Sunday, September 9, 2012

BURLINGTON: 2012 SEABA Art Hop, Points between Church Street and Sears Lane

 by Janet Van Fleet

After the 2011 Art Hop I promised that this year I would start hopping from the north and move south. The guided tour was again provided by the formidable Mark Waskow, S.E.A.B.A.’s president, and the man responsible for the vast majority of the installation of artwork at the Art Hop sites around the city. We were joined by Sue Higby, Georgia Landau, and Vermont Art Zine’s new publisher/editor Meg Brazill.

Note: photos are necessarily small because there are lots of them. Click to view a larger size.

We started at a new site that is definitely NOT in the South End – Burlington Town Center on Church Street – the Mall. This huge space has three Art Hop areas, with the Center Court space (around Kat Clear’s Queen City Crown) the most cohesive (above left). There, some humor and edge is provided by a series of David Powell’s 3x3' acrylic paintings riffing on consumerism, advertising, and the packaging of modern life. 
Mark, along with several Mall staff, installed all the work in the mall on a cherry picker, as the pieces had to be placed above the grab-level. He also had to do the installation over a period of time in the early morning, before the mall opened. It is definitely a tour de force, showcasing impressive work in a challenging environment. For example, it was a stretch (literally) to look up at all that work, some in low-ish light conditions, and it was often hard to see the artists’ names and titles on their Art Hop labels. (Installation of work by Paige Berg Rizvi at right) Maybe this is a case where artists’ names (since the work was presented in groupings of 5-10 pieces by the same artist)  might be printed larger on signage specifically designed for this space.

The other thing is that big retailers are masterful at grabbing your attention, so it was really impossible for me to filter out the visual racket of the commerce. Sometimes I was able keep both messages together in my head (as in this area at left, with its pointed signage), and that helped to keep the funnybone connected to the art bone.

John Douglas had two impressive new digital prints, Rox 1(right) and Rox 2, showing impossible but compelling stacks of rocks, both completely constructed in the computer, pixel by pixel.

Next stop was the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery at the Flynn Center, with Alison Bechdel’s fabulous work (right). I was intrigued by many examples that helped explicate her drawing/printing process, showing the line work side-by-side with the ink washes that provide the tone and shadows for the finished images.

Chance McNiff’s detailed and faceted paintings at Periwinkles Fine Jewelry offered a combination that worked perfectly.

One of my favorite stops was Laboratory B, a self-described “hacker space” set up at 187 South Winooski. Jesse Krembs who showed us the work on display, says that Laboratory B is a group of tech-interested people who get together on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5-8. Most of them have related day jobs (he said he’s at Fairpoint Communications), but they’re all interested in privacy issues and the interesting things that can be made with imagination, microcontrollers, and apps. He said Laboratory B is “not a straight-up art group, but hacking can sometimes look like art.” For example, a piece called Walk Don’t Walk picks up information from cards on your person that aren’t shielded and changes the walk signal. Another piece used “throwies” (a LED light and magnet packet), a metal sheet, and an amplifier to make a species of music when the throwie hits the backstop.

Gerrit Gollner was showing her mixed media work in a project called Voiceovers at JDK Gallery, up through October 5. The project began with collaborative writing on a manual typewriter in the Maglianero Café behind the gallery, an uber-hip space with a bicycle/skate theme. She intended to riff on the writing with responsive drawings, but unfortunately had a serious bicycle accident that made her right hand temporarily unusable.

She says, in a statement, “...for the last few years I’ve been making work that is specific to a place and of a specific duration.... I’ve been calling these works Interludes: a body of work of an occurrence.... An Interlude may be any or all of drawings, sculptures, paintings, performance and installation type works.”

In the Maglianero Café (left), the Vermont International Film Festival was screening trailers for films coming up on October 19-28, with a vertiginous setup of folding chairs in the skate bowl.

And finally, down Pine Street into the belly of the Art Hop beast! At Studio 266, a group show of  studio artists. I liked Maggie Rose Bogosian’s photograph “Family”, right inside the door, featuring players in the Holy Family story, with figures wired for light, or possibly to keep them upright or tethered. Abby Manock’s bottle drawings filled a huge space marching down the hall.

Upstairs, we visited with Carol MacDonald and Casey Blanchard in Casey's new printmaking studio. MacDonald’s “Wooly Scarf II” and “Aubergine Spool” were magnificent.

In the Backspace, lots of little pieces at specified price points. Jody Desjardins’ cardboard pieces and Katherine Taylor-McBroom’s little pieces (many featuring Elvis) caught my eye.

The 20 Mediums show in the Soda Plant hallway was rich and delightful. I was blown away by three encasements on etched and painted glass by Hans Schmitter featuring a somewhat bemused robot (in one piece, he says “?!”) in dark settings. Alas, they were impossible to photograph.

Athena Tasiopoulis’s encaustics were little gems, and the wood pieces were great: Aesthetic Machines by Bob Brunelle, Brian Goblik’s excellent installation, “Tree Beads”, Lisa Lillibridge’s work on doors, and Robert Hitzig’s wall work.

I also liked the Fiber work by Mary Jo Krolewski, June Campbell, Jude Bond, and Wylie Sofia Garcia, a little froth in a hard-edged world.

The Juried Show was packed, as always. First place went to John Brickels for his tricycle, “Old Betsy.” There’s a great story that goes with this piece: Brickels created it for the outdoor Sculptcycle Project in Montpelier in 2008. The participating artists’ work was auctioned off at the end of the display period, and the bidding was embarrassingly low, so John bid on (and bought) his own piece – the same piece that won first place this year (and earned his money back for him)!

Second place went to Gabriel Tempesta’s casein painting, “Old Birch on Elmore Mountain.” No, it’s not a photograph, it’s a painting. Beautifully composed, masterfully executed.  Paige Berg Rizvi’s large encaustic won the Third place.

Two of my favorite pieces by artist friends were in the Juried Show this year: Rob Hitzig’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (left) and Marc Awodey’s “World Trade Center 1963,” which includes a letter from his father, one of the WTC architects, written after the September 11 attacks.

The Innovation Center has a curated exhibit (one of the six SEABA Curatorial Projects, a year-round SEABA project) of some of the strongest painters in the state: Ray Brown, Clark Derbes, Nancy Dwyer, Ron Hernandez, Elizabeth Nelson, and (michael smith), with a good selection of work by each of the artists.

Much (if not all) of Nelson’s work in this exhibit is from an earlier (but powerful) period in her career, when she was doing very precise, large gridded works, such as “Night/Arrow”, 1998, (shown at right).

(michael smith)’s artist statement, a cool narrative, cleverly incorporates the titles of all the pieces in his section of the exhibition, including “Sin City” (shown at left), with a frame studded with red jewels, and collaged bits of banknotes.

Nancy Dwyer says she has a “fascination with the word as visual object,” and the group of paintings on exhibit here, dating from the late 1990's, incorporate words in swirling vortices, gearshafts (shown at right, “Gear Painting III”, oil on board), and other graphic formats.

The end of the road was the 20th Anniversary Retrospective of work by previous winners of the SEABA Juried Art Show at RL Photo. This impressive collection of work by former winners makes clear what a potent visual arts community we have in Vermont. The exhibit was dedicated to the late David Huber, one of whose works (from The Waskowmium), “Happy Days” (shown at right) was on the exhibit’s first wall.

Three pieces by John Anderson, including the large mixed media piece “Nude Ascending” (left), 2002, dominated the exhibit. Thus endeth my coverage of the 2012 20th Anniversary SEABA South End Art Hop.