Len Emery Photo
Artist Sabra Field with her print of the Obama inaugural, which she and her son attended. Known for her iconic Vermont landscapes, the new Springfield exhibit showcases this and other less-known works. “ I want to play more than one song,” the artist said.
SPRINGFIELD — If Vermont had an artist laureate, Sabra Field would be it.
Field’s landscape woodblock prints have captured the soul of Vermont for decades, and those iconic landscapes have made her that rarity — a successful artist.
Her career in Vermont has spanned decades, and she’s been inside probably every art gallery in the state in the process.
“Nina (Jamison) invited me to come see the gallery and I was just staggered,” said Field Friday night, during the opening night reception for the new show at the Great Hall.
In Field’s mind, the Great Hall is the best gallery in the state, without question. The reason — the light and the sense of space, she said.
“You should be here, especially in the daytime, when the light is just... wonderful,” she said.
“It’s a very sophisticated space,” said Field. “It’s pure poetry.”
Field compared the new art gallery, which is built into a large section of the old Fellows Gear Shaper factory, to Mass MOCA, the contemporary art museum in North Adams, Mass., and located in a former 19th century factory. The old Gear Shaper, as it is known locally, has undergone a $13 million redevelopment, and houses a health clinic, doctors’ offices, and in the future a pharmacy and cafe and restaurant.
Field said the size of the gallery and its display walls allow her and other artists to show some of their more unusual, if larger, works.
Field brought some of her less familiar, but to her, challenging work to the new show at the Great Hall in Springfield, the new public art gallery’s second show since it opened this summer.
She has brought one of her iconic suites, the 1986 Round Barn Quartet, a four-part winter scene of a farm and cattle, but she also is showing some of her more recent, less familiar work, including a timely print of President Obama’s first inaugural, which Field and her son Paul attended.
“That’s Paul in the moriarty hat,” she said, referring to the ski hat, topping the only white face in a sea of different-hued faces. Her political works, she said, she would have had a hard time convincing a commercial gallery to display.
Despite Obama’s election to a second term just days earlier, Field says that political art doesn’t sell.
“Portraits are also hard to sell, especially with a message,” she said.
“But I treat myself,” she said. “but I may be shooting myself in the foot.”
Field said other images “dear to my heart” are also included in the Springfield show. “They’ve been hatching for 50 years,” she said.
More and more of her time as an artist, she said, is “doing the unexpected, I want to play more than one song.”
“Most of the time I’m doing landscapes. This was a treat to myself,” she said, referring to the Obama print, titled, “My Fellow Citizens.”
Field’s favorite artist, Piero della Francesca, a 15th century Italian artist, is memorialized in “Piero Forever,” a 2012 print with multiple panels.
Also in the show is Field’s “Cosmic Geometry,” a 16-image compilation of what Field says are important images: an ionic column, a fish, a leaf, and an artichoke, among other more abstract images, and “Water Planet,” a six-panel abstract landscape.
Field isn’t the only artist in the show, entitled “Light and Space.” The art, which ranges from environmental installation sculpture to prints and tapestries, “honors the land in all seasons” said Jamison, the curator of the gallery.
“Nina is a force of nature,” said Field.
The other artists in the show include Pat Musick of Manchester, Dan O’Donnell of Springfield, and Karen Madden of Poughquag, N.Y.
Bob Flint, executive director of the Springfield Regional Development Corp., a major sponsor of the art space, said the gallery in its four months of existence had had a major impact — perhaps greater outside Springfield.
“It’s a major door opener,” said Flint. Business has a strong awareness of the new gallery, he said. Flint said he expected the gallery would expand beyond the visual arts to the performing arts, and the Great Hall would host concerts.
Musick said she found out about the new gallery from the Internet, and immediately wanted to display in the large space.
“I just fell in love with it,” said Musick, whose environmental work can be large — really large.
“I work big — some things are 65 feet long,” she said of an installation at a new Arkansas museum.
“I love to work large,” said the 86-year-old artist.
Madden, a fiber artist, created five tapestries: “The Five Seasons of Vermont,” including Vermont’s infamous mud season.
“Nina was looking for fiber artists and she invited me up,” said Madden, who made the tapestries for the specific locations in the gallery. The tapestries, framed with copper tubing, have curved bottom edges, to reflect the flow of the landscape, she said.
O’Donnell, a graphic artist, said when he first came to Vermont, he saw a print of “three tomatoes on a windowsill” at a Ludlow restaurant and loved it. It was Sabra Field’s work.
“I said to myself, ‘I want to do that... I can do that,’” he said Friday. Some of O’Donnell’s work — his large prints of individual fruits, vegetables and flowers, and his winter landscapes — do show a hint of Field’s influence, but are more graphic.
O’Donnell said he “leapt at the chance” to be included in a show with Field. “As a printmaker, it’s quite a challenge,” he said.
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