Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Arty Side of Brattleboro, Vermont

I blogged about Brattleboro just a few weekends ago, after attending The Strolling of the Heifers parade, which highlights the area's agricultural heritage. I visit there frequently, as it is only a twenty minute drive north on the interstate.

There is another side to Brattleboro which is its artisan community and its burgeoning contemporary art scene. One of the coolest venues in the city which has been labeled "the college town without a college", is The Brattleboro Museum and Arts Center. It's quite small but not insignificant.

Last weekend, on a rainy Saturday, I met up with my blog friend from New York City, Gay Liberal Homo, who was spending  some vacation time that spanned The Berkshires to Cape Cod.

Inside the museum,I recognized "libhom" immediately by the slogan on his tee-shirt. Though he doesn't especially like having his picture taken, he allowed me to photograph his shirt!  :-)

True to form, indeed!

Here is a sampling, in order of my personal enjoyment, of what we saw in the exhibit In The Zone III, a local art contest from which nine artists were chosen. The "local" criteria were that artists could be from all of Vermont or within 100 miles of Brattleboro.

There were a couple of other very good exhibits there as well. I was pleased to hear that libhom was quite impressed with what he saw. A great compliment to cow country from a long-time resident of NYC!  I love it that photos are allowed for every corner of the museum. 

Wheelchair, 2010
projector, DVD player, wheelchair and flash animation

This installation, by Chinese-born video artist Le Xi, was quite poetic in its own way. The immobility of the wheelchair, with a backdrop of flashing projections of frantic movement. It's obviously a piece that makes more sense in motion than in a sill photo. Le Xi's work explores opposites - stillness and motion, darkness and light. Being a fan of juxtapositions of all types, I think this was my favorite thing that day. 


Richard Heller  
(Brattleboro, Vermont)
The Republic of Illusion
1995-2011
Mixed media on oak tag

Heller buys 2 3/8 by 4 3/4 inch oak tag shipping labels and uses them as a "no fuss sketchbook substitute". 
This installation was endlessly fascinating. When I return before its end on July 3, I will look at it again and again and take many more photos of the various tags, which he takes everywhere he goes and records whatever catches his eye. He then arranges hundreds of them on a wall grid, making this essentially a work in progress. The arrangement of the tags hold special significance for him but the viewer may want to draw his/her own conclusions.

In the exhibit Nature is not Your Friend - A Consideration, the paintings of Christin Couture of our very own Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, are embellished with odd details by her artist husband William Hosie. Construction paper shapes or lines of yarn are added to the paintings. Using color as a code for the interventions (which to me are really collaborations) in Couture's paintings, the viewers eye is drawn to pause, go or stop at yellow, green and red  at specific junctures.  Couture's paintings are hauntingly Victorian, whereas Hosie's are influenced by pop art and the Beat Generation. The intersection of the two eras make for a puzzling but beautifully executed and well-integrated exhibit.





After the rain stopped, libhom and I walked up from the museum to Main Street's Gallery in the Woods, where I illegally took a few photos! We both let out disenchanted sighs over some of the very expensive art works we would purchase if we were a couple of wealthy tourists.






We concluded our meet-up by enjoying some good conversation over decent Thai food at Thai Bomboo. After three years of "knowing" libhom online, it was really cool to finally meet him. I wish I could have joined him in a visit to the Essex-Peabody Museum in Salem, for their recent Man Ray and Lee Miller exhibit, which was libhom's next  museum destination. That exhibition is going on until December, and I hope not to miss it, as I am a huge Man Ray fan!


18 comments:

  1. I just fixed it but the word burgeoning was incorrectly chosen by me from the spellcheck as "bludgeoning". Though I've seen contemporary art that could be perceived as such, that was not the case in Brattleboro! :-)

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  2. Lucky you to have something so good locally Sphinx. Then again I can't complain. I'm a bit over an hour on the train from the Tates Modern and Britain, the National, the National Portrait, the Cortauld, the Estorick and so many more.

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  3. Oh yes I have one of those atheist fish symbols on my car - the Reality bits of the legged fish eating a christian one. I see it as protection form all the little chapels that surround my house!

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  4. Lucky *me*, Jams?! :-)

    The Brattleboro Museum is the former Union Station, (which I neglected to menion) and it's a small building, allowing only for a few large canvasses in the main and four small rooms that allow for sculpture and contemporary installations of a relative scale. The Tate Modern is a truly stunning building; neck in neck with NYC MoMA. It is not any day that I can partake of either, alas.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the art. And by the way,little chapels are one of my favorite things, actually! I guess because I lived my first six years and many visits in a very Catholic country.

    The only things I object to fundamentally (pardon the pun) about religion are the hypocrisy and views that are so far out of synch with science, they're beyond ludicrous.

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  5. It's good to know you got to spend some time with a blog friend looking at some very nice artwork. I especially like the Victorian and modern mixed pieces as well as the oak tags. That's a very fascinating way of working.

    I smiled at your opening. I've wished more than once I lived in a university town without the universities.

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  6. what fun to meet a blogging buddy in the flesh! I would want the illegally photographed yellow eye person with tiger-shoulder for my wall. for the visceral reactions I would get from friends and acquaintances. that alone would make it a favorite possession. thanks for sharing Gina. about your username - that's cool. (I think I've been calling you Gina for awhile).
    and what's in a name, anyway? you can call me Ms. Becky, you can call me Becko, just don't call me late for dinner. :)

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  7. Wow, it looks like quite a vibrant local arts community with some interesting things going on.

    More and more museums are allowing photographs. Might as well is what I say.

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  8. Some nice stuff here, Gina. I particularly liked the works from Couture and Hosie, though, given your description, one would probably have to be there to actually experience the full working of the "interventions."

    Meeting blogger (or any kind of virtual) friends, is always exciting. Maybe we can meet up when you're in Amsterdam - it's only a three hour drive down the road for me! :-)

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  9. My favourite is the third photograph?? down - of the display of paintings. It is somehow surreal with the 'Victorian' paintings and the modern lines.

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  10. Susan - I know what you mean! The town of Amherst with huge University of Mass, the prestigious Amherst College, down the road Hampshire College and farthest south but only about 15 minutes from downtown Amherst. Oh and over the river, there is Smith. The area is crawling with college kids. I was once one of them, as I am a graduate of Zoo Mass, as we used to call it. I'm glad we live enough away from it that we miss all the drunken action but close enough to enjoy all the good things the five colleges have to offer. Hopefully all will go well with the paperwork and you will be freer to find a more permanent home that is a bit more removed from the housing situation.

    Becky - isn't that green guy so cool? He is painted on a piece of furniture and is only one detail of the whole, amazing trippy picture!

    I prefer to be called by my name. And honestly, because I am me, I wasn't making the connection identity-wise. I am a lot of PS but that is not all or who I am. It was time to be the whole me more.

    Yogi - yeah. Most museums allow photos with no flash. Some of the very stately museums like the Frick in NYC and the Gardner in Boston allow no photography at all. Neither does the Whitney. Most places will not allow you to photograph visiting exhibitions but you can click away at the permanent collections. It varies.

    It is a very vibrant, artistic community from Vermont down to Northampton. Further down the valley, it gets a bit more congested and people are in a crappy mood all the time!

    Francis - oh, art is invariably *always* better up close and personal!

    I would very much like to meet up with you! Let's get a bit closer to being there and see if our schedules mesh.

    aguja - yes! those haunted, unhappy children were made all the more quizzical by the touches of pop art. It was really good as a whole and as Francis said, it's better to be there. Still I'm glad you enjoyed a one dimensional glimpse just the same.

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  11. It was great to meet you in person. Brattleboro and the Arts Center are wonderful. The Thai restaurant was great too.

    I can't help but giggle about the "cow country" comment. I noticed on my trip that New England is the only part of the country I know of where there are so many great museums outside of the big cities. Mass MOCA, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the Museum of American Art in New Britain were other examples of this.

    BTW: When I was in Mass, I found out that they pronounce Peabody as "Pibuhdy." And, they say it really fast.

    Wishing you the best,

    That Godless Liberal Homo

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  12. libhom - you're right. There are a lot of cool art spots tucked away in valleys and hills. The Clark, which you really should see next time, has a building up on the hill above the main museums called The Stone Hill Center. It's the new contemporary art space there. Its patio view of Mt. Greylock is amazing and the grounds around the back of the museums are gently rolling grassy hills. Very beautiful spot for a picnic in summer.

    It excellent to spend time with you,my friend! I truly enjoyed your company and our conversation!

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  13. Neat-o peak at an awesome town. I always love a visit to Brattleboro for the shopping, but have shamefully never stepped foot in the museum. These photos made me want to check it out.

    I agree that a few of the exhibits, as is always the case, would be better appreciated in person -- especially the wheelchair with its digital motion component. You have such a sophisticated, yet unpretentious, way of analyzing and communicating about art. One of the countless reasons I so admire the Pagan Sphinx!;)

    Lastly, I'm glad to read libhom's comment that he made it to MASS MoCA, as I had wondered that while reading your post. Such hidden gems in and around our valley. We love to share with appreciative folk.

    xx U

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  14. P.S. I think I adore that funky yellow painting.

    U

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  15. I love these small museums in small to medium size towns. The collection often has a personal touch to it, more about someone's love of the pieces than a desire to have one of every major modern American painter (for example). The latter impulse usually leads to a mediocre collection, while the former often has heart and wit.

    I particularly love the irony in the painting of The Bambi Lounge. Or does it represent a genuine and candid aesthetic choice on the part of the patrons???

    And that strange hot yellow-green stylized image full of eyes and toothy animal... Another one I would love to see every time I visited, but I probably wouldn't want to live with it. The same way I wouldn't want a porcupine or a lion fish for pet.

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  16. Libhom - I forgot to mention how I chuckled at the way you describe the local pronounciation of Peabody. It's "pea-buddy" said really fast. We don't say it that way in Western, Mass, by the way! Out east they pronounce the "h" in Amherst and we do not here in the west.

    Hello, my U - "Brat" is a good town. Hopefully we can take vovó there during her visit here.

    Call you later today!

    Love,
    Mommy

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  17. Yoops - sorry, Steve! I would not mind having Bambi Lounge in my house. It could work in my gallery. I think the green man bureau could work very well in the right room and I could easily live with it in the right environment.

    Thanks for the comment.

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  18. It's wonderful that you had such an awesome opportunity to visit this exhibition. What an interesting title for it.

    ReplyDelete

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