - but it would be nice to know for sure. Either way, since Fisher is a UVM student, it’s apparent that there’s a great art program on campus.

Another student work apparently won the commission recently advertised for a Davis Center atrium installation. Emergence is a hanging sculpture made up approximately 250 of hand blown tubes of colorful glass, by ‘09 student Ethan Bond-Watts. The artist said in a posted statement “Every piece is related to the next, but not identical to it.” The result is a canopy of colors and vermicular forms.
While student work is well represented, there’s also currently a show by Burlington painter Karen Dawson on view. Dawson’s bright and expressionistic landscapes are in a hallway upstairs from Fisher. The canvasses include unusual hues, such as hot pink and bright orange, utilized in Dawson’s creation of rolling skies and undulating forests.  Dawson is a UVM grad student in philosophy, however the space her exhibit appears in, isn't only for students.

The Chittenden Bank branch in the Davis center is another place to fine art. The oil and encaustic, soft edged painting of
James Vogler are currently display.  His pieces have subtle layers of color and slightly overlapped forms.
A statue from the 1989 Lamentations Group, by the late Vermont sculptor Judith Brown also appears in the Davis Center. Brown’s group of ghostlike female figures in flowing robes is a well-loved sculptural group; the pieces were not however well-suited to the elements. After appearing in several outdoor locations for about fifteen years, including the lawn at AVA Gallery, and UVM’s quadrangle near the Fleming museum, a restoration effort was begun to save the sculptures - which were on the verge of disintegration. It was, and remains, a controversial project as it’s been widely reported that the restoration cost is $20,000 a figure. Yet the same question - is it worth it - can be asked of practically every public art and architecture project.

Beneath the Davis center is a corridor passing under Main street, that has a wall of wide panels which glow in various hues; magenta, blue, yellow, green. It’s a pretty cool thing, like something seen at Disney World. But is there a point to it? Was it an expensive addition to the project? Is it considered “public art” or just decoration? Seems like art to me - even if it’s not supposed to be. We shouldn’t hang price tags off from everything. Just wander around in the Davis Center and enjoy the show.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

ART GROUP: 2nd Tuesday

Vermont Art Zine has heard that there’s an interest in reading about groups of visual artists who get together to share work in progress. Many artists, especially in rural parts of the state, feel somewhat isolated and want more contact with other artists. This is the first in what we hope will become a series describing what different art groups (formal and informal) do, who’s involved, and how they go about setting up their groups. Send news and images from your art group (including its name, members, and where and when it meets) to the editors for posting in an ART GROUP article.

By Janet Van Fleet

Second Tuesday (2nd Tuesday, named after the day each month when we meet) has been in existence for over 15 years. The current membership has been pretty stable for 5-6 years, and the group feels that it is at the right number for good functioning. Members are Cheryl Betz, Alexandra Bottinelli, Maggie Neale, Elizabeth Nelson, Lynn Newcomb, Cully Renwick, Kathy Stark, Janet Van Fleet, Harriet Wood, and Ann Young. We meet at the various studios of members in an informal rotation. Members try to make it to every meeting, but it doesn’t always work. This month there were only six members present, meeting in my studio on the third floor at Studio Place Arts (SPA) in Barre.

Recently, we’ve been getting together at 11 AM and having lunch before we get into the business of the meeting. We went together over to L.A.C.E. (a great place committed to serving and selling food from local producers) to get food to take out, and came back to the studio to eat and drink the chai I’d made. We checked in about what each of us has been doing since we last met, and then began showing new work. Harriet (who mostly works on very large canvases that are hard to transport) didn’t bring anything, but passed out exhibit cards for her upcoming solo show at Catamount Arts in St. Johnsbury.

One of the things that’s important about ongoing groups like this is that over many years people become familiar with other artists’ work as it unfolds and changes. When you show what you’re doing, you know that the people scrutinizing the work know its antecedents. Sometimes people ask for feedback about things they’re struggling with. Sometimes other artists spontaneously make comments. Always they look carefully.

Left, Ann Young looks at Elizabeth Nelson's work; Right, Cheryl Betz scrutinizes Alexandra Bottinelli's new oil paintings with collaged elements.

In addition to observing work, Alex Bottinelli handed out copies of an excerpt of David Sylvester’s interview with Francis Bacon for discussion at a subsequent meeting. And, as often happens, the discussion turned to the question of how to exhibit and sell work. There was general agreement, in this case, that Vermont artists need to diversify to survive, putting together a mix of strategies: a full- or part-time day job, some gallery sales, some direct sales, some buyers and viewers through a web presence. There was talk of putting together a group website, and making connections with other online art coops in other parts of the country to share resources. We figured that, just with the number of people in our group, we had many times the potential outreach (even with some overlap) of each of us individually.

Above Right: Ann Young shares small acrylic paintings on canvasboard she made on a recent trip. Below: Cheryl Betz's most recent oil painting (left) and a detail (right)

Friday, March 13, 2009

REVIEW: Altoon Sultan at Helen Day Art Center

by Marc Awodey

Altoon Sultan understands the abstract possibilities of realism. The sixteen egg tempera paintings of her solo show in the East Gallery of Stowe’s Helen Day Art Center, unify abstraction and realism in an intelligent way: by letting the abstract side dominate. As Piet Mondrian once wrote “All painting – the painting of the past as well as of the present – shows us that its essential plastic means were only line and color.” Of course Mondrian was a purist when it came to line and color, but his “present” is now our “past” and in the postmodern world we are free to be eclectic. Yet artists depart from formalism only at their peril, because the fundamentals of design and composition remain true across centuries. Sultan resembles Mondrian in realizing that painting must be distilled into its essential elements if it is to achieve timelessness.

Sultan focuses on the details of farm machinery in her hunt for geometry. Blue Angles is the close-up of something dusty and blue, with a circular hole. Deep inside the hole is a chain, but the dust, chain, and rusted blue aren’t the actual narrative of the piece. It’s about what Sultan's title says - angles. Likewise, Orange Arc isn’t the portrait of a weathered coil of hose. Nor is it about curves in the sun, like undulating dunes, or the coiled hose in shadow as it mildews. It’s about variations in value, graceful lines, and pure colors. “Every true artist has been inspired more by the beauty of lines and color and the relationships between them...” wrote Mondrian “...than by the concrete subject of the picture.” And such is apparently true with Sultan.
So formal issues seem paramount in Sultan’s images, but her virtuosity with egg tempera is also quite remarkable. Egg tempera dries very quickly and lends itself more readily to layering than blending, yet Sultan commands a wide array of chromatic gradations in every piece. Also, while Blue Angles is merely 12x12 inches, Sultan sometimes works on a grand scale up to 36”x48” - unusually large for the medium.

To learn more about Sultan’s technique, look out for her book The Luminous Brush, Painting With Egg Tempera; ISBN 0-8230-2888-7. It's currently out of print but there are 4 copies available through right now. Unfortunately the cost is about $150 a piece!  So scour your local used bookstores first. Sultan probably teaches as well as she paints.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

PRESS RELEASE; "The Littlest Birds Sing the Prettiest Songs: a Group Show of Small Treasures"

"Furchgott Sourdiffe Gallery of Shelburne, will be showing "The Littlest Birds Sing the Prettiest Songs: a Group Show of Small Treasures", March 20-April 28, 2009. The exhibit will consist of pieces in various media, by a group of familiar gallery artists as well as some new faces. The work will be varied, but all of the images will be small, starting at 2 1/2" sq., with an emphasis on affordability. Furchgott Sourdiffe Gallery is located at 86 Falls Road, in Shelburne Village. Hours are Tue-Fri 9:30-5:30, and Sat 10-5. For more information please call Joan Furchgott, 802-985-3848, or go to"

Nancy Pulliam Weis, Trying to Explain, encaustic and mixed media, 7" x 9.5"

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

OPINION: Is there a Vermont style or styles?

This is in response to a question submitted by Sam Thurston and posted on February 12, 2009. Further responses will be posted as they are received.

By Theodore A. Hoppe

When one considers the notion of a Vermont style perhaps the question should be, "Does Vermont Art represent a 'school' of painting and art in general?” "School" in this sense, refers to a group of people whose outlook, inspiration, output, or style demonstrates a common thread, rather than a learning institution.

In Europe, the Barbizon School (circa 1830–1870) of painters was named after the village of Barbizon near Fountainbleau Forest, France, where the artists gathered. The Barbizon painters were part of a movement towards realism in art which arose in the context of the dominant Romantic movement of the time.

Wikipedia tells us the term "Hudson River School" is thought to have originated with the New York Tribune art critic Clarence Cook. "The Hudson River school was a mid-19th century American art movement by a group of Landscape painters, whose aesthetic vision was influenced by romanticism. Their paintings depict the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area, as well as the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains of New York and White Mountains of New Hampshire. Hudson River School paintings reflect three themes of America in the 19th century: discovery, exploration, and settlement. The paintings also depict the American landscape as a pastoral setting, where human beings and nature coexist peacefully."

The Pennsylvania Impressionists were also a turn of the century school of painting. Taking their easels out-of-doors to paint on the spot rather than working in their studios from sketches, this core group of impressionist artists painted the natural beauty at sites along or near the Delaware River and around Bucks County at the turn of the century. Bucks County, with its proximity to New York and Philadelphia, and the binding educational traditions of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the National Academy of Design, created an artistic atmosphere conducive to a unique, yet purely American interpretation of Impressionism.

Vermont is a special place where imposing mountain peaks tower over prosperous valley farms. "How many hay fields, barns, gravel roads and village general stores (might) vanish before we would be living somewhere that is no longer recognizable as the rural state we love?" asks the local artist. Mountains, forests, fields, rivers and roads, the heart and soul of Vermont, are captured in the eye and by the hand of the artists that experience the Vermont that has come to stand for the ideal of unspoiled rural life. There is a vibrant and unique community of artists whose outlook, inspiration, output and style demonstrates a common thread. There is more than just a Vermont School of Painting here. In addition to an abundance of paintings, in oil and watercolors, there are pastels, photographs, prints, sculptures, pottery, and other media.

Above: Thomas Cole, View from Mount Holyoke, Norhampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (The Oxbow), 1836, oil on canvas, at the Metropolitcan Museum of Art, New York.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

REVIEW: Cure for Cabin Fever...

By Gail Salzman

I didn’t do my museum homework before a spur-of-the-moment trip to NYC last month. I had that highly motivating combination of severe cabin fever and free travel miles -- didn’t even take time to read the NY Times or Google the Met or MOMA before jumping on Jet Blue.

So it was with astonishment that I stumbled, quite literally, upon the show of Pierre Bonnard’s Late Interiors at the Met. Not one of those blockbuster shows where one needs a periscope to see the paintings over the crowds, this exhibit is serenely glowing, without fanfare, in the semi-circular gallery just outside the lower level cafeteria.
I’m not going to attempt a complete review – you can get that online easily. As a fan of Bonnard’s amazing color and oddly touching compositions for several decades, I’ve seen my share of his work in museums and in reproductions. But there is something magical about this show, simultaneously monumental and intimate, that captivated me. There is no one who can mess about with color like Bonnard did, and he did it without ego-flexing bravado – he just quietly went about transforming the way we will see “white” forever after. And don’t get me stared on his oranges, yellows or purples.

One caveat – do not, no matter what, be tempted to buy the Met’s catalog of this show as a substitute to actually being there. We all know what a crap-shoot it is to reproduce any art in print, never mind coming close to the colors this particular visionary invented. But the Bonnard catalog is one of the worst I’ve ever seen, color-wise. And since that’s the main point, best save your money. Better yet, jump on the next bus, train or plane and BE THERE. It’s up through April 19. BTW, in case you didn’t know this, there is an “Educational” entrance to the Met, outside to the left of the grand steps, where there’s never a wait in line, and the entrance fee is a “Suggested” amount, any offerings are welcome.

above left: The Open Window
above right: The Studio with Mimosa

PRESS RELEASE: Muffin Ray at the Flynn Center

Muffin Ray’s exhibit, Discarded and Salvage, showing eleven very large and complex paintings, will continue on display at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery at the Flynn Center in Burlington through Saturday, March 28.

This richly textural, multi-layered work uses heavy oils, beeswax, pigments, and resins, as well as stains, various oil-based varnishes, solvents, and antique textiles such as salvaged, antique tapestries and Victorian quilt remnants. These are attached to the canvas and then painted over.“All the materials used in the work are salvaged from abandoned warehouses, dumpsters, and basements,” says the artist. “I find the fabrics and quilts everywhere. More often, they find me!”

Ray’s studio is in a barn at her home in the Northeast Kingdom. She spends half her time on Cape Cod, where she has been a contributing member of the Provincetown art community for over 25 years.