Saturday, October 31, 2009

REVIEW: Medicine & Mortality at Burlington's Firehouse

The opening at Burlington City Art's Firehouse Gallery on Friday, Oct. 30 was packed with a rapt audience for two Burlington artists, Linda E. Jones, Sasanqua Link, and Nathaniel Price, an MD and artist from Massachusetts. With insight and charm, the artists spoke about their mutually disquieting work in the context of the show's focus: the tools, procedures and detritus of body intervention as medical technology preserves and extends life surpassing our psychological ability to integrate these advances.

Linda E. Jones focuses on her family, gathering the artifacts of their various medical procedures, the invasions of their bodies via x-rays, stitches, crowns, rendering of their bones, tracings of blood, imaginings of cellular structures, even excised flesh. The walls offer a retrospective of her obsession, an older large mixed media wall sculpture anchored with surgical tubing, several digital prints and recent encaustic paintings, all richly layered to evoke the depths of the body with the tracks and embeddings of medical technology.

Link's meticulous fabricated sculptures include a tall shower-stallish altar adorned by a disquieting abdominal casting in pigmented wax anchored by metal rods, skewers and brackets referencing medical equipment. Other pieces were morbidly fascinating relics made of vulnerable body parts (wax or silicon castings) framed with antiseptic, polished steel, and the glowing Corporeal Observatory presented on a medical table, formed of plaster, wax, nickel silver, stainless steel, pigment, tile, wood, acrylic.

Price's large drawings were of the body created in words, illegible to me in the dim light of the gallery, the meticulous handwriting visually powerful in the minimalistic outline of the form. The body speaks, we listen, we understand as well as we can, an idea communicated as well in the stark plaster bust sitting blocks.

The exhibition, stunning in its expertise and conceptual scope, raises the questions of how memory is stored in the body and how the body communicates its experience, specifically that of invasion by medical procedures meant to interface with its mortality. It's disquieting, brilliant focused and elegantly presented.
Through December 12, 2009
The Firehouse Gallery
Church Street, Burlington

Thursdays at 7 PM
The New flesh: The films of David Cronenberg.

PRESS RELEASE: Barbara Pearlman at Gallery in the Field, Brandon

An exhibit of sculptures by Barbara Pearlman will be installed at the Gallery in the Field from November 1, 2009 - January 3, 2010, with an opening reception and question-and-answer session with the artist on Sunday, November 1 at 2 PM.

Pearlman earned international fame as a fashion illustrator, working in New York for Neiman Marcus, and in Paris for Europe’s leading fashion publications, including editorial work for Paris Vogue, Bazaar, Marie Claire, Jardin des Modes, Elie and Italian Vogue.

At the peak of her career she shifted away from commercial illustration and began her life in fine art, breaking free from her signature line and her design expertise. At length, her art became a synthesis of rigorous structure and pure invention..

Her work has moved from early large-scale charcoal drawings on floor-to-ceiling banners of vellum, through a series of oil and acrylic paintings that became increasingly abstract, to her current figurative sculpture. The power of the sculpture is in its co-joining of form and expression, as if form itself mutates like some genetic adaptation or like a dream-exaggeration to embody feeling or idea. The human body becomes the prima materia through which her artist’s findings and insights are set forth. An arm is a wing is a weapon is a shield. The human body becomes, in Pearlman’s hands and in her imagination, a poetic and ever-shifting metaphor.

Gallery in the Field
685 Arnold District Road (just off Route 7)
Brandon, VT

Hours: Sat & Sun 1-5 and by appointment

Left: Blue Woman, 2007, 46 x 14 x 9.5", clay, wire, steel, oil paint
Right: Blue Man, 2007, 42 x 13.5 x 11", clay, wire, steel, oil paint

Friday, October 30, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Art Resource Association Annual Exhibit at T.W. Wood in Montpelier

The T.W. Wood Gallery and Arts Center is pleased to present the Art Resource Association's Annual Exhibit, opening Tuesday, November 3 and running through Sunday, December 20.

The work for this popular exhibit, featuring over 40 artists, has been selected by Ray and Jody Brown of the Drawing Board in Montpelier.

There will be an opening reception from 5-7 PM on Thursday, November 5th, with musical entertainment, hors d'oeuvres, and a chance to meet the many local artists whose work will be on view. The work will be for sale throughout the duration of the exhibition.

Hours of operation are Tuesdays through Sundays, from noon until 4 PM. The T. W. Wood Gallery and Arts Center is located in College Hall on the campus of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, 36 College Street in Montpelier.

Images: Artists from top to bottom: John Hoag, Anne Sarcka, Jack Sabon

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

REVIEW: Emmett Leader at Bennington Museum

By R.D. Eno

To mark the 100th anniversary of Congregation Beth El, the Bennington Museum has mounted an astonishing installation, Revisiting Our Traditions – Illuminating Our Times by sculptor and ceramicist Emmett Leader, a third-generation Vermonter whose family also celebrates this year the centennial of its arrival in the Green Mountains.

Leader’s project links the village cultures of the Eastern European Jewish shtetl and the communities of rural New England where Jews had to remake and reinvent themselves in a strange land. He has borrowed from many sources, including gravestones from shtetl cemeteries, a 14th century Haggadah (Passover prayer book) and Biblical texts to fashion a family history in a stylized visual folk-language. This vernacular conveys both nostalgia for vanished folkways and continuity with ancient values. Scores of terra cotta sculptures and bas-relief plaques treated with terra sigillata (sealed earth, a light, buffed glaze that produces a silken matte like healthy skin) are assembled with found and crafted objects, family mementoes, dried vegetation and other materials in three large mise-en-scènes (a Russian synagogue, a sukkah, a dovecote) crafted of salvaged mahogany and other woods or in wall-mounted wooden panels that might be windows or doors. Muted colors -- ruddy terra cotta, occasionally offset by blue or gold glaze, against tawny wood -- impart a sepia glow.

Rabbi Isaac Leader, the artist’s grandfather, was born in the Ukrainian shtetl of Slonim, whose village synagogue is recreated in the diorama Slonim Revisted. Here, in a broom-closet space, seemingly more capacious than it measures and furnished with photos, sculptures, plaques and ritual objects, Leader introduces the motifs that knit together the components of his project: the tzeddakah box, into which Jews drop charitable offerings; the autumn harvest festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles) and the corresponding spring planting festival of Pesach (Passover), during which Jews recount the exodus and rebirth of Israel; the toothed crenelation that is the synagogue’s distinguishing design element; and, most significantly, an evocative and complex avian symbology.

Inspired by the medieval illuminators of the Bird’s-Head Haggadah, who dodged the biblical prohibition against graven images, Leader depicts Jews with the heads of birds (and big, Jewish beaks) and dresses them in the robes and distinguishing conical hats of the Middle Ages. Whether engaged in timeless prayer or driving a tractor, they are identical, signifying a magical continuity that threads together the fates of Jews in Bennington, Slonim and ancient Israel. In the bas-relief triptych My Grandfather’s Rabbinate, Leader illustrates the story (told in an accompanying poem by his mother, Miriam, from the recollections of his father, Herb) of how his (bird-faced) grandfather, traveling by horse-cart among Bennington’s Jewish households, received his pay in chickens (fellow birds?), realized there was more money in livestock and land than in teaching the torah and abandoned his rabbinate. Ironically, the third panel shows the rabbi horseless and tethered to his own cart, receiving what might be a coin from a hand descending out of heaven, a reference here and elsewhere in the exhibition to the manna that sustained the Israelites during the exodus. Behind him, like an enormous sun hovering at the horizon, appears the form of a gigantic dove.

The dove recurs frequently, serving as a metaphor of both the divine and the human spirit that longs for the holy. Leader has inscribed on the plaques passages in Hebrew, many from the Song of Songs, notably: “His eyes are as doves by the waters of the brook,” (5:12), which, allegorically, is interpreted to extol the love of the torah. Dovecotes abound. They appear in the synagogue, in the bas relief illustrations and in a barrel-like diorama entitled Dovecote that also displays photographs and mementoes of the Leader family inside its staved rotunda. The triangular form of the dovecote window is even echoed in the tzeddakah boxes – whose roofs are topped with peacocks, a common symbol of paradise.

In the lexicon of Leader’s symbology, dovecotes allude to home, to a place of repose and sanctuary; they resemble another pictorial element, the ark that houses the scrolls of the torah, and they also carry an agricultural reference: dovecotes are often seen atop barns in Vermont. Leader was raised on a farm in Andover, and the third of the installation’s wooden dioramas is Sukkah, a makeshift tabernacle recalling the tents of the wandering Israelites that Jews erect adjacent to their homes during the festival of Sukkot and decorate with the fruits of the harvest. There, on a shelf, appears the model of a bird-man on a tractor: Leader’s father driving his Allis Chalmers. The intermingling of earthly occupation, family history and spiritual aspiration is complete.

Revisiting Our Traditions – Illuminating Our Times bears comparison to Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party; every detail is beautifully made, and there is a proliferation (hardly hinted at here) that rewards repeated attention. The dioramas might be museum cases or Renaissance “cabinets of wonder”; the primitivist stylization and archaic figuration adduce not only medieval sources but Egyptian hieroglyphics and the weird surrealism of the comic artist R. Crumb. The effect is both playful and mysterious. That Leader can integrate and harmonize such multifarious resonances so effortlessly is a remarkable accomplishment. This reviewer’s only reservation concerns the lack of an explanatory apparatus. For those unacquainted with Jewish tradition or the Hebrew language, the installation might seem more baffling than engaging. A work so naturally mysterious shouldn’t mystify.

Images: courtesy of the artist's website

PRESS RELEASE: The Word Show at Flynndog in Burlington

THE WORD SHOW: Visual Art Infused with Words will be on exhibit at Flynndog, 208 Flynn Avenue, from November 6 - January 3. The gallery is open from 7AM-7PM every day.

The public is invited to an opening reception and performance on Friday, November 6 from 6-8 PM.

THE WORD SHOW features innovative and provocative work from nine artists who combine word and image in unusual and surprising ways. Using sculpture, painting, assemblage, handmade paper printing and more, the artists tease out common ground between language and visual art.

The exhibit includes works by Axel Stohlberg, Winnie Looby, Roger Coleman, Aluan Arguelles, Jon Turner, P.K. Ellis, Drew Cameron, Maggie Standley, and Sharon Webster. You can find links to many of these artists' websites in our VT ARTISTS links at right.

Image: Root, by Sharon Webster

Friday, October 23, 2009

WALKABOUT: The Bennington Museum

by Janet Van Fleet

I blush to admit that this is the first time I've visited the Bennington Museum. I was surprised to find a wonderful mix of historic and contemporary exhibits, ranging from an exhibit (through Nov. 8) called Patience to Raise the Sun: Art Quilts from Haiti and their Power to Change Women's Lives to exhibits of historical artifacts, early Bennington pottery, and a huge collection of Grandma Moses paintings. The quilt exhibit shows work created through PeaceQuilts, a humanitarian organization relieving poverty in Haiti by establishing and supporting women’s quilting ateliers.

I met briefly with Jamie Franklin, the museum's curator, who encouraged me to have a look at the small exhibit space for contemporary regional artists, actually a hallway, but well lit and nicely hung. Currently on exhibit is Scapes: Recent Paintings by Renée Bouchard (thorough November 7), who says in her artist statement that she is "preoccupied in my recent paintings with the simultaneous exploration of landscapes, skyscapes, and mindscapes." The exhibit contains about a dozen oil on canvas paintings, along with a few smaller works on canvas paper. Bouchard's works are focused and confident, and reminded me a bit (with their very impasto, nervous surfaces) of Jack Yeats, the painter-brother of the Irish poet W.B. Yeats.

The paintings have ebullient elements that suggest humor and fun, such as China Man's Hat 2009, with a line-drawn hat masquerading as a sailboat, and Monument, Bennington VT, 2009, featuring a phallic Bennington Monument bathed in a pink glow.

The Bennington Museum has an active call to regional artists (defined as residing in Vermont and nearby areas), for the first half of 2010. They are open to work in all media, from photography, illustration, and sculpture to traditional crafts and oil paintings. The curator said they typically invite 3 artists out of 20 who apply. Pick up applications at the museum, or call 802-447-1571. They will be considering proposals in mid-to-late November, so you should probably plan to get your materials to them by the first week in November.

Stay tuned to Vermont Art Zine in the next few days for a full review of one of the major exhibits at the museum, Revisiting Traditions - Illuminating Our Times, an installation of works by Judaica artist Emmett Leader that celebrate the Centennial of the Jewish Community in Bennington and its origins.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

REVIEW: Cheryl Betz at Claire's in Hardwick

This is the second review we received concerning Cheryl Betz's exhibit in Hardwick, which presents Vermont Art Zine with the opportunity to offer two separate perspectives about one exhibit. We hope you will enjoy comparing and contrasting the two reviews. And don't forget -- we are always looking for new people to write about the visual arts in all the corners of the state!

Hidden Truths

by S. Gulick

Good art should make you think, and I've been thinking a lot lately after going to Claire's restaurant in Hardwick to view the paintings by Cheryl Betz exhibited there. This is a large body of self-consistent work, especially for a venue not exclusively devoted to the display of art. There are 17 separate canvases and works on paper, all in the same style: abstract works with a pale center which fades to a darker border. A cursory glance would suggest that if you'd seen one you'd seen them all -- the basic format of light center, dark borders appears in each and the muted colors all seem rather grey and drab. When I was there the lighting was more to provide ambiance for the diners than to show off the paintings and the dim lighting obscured what in fact were subtle but significant differences between the individual works and a surprising richness of color which revealed itself with careful observation.

I would call this academic work. The artist has chosen to limit herself to a particular style and palette and has exhaustively explored the possibilities offered within these bounds. She presents several examples from each of four separate series, titled 'Of Veins', 'Isle au Haut'. 'Axial', and 'Husk' in addition to one or two canvases apparently not part of a series. Because there are only a few examples of each series one can't necessarily appreciate what differentiates one series from another --for example, the 'Of Veins' series features a base structure of branches from a stem like the branching of veins in a leaf or hand. Many of the members of the series 'Isle au Haut' have a horizontal banded structure suggesting a horizon or a shore, and there are colored dots in a row in several of the members. Red ovals like expanding ripples in a pool make their appearance in many members of 'Axial' along with some veinlike structures reminiscent of the series 'Of Veins'. And there are other features common to several series which are part of the overall set of rules, of boundaries, which tie the whole show together and make it self-consistent. The dots in rows from 'Isle au Haut' members make an appearance in Axial VI while the ovals from 'Axial' show up in Fucus Vesiculosus (a type of seaweed with circular inflated bladders on the stems). There's no work of which one would say that it's a complete departure from the other works although there are variations in contrast, color, light and dark which separate series from series and individual works within a series.

I say this is abstract work. There are geometric shapes and forms but there are no clearly recognizable objects in these paintings. So it was a surprise to me to learn that Ms. Betz starts each painting with a clear image of a physical structure, carefully rendered. She then puts repeated layers of paint over the basic image, obscuring and altering its original form but guided by a subconscious interaction between her gesture and her original image. I've not spoken to Ms. Betz but I believe her goal is to arrive at a distillation of the essence of the original object and to relate this essence to the object, to the artist and to the world in general. It's an intriguing concept and it brings me to two issues regarding art and its production and appreciation, both of which involve apparent contradictions and which make art mysterious and fascinating to me. The first involves art as self-expression versus communication, and the second concerns whether a work of art should stand alone or whether knowing about the artist is essential to understanding the work.

Ms. Betz describes her paintings as questionings about existence, initially based on intricate structures found in natural phenomena. Her paintings become a dialog between herself, her subject, and her world in which the underlying structures are obscured, reappear, and are again obscured as different aspects come to play a part in the work. The painting as exhibited reflects the artist's understanding of the subject and its connections with the greater world at the time she stopped the dialog. Up to this point the work can be considered as analysis, research and self-expression without regard for the public. But by exhibiting the work the artist undertakes to communicate with the viewer her conclusions on the essential nature of the subject and her understanding thereof. The viewer gets the benefit of the time and work the artist has spent in contemplation of the subject but is forced to guess both at the initial subject and the intermediate steps that have led the artist to her final conclusion. Many artists have spoken of the futility of artist's statements--they feel they communicate best in their chosen medium. If they could say in print what they want to say in paint, they would be writers and not painters. But I must confess I'm not always sure what Ms. Betz is trying to say to me.

For art to speak to a large public it must speak of general truths. For art to endure it must speak of fundamental aspects of the human condition. It should stand on its own independent of the artist who produced it. And yet there is so much more in any art that can only be understood if one knows something about the artist and the environment in which the art was produced. From her curriculum vitae I know that Ms. Betz is a Buddhist who has spent much of her life in faith and in study. Many reviewers have spoken of a feeling of central illumination and of experiencing a sense of oneness with the world as a result of observing her work. I am an agnostic, a materialist, an empiricist. I am suspicious of truth which comes as a revelation without evidence to support it. But I do feel that life is worth study, that there are many simple truths hidden in complexity. There are also remarkable coincidences that suggest hidden connections that just aren't there. One can only hope to separate the connected from the coincidental by careful examination of details.

There are enough details and subtlety in the work on exhibit at Claire's that with no prior knowledge I would feel that there was more there than met the eye. Knowing only the titles I would look for connections between series and between individual series members. Reading the artist's statement I would be stimulated to try to find traces of the original structures which led the artist to the final work. Finally, learning the religious affiliation of the artist I would be on guard for proselytizing; but finding no attempt to convert but only a serious and long-term effort to pursue a novel line of inquiry into structure underlying complexity and the essence of existence, I would go back, reexamine the work, and see whether it would lead me in a new direction. This show runs till November at the Hardwick garden of the gustatory, leaving ample time for the interested viewer to please his or her palate while exploring the palette of Ms. Betz.

Images from top: Axial VII, Axial III

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

REPRINT: Cheryl Betz at Claire's in Hardwick

Paintings Offer An Abstract Window On Reality

by David K. Rodgers
Originally published in The Hardwick Gazette and reprinted by permission

Cheryl Betz’s paintings, now on exhibit at Claire's Restaurant, demonstrate the paradox that abstract art can sometimes show reality better than realistic works.

The dominant characteristic of her paintings is an uncanny glow in their centers, which almost seems to emanate from the surface rather than just being reflected off of it. Are we looking within ourselves, to mystical experiences in the deeper levels of our minds through intense meditation (a kind of “inner Northern lights”) or are we seeing the true nature of the universe as revealed by contemporary nuclear physics, where below the surface on the molecular scale everything merges in constantly changing fields of energy; or are we here doing both simultaneously?

Paintings don't come into being all at once but grow in sequences as they are created, with a considerable amount of improvisation (as in music) along the way. It is interesting to reconstruct how Betz achieves this unique quality of light in her works. To start with, she paints in a medium
of oil and beeswax on linen, which gives the surface a mellow sheen, like the patina on old furniture or bronze sculptures, subtly sensuous.

In her artist’s statement, she describes how she begins with the “intricate structures of various phenomena that occur in the natural world,” but then obscures these forms with many layers of paint, so the overlaps merge in a rich visual mix. Looking closely at a painting by Rembrandt,
Turner or Monet, for example, reveals the same building up of numerous blending brushstrokes of color, creating a beautiful vibrating effect. In Betz’s pieces, these glowing areas are heightened by juxtaposition to her subdued palette of dark greens, blues, reds, ochre yellows and browns on the edges, which shade to black on the borders, where the lack of any kind of formal frame makes the paintings seem to hover on the wall.

Within her floating compositions we can discern on the periphery vague repeated patterns of lines, which as the titles indicate (Of Veins, Fucus Vesiculosus Linnaeus, Husk, etc.) suggest the veins of leaves (or those of our own bodies) essential to the circulating of life’s vital fluids, as well as the rounded forms of cells, seeds or eggs, perhaps symbolic of the rebirth and continuity of life. Other paintings, such as the Isle Au Haut series, seem to spring from the horizontal bands of natural landscapes.

Two additional associations these works bring to mind are, first, the startling luminosity clouds sometimes take on at certain times of day. This is analogous in an inner sphere to what the mystic Jacob Böhme calls the “Cloud of Unknowing.” Second, on a more cosmic level, they suggest the auras of distant galaxies and supernovas the Hubble Space Telescope discovered.

This exhibition of Betz's paintings will continue until Nov. 23.

This review is reprinted, with permission, from The Hardwick Gazette

Images from top
: Fucus Vesiculosus Linnaeus, Axial X

PRESS RELEASE: Large-Scale Halloween Video Art Projection at Helen Day Art Center in Stowe

Large-Scale Halloween Video Art Projection
October 31st
At the Helen Day Art Center front lawn
5 School Street
Stowe, VT 05672
6 - 7 PM (Kids projection)
7 - 8 PM (HDAC Site-specific Video Art Projection)

The Helen Day Art Center is pleased to announce as part of our Relentless Eye cellphone photography exhibition programming, a Halloween video projection by the New York City artist Sean Capone.

In this installation, a video projector illuminates the entire front of the newly refurbished Helen Day Art Center/Stowe Public Library with evolving constellations of patterns, arabesques, and floral motifs, evocative of autumns' passing and the beckoning of winter in Stowe. The projection will be the first of its kind in Vermont and will begin with a preview at 6 PM aimed at the younger crowd as they make their way out to trick-or-treat in Stowe. At 7 PM Mr. Capone begins projecting a site-specific installation onto the facade of the building transforming architecture into video painting.

The Helen Day Art Center and Stowe Free Library are housed in an 1863 Greek Revival building set just off of main street in the historic village of Stowe, Vermont. Formerly the Stowe High School it was saved from the wrecking ball by local preservationists and has served as a culture center for Stowe for over 25 years.

Photo credit: Sean Capone, Camera Rosetum, Site-specific video installation, 2009. Part of the 13th Annual D.U.M.B.O. Art-Under-The-Bridge festival. Originally sited September 25 & 26, 2009.

Contact: Odin Cathcart, Exhibitions Director
702.339.6407 cell
802.253.8358 Helen Day

Monday, October 19, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Viola Moriarty exhibits

Bennington artist Viola Moriarty is showing three concurrent exhibitions of recent work: at Southern Vermont College in Bennington, the Spiral Press Café in Manchester Center, and Images Cinema in Williamstown, Mass.

Moriarty will display select works from her “Ex Voto Suscepto” series at Southern Vermont College. The series, created while Moriarty was undergoing treatment for breast cancer and displayed to wide acclaim at the Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center earlier this year, opens in the Burgdorff Gallery in Everett Mansion on Friday, October 23.

The exhibit is part of Breast Cancer Awareness month and complements nurse-scientist Marsha Fonteyn’s talk, “The Experience of Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer: Insights Gained from Women’s Expressive Writings,” on Tuesday, October 27, at 2:45 p.m. in SVC’s Everett Theatre. Information: SVC, 802.447.6388 or

Moriarty’s vibrant and bold works in various media presented in “Sketches” — now on view at the Spiral Press Café, 15 Bonnet Street in Manchester Center — explore the points where abstraction meets realism. Each is a study in color relationships that excites a spontaneous conversation between the artist, the subject, and the viewer. Moriarty completed all of the pieces live — some in recent weeks while on a moving train across the country. All of the works are for sale, and purchasers receive a 50% off coupon for framing at Joyce Kennedy Framing. Information: Spiral Press Café, 802.362.9944

Moriarty’s “Sketches in Oil” recently opened at Images Cinema, 50 Spring Street in Williamstown, Mass. These eight oil sketches were done from life, in sessions as brief as six minutes or as long as six hours. The human subjects represented are what Moriarty calls “a few of the beloved ‘Patron Saints’ of our border-town communities.” These portraits, along with a graveyard triptych and the color block study, are each a study in color relationships, each exploring the points where abstraction meets realism.

Image: Self Portrait in Oil After Chemo

INTERVIEW: Liza Cowan of Pine Street Art Works

by Janet Van Fleet

Pine Street Art Works is having its 4th birthday in December, so Vermont Art Zine thought it would be interesting to talk with owner and director Liza Cowan about some highlights and insights from her four years in business.

VAZ: So what made you start Pine Street Art Works?

Cowan: In August of 2005, when the lease expired on my old studio at the Howard Space (around the corner from the gallery) I was looking for a new place to paint. Coincidentally, Burlington Furniture Store was about to cease making futons and close their fabric store, so their lease was available as a sublet. I’m very driven by architecture and I loved the building, the proportions, the brick, the light, the history and the neighborhood. But it was too big to use as a studio, and it’s in an enterprise zone, which meant it had to be used for retail. So in a matter of minutes I made a plan to open a gallery. I took the weekend to make a business plan, then signed the contract. At first I was just going to run a gallery, but I quickly found out that Burlington, even in good economic times, cannot or will not support an art gallery enough to make it thrive. So I evolved my mission: to bring art and art-inspired products to our customers and to explore the fuzzy boundaries between fine art and pop culture. This has grown to include personal and home accessories. Really, I love things, and I’m just as happy selling bags and cards and teapots as I am selling art. It’s about vision and quality.

VAZ: You've shown a lot of interesting things over the years. Do you have any favorites, or things you think are highlights of the gallery's work?

Cowan: Whatever is coming up is my favorite. I’m always excited by what’s to come. Partly because I love the process of envisioning a show, planning with the artists, designing the postcards, doing the research, writing about it on my blog.

But to answer your question properly: I’d say my favorite show was the Paint By Number show in August 2006. I loved the concept, I loved hunting for the paintings, learning the history, thinking about the related theories of pop culture. And, it was a huge hit with customers.

I love all my artists but I’m very pleased that I’ve been able to show nationally recognized artists and photographers like Connie Imboden, Cara Barer, Aline Smithson, Heinrich Harrer and Alison Bechdel. Probably the most beautiful shows were by Denis Versweyveld and SP Goodman, both local artists, because they filled the gallery with so much color and variety. The Studio Glow show was… illuminating. The whole place looked like the inside of a surrealistic fish tank, particularly as the daylight faded. Nakki Goranin’s American Photobooth show was fascinating and also very popular. For the record, the best selling artists here have been SP Goodman (see Quince at left), Cara Barer and Alison Bechdel.

VAZ: These are hard economic times. Do you have any secrets about how you've stayed in business?

Cowan: My strategy has been to stay nimble and embrace change! When I realized that fine art alone was not going to pay the rent, I decided to diversify. Flashbags was my first product, and they have been a staple of my business. After that it’s been a few years of trial and error. I stay true to my vision always, but that doesn’t always translate to sales, so the trick has been to find products that meet my exacting and quirky criteria and will also sell. I learned that people can heap praise on an item but not be interested in buying it. That’s great for a museum but not so good for retail. It’s been a huge learning curve, which I’m still climbing. I’m getting much better though.

Six months of the year, between April and September PSAW, features rotating shows by local and national artists. The rest of the year we keep an inventory of works by our exhibiting artists and we pump up the gallery with products by designers/manufacturers from Japan, New York, California, Nebraska and, of course, Vermont. Among my favorite items are pure acrylic magnet frames by Canetti in NY, recycled cardboard tabletop sculptures by Cardboardesign, also from NY, and Zakka – cute home accessories - from Japan. I also make greeting cards and large scale reproductions from images in my extensive ephemera collections, and recently I’ve started making very reasonably priced mini -prints of work by some of the artists who have shown here.

The other big difference from when I started is that I decided rent out one of my rooms. One year ago AO! Glass moved into the 404 Pine Street premises, with their own independent showroom for their Swedish inspired glass work. It’s been better than I could have hoped for. We work really well together and our products work well together too. I can’t imagine being without them now.

VAZ: So you're getting into holiday season mode?

Indeed. As leaves are dropping, the snow is gathering, it's time to morph into our full time shop. Pine Street Art Works and AO! Glass have a wonderful, eclectic assortment of surprisingly excellent and affordable art, glass and art-inspired home and personal accessories. I’ve shopped far and wide this season, looking for items that will surprise and delight.

We are pleased to offer our gorgeous goods at a wide range of prices, starting at $20. We also have an assortment of works by the artists who have had shows over the years, like Cara Barer, Aline Smithosn, SP Goodman and David Putnam. So come on over: Shop Local, Shop Early and Support Art!

Pine Street Art Works
404 Pine Street
Burlington VT 05401

Friday, October 16, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: 215 College Gallery Group Show at UVM Living Learning Gallery

The highly regarded 215 College Gallery artists will be having a group show at the Living Learning Gallery at the University of Vermont. Work from each member artist will be included in this mixed mediums exhibit. Member artists include: Sandra Berbeco, Jude Bond, Kate Donnelly, Diane Gabriel, Catherine Hall, Mary E. Johnson, Linda E. Jones, Jennifer Koch, Rosie Prevost, Sumru Tekin, and Elise Whittemore-Hill. Included will be drawings, paintings, sculpture, prints, photographs and art textiles.

Show Dates – Nov. 2 – Dec. 4
Opening Reception Monday Nov. 2 at 6pm
Regular Gallery Hours at Living Learning Gallery:
Mon. – Fri. 12:30-8:30
Sat. – 12:30- 4:30

For more information about 215 College Gallery

Image: detail of Hunger is the Best Sauce - Cliche/Crochet #1 by Jude Bond

Thursday, October 8, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Rock Solid stone exhibit at Studio Place Arts in Barre

SPA has mounted its ninth annual Rock Solid stone sculpture exhibit this year, which runs through November 7, 2009. The show includes a fascinating mix of traditional forms and contemporary explorations. Native stones of Vermont – granite, marble and slate – are the dominant selections by artisans. The show includes 23 sculptures, bas relief works, and assemblages from stone, as well as 16 paintings of stone and sketches for the stone sculptures.

This year, Rock Solid includes a group of carved figures, forms inspired by nature, and abstracted, multi-media creations. The exhibit features a great variety of stone surfaces, with themes that range from playful to serious. All invite touching, which is encouraged at SPA.

A five-foot tall, abstracted figure from Dakota mahogany granite created by George Kurjanowicz of Barre takes a dramatic position in the gallery, as does a nearly life-sized, pregnant nude made from Barre gray granite by Chris Miller of Calais. There are two smaller, classically inspired, nude figures from local marble, one by Don Ramey of West Rutland and another by Chris Miller. An abstracted vamp chiseled from travertine with a Champlain black marble, “plumed Fedora” by Paul Hilliard of West Pawlet strikes a sexy pose.

Giuliano Cecchinelli of Barre, who picked up his first chisel in Carrara, Italy as a young boy, carved an intimate bas-relief sculpture honoring the arrival of an infant in a family’s life, possibly his granddaughter. His carving sits near a small, abstracted granite figure of a mother and baby, which Checchinelli carved from a design modeled in Play-Doh by his 3-year old granddaughter, Isabella Cecchinelli, .

Two sculptors use native marble to capture lifeforms from the natural world. Joan Gaboriault of Montpelier shaped a 2-foot tall cluster of Calla lilies and Mary Alcantara shows a super-sized, abstracted maple blossom and a smaller pea vine.

As a counterbalance to the stone sculptures in the show, there are sumptuous paintings of stones and relief carvings on the walls of the gallery. Returning to the annual show from Rutland is Kerry O. Furlani (left), who recently completed 4 carvings from local slate for her new The Wedlock Series. In addition, there are painterly compositions of boulders, pebbles and moss-covered stones by Lynne Barton of W. Rutland and Rene Schall of Colchester.

Stone is an excellent foil for other media. B. Amore of Benson, the former director of the The Carving Studio and Sculpture Center, included a striking sculpture involving a photo transfer on silk applied to a marble surface that is resting on a worn iron, legged platform. Nick Santoro of West Rutland carved a large, genetically modified seed from marble, which is possibly on the move across the floor on rebar “legs”. John Matusz of Waitsfield created a dynamic floor sculpture involving welded steel, stone and 3 chunks of colored glass.

Taken together, the works in Rock Solid strike an exciting balance between traditional and contemporary responses to the durable, handsome medium of stone. A nearly universal response from visitors as they cross the threshold of the main gallery at SPA has been the single word, “Wow.”

Gallery Hours:
Tues-Fri 10AM-5PM
Sat Noon-4PM

Studio Place Arts
201 N Main St
Barre, VT 05641
(802) 479-7069

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

OPINION: Vandalism

Back in February, we posted an OPINION question about vandalism, asking readers to let us know their perspective on vandalism of art, and especially their thoughts about what may motivate people to vandalize art. We are still open to printing artists' experiences with vandalism.

Recently a sculpture by Leila Bandar at the Vermont Arts Council's Sculpture Garden in Montpelier was vandalized. All the standing loops you see in the image at the left were pushed over. Bandar has since restored the piece on the same site, and we asked her to give us her thoughts about this experience.
-- the editors

It's such a personal thing, really, when a piece gets tampered with. I find my imagination begins to picture the events that would lead up to it. I don’t feel offended, exactly - annoyed, yes, - but not offended. I kind of feel like it's a natural thing to want to play with a sculpture. NOT that I would actually do it - but that the kind of person who WOULD tamper with it, to me, actually has some mis-directed sculptural/artistic/creative energy. I feel a kind of kinship with them.

I want to say - "There's enough cake for everyone. If you're moved to make a statement, move materials, make a point, make yourself visible... GREAT... just don't be so bold as to assume someone else's work is yours for the playing with.” That's kind of the tricky part... taking a kind of "ownership" of someone else’s effort, you know. Like someone drawing on your drawing... and feeling like they are "helping".

But the important thing is that I don't feel like a "victim" and wouldn't want to be portrayed as one because my piece got tampered with.

PRESS RELEASE: Neal Rantoul at Photostop in White River Junction

PHOTOSTOP’S inaugural exhibition, “Wheat, An American Series”, with photographs by Neal Rantoul, will open on October 23rd with a reception from 6-9 pm and a gallery talk at 7:30 pm.

Neal Rantoul often works in series. For example Wheat 1 and Wheat 2 were photographed from the same vantage point in the wheat growing/harvesting cycle.

Rantoul is the director of the Photography Program at Northeastern University in Boston and a widely exhibited and published photographer. His work is held in the collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Fogg Museum at Harvard, the Kunsthaus in Zurich, the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris, and many others.

Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 2-8 pm. On First Fridays and opening nights, the gallery is open until 9 pm.

Images: Wheat 1 and Wheat 2

PRESS RELEASE: Borough Goes Local in Burlington

October 1-31, 2009
Multiple Locations--August First, Daily Planet, University of Vermont, Davis Center, and Viva Espresso

Emily Wilson, Shawna Cross, and Borough Gallery & Studio are pleased to present their latest endeavor in a cross town, multiple venue exhibition this month. As
Borough Goes Local!, you will likely find the possibility of encountering works by Emily Wilson or Shawna Cross, as their work spans from both the North to the South end of Burlington -including the upper half, on the University's hill top to the lower areas, surrounding the greater Church Street blocks. Conveniently visit each of the sites on your daily bout around Burlington, whether it be for a hot cup of coffee as fall joins us, or a relaxing drink at the end of the work week. A detail of the tour is as follows.

For the early riser on the South end of town, enjoy works done in oil on canvas, hung beautifully on brick, by Shawna Cross at August First; the bakery and coffeehouse on South Champlain. August First is owned and run by Borough Gallery & Studio's third resident artist, Jodi Whalen. On the hill, in the heart of the UVM campus, displayed in the Davis Student Center, Shawna Cross has a second series of oil paintings, presented through Arts Alive. On North Winooski in Burlington's North side, Viva Espresso, a specialty coffee shop and great place to bring your lap top, presents a mixed media installation by Emily Wilson tittled "
Day", in her "Art by Day & by Night" series - "Day" being the first half of a two part installation designed to counterbalance the show at the last site on the Borough Goes Local! tour, the Daily Planet. At the Daily Planet, "Night" is installed in the bar space and includes works both on paper and canvas, as well a site specific sculpture designed to enhance the unique interior architecture of the space.

Borough Gallery & Studio hopes to emphasize through
Borough Goes Local! that as a space and a group, we are dedicated to supporting local venues who support artists and give artists an opportunity for exposure in their establishments. Not only is Borough interested in creating good local relationships, but it is excited about presenting 180 Flynn Avenue as a exciting venue for local shows and hopes that in creating a foundation with the downtown scene, it will generate and create some exposure for Borough Studio & Gallery and the artists we support.

For more information please check out Borough Gallery & Studio at, or to schedule a tour please contact Shawna Cross via email or phone at, 802-782-1675, or Emily Wilson,, 207-459-4631

Saturday, October 3, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Crazy Acres at Julian Scott Memorial Gallery, Johnson VT

EXHIBITION at JOHNSON STATE COLLEGE: Crazy Acres: An Homage to an Artist and Teacher, James Gahagan at Julian Scott Memorial Gallery, Johnson VT
Contact: Leila Bandar (802) 635-1469 or email:

Featured artists: Laurie Alpert, Patricia deGogorza, Diane Fitch, Amy Furman, James Gahagan, Sharon Kaitz, Jean Sousa Kelso, Andrea Pearlman, George Pearlman, Leslie Price, Lorna Ritz, Anci Slovak, Carl Stallman, Ranelle Wolf. James Gahagan and James Gahagan School of Fine Arts.

Exhibit dates: October 12 - November 21, 2009
Reception: October 17, from 4 - 6 pm;
Presentation: November 5 at 3pm: Lineage of Painting in America, here in Vermont: Where have we come from? Where are we going? James Gahagan School of Fine Art. Woodbury, VT.

SOME HISTORY: In the summer of 1971 a small group of young artists arrived in the Vermont countryside (Woodbury) to begin their studies in painting and drawing with James Gahagan. Some came from New York City (many were students from Pratt Art Institute) to live in tents in the wilderness. They set up their easels in a geodesic dome, and shared their meals in a screen tent. In the woods they were to draw from nature, swim in the pond, and attend life drawing sessions in the Dome each week night.

Over two summers in the wilderness, students witnessed color-in-nature and experienced life in the woods. Sensations were fresh and able to touch them deeply. For James Gahagan "color" - was not merely a concept but an epiphany. His passion, like a poem, revealed that the best way to touch The Fleeting was not to "capture" but to "embody". A bird song, a sunset, a cloud, a feeling - these moments confess inner-truths about conflict, joy, loss, and duality. "…Painting is something that takes place among the colors…. Their intercourse is the whole of painting…" (Rainer Maria Rilke Letters on Cezanne, p. 75).

Hoffmann, too, believed that color by itself can create the illusion of volume on the canvas. This lineage of painting - moving and shifting color, conflicted, dualistic and poignant, carries on. Now in middle careers, this group of thirteen artists, former students of Gahagan, display their paintings in the Julian Scott Gallery of Johnson State college. Alongside their teacher, they offer a unique glimpse of painting's lineage from Gahagan and points to all modern colorists emergent from Hoffmann*.

Gahagan, who learned from Hoffmann in New York, moved from New York City to live in Woodbury in 1971. Jim had painted in Vermont since his years at Goddard College in Plainfield (1949 - 1951.) Hans Hofmann had given him a small stipend to survive on for ensuing summers; he painted in an old barn in Plainfield (now the athletic field). James and his wife, Patricia deGogorza, created the Dome school. Their lineage still continues. This show is bright, alive, and thriving with bold gesture and color. Please visit:

* Hoffmann made a point that color by itself could create the illusion of volume on the canvas. This became Jim's pursuit - a high level of experience and color sensitivity was required. Through an education of his sensitivity to color he created his paintings. Receptivity is a great part of this training, as one cannot instruct a color what to do - a color is what it is, but is conditioned dramatically both by its setting (juxtaposition), size, intensity, and luminosity. While the First World War cut short the support of Hoffmann's patrons and being disqualified for the German army by earlier tuberculosis, he opened an art school in Munich in 1915. Artists were drawn to this school throughout the 1920's. In 1931 he began teaching in California bringing his experience of European painting and history to America. Hofmann illustrated the dynamics of drawing and painting both through visual demonstrations and verbally. He provided a sense of structure to those uncertain about modern painting, with precepts artists could make use of, both in their paintings and in their teaching.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Women to Watch 2010 at West Branch Gallery in Stowe

The Vermont Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) announces a dynamic series of exhibitions which begin a tour of the state at West Branch Gallery and Sculpture Park in Stowe on October 4th.

Women to Watch 2010: Contemporary Figurative Painting features a group of five emerging Vermont women artists whom exhibit curator Idoline Duke believes deserve a spot on the national art scene for both their evolving talent and unusual vision.

Artists Susan Abbott, Carrie Gelfan, Kate Longmaid, Aline Ordman, and Adelaide Tyrol highlight the best of Vermont figurative painting. Through traditional portraiture, model studies and compelling narrative works, as well as genre scenes from various locales, we are drawn in by the distinctive styles and sensibilities of the artists. Duke said she chose these artists in part because “they demonstrate a willingness to divert from the expected and create another reality.”

Duke affirmed that figurative painting is thriving in Vermont and continues to hold an important place in the world of contemporary art. “Without it,” she said, “there is no context for the abstract. For the figurative artist, it is often not the struggle for likeness, but the expression of fleeting impressions or emotions that, without the artist’s skilled hand, would never be seen or felt again.”

The Vermont NMWA committee has arranged three subsequent exhibitions: in Burlington at the Flynn’s Amy Tarrant Gallery, at the Christine Price Gallery at Castleton State College, and at St. Michael’s College.

Women to Watch 2010: Contemporary Figurative Painting
Inaugural Exhibit Details:
West Branch Gallery and Sculpture Park, Mountain Rd., Stowe, October 4-November 8.
Gallery hours: 11am-6pm Wednesday –Sunday or by appt. 802-253-8943
Opening Reception: Sunday, October 4th, 4:30-6:30pm
Remarks by noted painter and teacher Gail Salzman
Free and open to the public

Contact: Judy Raven

Images: Top left, Carrie Gelfan; Right, Aline Ordman