New non-profit offers far-flung artists the opportunity to network and exhibit their work.
This piece first appeared in The Vermont Standard.
For far-flung artists in Vermont, the opportunities to meet, to teach and invigorate each other, often seem limited. At least that’s what Tayo Skarrow was hearing last spring from the painters and sculptors and photographers she met as Director of the Woodstock non-profit now known as ArtisTree Community Art Center. So she offered up one of Center’s teaching rooms as a meeting place, posted a few print and on-line notices, then let word of mouth go to work.
Now there’s a group of artists that meets there monthly to share a meal while they also exchange insights and ideas. A by-product of their first six months together debuts on Friday, October 15 when the brand new ArtisTree Gallery hosts its inaugural show, Autumn Exhibit – Local Color. More than a dozen area artists will display work. They wanted to have a place to connect not only among themselves, but with the community as well, says Skarrow. “This show allows them to do it,” she adds, “and the wide variety of art is unique.”
Barnard photographer Linda Treash, for example, produced her muted prints for the exhibit using the rare, century-old bromoil method. Treash develops an image with traditional darkroom techniques, then hand-works it over the course of several days to first bleach the image away, next re-ink the binding agent that remains, and print it. The resulting likeness is soft and dreamy-feeling, but still strikingly detailed. Bromoil is a process that requires skill and patience. One of Treash’s exhibit photographs, Light Spindles, shows a simple curved hurricane lamp resting on a table. But properly capturing the effect of sunlight through the window behind took much trial and error.
“You never know what you’re going to get,” says Treash, “but I keep working it to get it to do what I think it should be doing.”
The early artistic ventures of Barbara Bartlett, another Local Color exhibitor, were in printmaking, but It was in a collage and assemblage class that the Woodstock mixed media artist found inspiration for a recent series of pieces. She chose tea bags when charged to find a way to work with something she loved. Her supply comes largely from fifteen friends who dry the bags after using them in brewing. The paper is a wonderful material, says Bartlett. It absorbs color from the tea it contains, so she’s got a rainbow of hues: all different shades of brown, plus reds from hibiscus, yellows from chamomile, and greens from mint. And scrunching or flattening the bags as they dry produces interesting patterns. Earl Grey’s Vest is one of Bartlett’s exhibition pieces; it’s an airy garment she fashioned by overlapping and sewing the emptied and flattened papers. “I think the thing that is compelling is that I haven’t run out of ideas at all,” she says, “There is a lot of fun and experimentation in that.”
It was a friend who introduced painter Marilyn Syme to woodcut block printmaking. She first tried the Japanese-originated multi-block technique, where a piece is created by printing one color at a time from a series of successive blocks. Then Syme saw the work of the late Blanche Lazzell, an early twentieth century American artist credited with inaugurating the single block printmaking technique known as white-line woodcut. “It captured me,” she says. After cutting her complete design into the surface of one block, Syme applies inks with a brush, in essence painting the image she’s created. Then she prints. The carved out areas of the block form white lines that separate the colors on the finished piece. Syme is showing several white-line woodcuts in the Local Color exhibit, including four of Vermont barn roofs.
“Its hard to explain how an image attracts you,” she says, but sometimes when she’s driving down the road, the angles of a particular roof just hit her, and she must stop. “I have to get that image,” Syme says, “and then it becomes a white-line.”
In the month-long show at ArtisTree, Gallery Director Adrian Tans is looking to make the exhibit one that viewers will feel compelled to thoroughly explore. Treash’s bromoils will be peppered amongst Jan Lee’s acrylics, Carol Egbert and Stacey Cushner’s oils, and Ruth Mengedoht’s porcelain and stoneware. Bartlett’s vest may hang next to Lina Tans’ mixed media works or Caroline Tavelli-Abar’s sculpture or Chrissie Orcutt’s oils; a Syme white-line may find itself beside a Carla Munsat pigmented wax painting, a Kathleen Fiske oil, or a Karen Chalom acrylic. “We’re going to spread them around,” says Tans, rather than group the pieces of a particular artist, so that those who come to view the show experience the full array of techniques, media, and perspectives. Tans, himself a noted painter and illustrator, will also display some of his own oil and charcoal works.
The exhibit’s display space runs through four rooms and the hallways of a Cape Cod-style house, with newly white-washed walls and refinished floors. ArtisTree founder and Executive Director Kathleen Dolan agreed to lease the building, which was adjacent to her existing facility, this past summer. At first, Dolan and her team weren’t completely sure about how they’d use the former residence; perhaps, they thought, to showcase the work of children enrolled in the art programs of ArtisTree’s sister non-profit enterprise, Purple Crayon Productions. But when Skarrow showed the space to the adult artists’ group, they saw a singular opportunity.
“The artists want their work to be shown,” says Skarrow, “and there isn’t always a place like this that’s fluid, a place that’s open to all different sorts of things.”
Friday’s exhibit opening celebration will commence to the modulations of rubber striking copper and steel, mixed with the rousing beat of drums. Percussionist Barry Miller will be on hand to make music with a seven-foot “Sound Sculpture,” dangling with cylinders and inverted “pots,” that he created a few months ago for ArtisTree. Miller’s also bringing along drums for a drumming circle; he’ll have a back beat going and the Sound Sculpture singing for an hour or so before the art exhibit officially opens.
Autumn Exhibit – Local Color will run for a about a month beginning on Friday, October 15 at the ArtisTree Community Art Center Gallery, 1207 Route 12, Woodstock. The drumming circle and Sound Sculpture demonstration will start at 4:30 PM, the gallery will open at 5:30 and close at 8:00. Many of the works on display will be for sale. For more information, call 802-457-3500 or visit www.artistreevt.org.