Exquisite granite figures to hand-woven tapestries and intricate fiber art to paintings of women you would really like to meet to an immersive taut string installation: September brings an abundance of engaging exhibitions to Studio Place Arts. In fact, with the inaugural exhibit in the tiny new Quick Change Gallery, there are five, yes five, shows at SPA in Barre this month.
“Rock Solid XIX,” SPA’s annual and always extraordinary stone sculpture exhibit; “Perspective,” with string installations by Tuyen My Nguyen; and “Humanity: No Fear of the Other and the Good Life” with recent paintings by Damariscotta Rouelle, opened Friday in SPA’s Main Floor, Second and Third Floor Galleries and continue to Nov. 2.
“Weaving Community: Recent Work from the Vermont Weavers Guild,” with classical and nontraditional new fiber art by members of this 72-year-old craft organization, opened in SPA’s classroom. With a pop-up weaving studio and several talks and educational events, “Weaving Community” has a full schedule for its two weeks at SPA, closing Sept. 28.
SPA’s fifth show, in the tiny new Quick Change Gallery, features photographs by Wendy James. Proceeds of sales of James’ donated images benefit SPA, and will support this novel telephone booth (really a telephone booth) gallery, including toward installation of lighting in it.
“It’s wonderful to work in an environment like this where you never know what is going to come in,” said Sue Higby SPA executive director, standing amid “Rock Solid XIX’s” glorious stone sculptures — from a verde antique frog resting on a blue pearl quartzite pond to a tall, slender book spine in Lueders limestone to a translucent alabaster shell-like curved abstract.
Now in its 19th year, “Rock Solid” offers the community an annual opportunity to see works by leading Vermont stone carvers. This year, over 30 sculptures are in the show along with other stone-inspired artwork, including lithographs and paintings — altogether, work by 27 artists.
From many breathtakingly beautiful pieces to delightfully witty ones — “Have a Martini” by Giuliano Cecchinelli even has a stone olive resting on the edge of the Barre gray granite glass — the exhibition shows off the sculptors’ spectacular skill and artistry.
Among Cecchinelli’s Barre gray pieces are elegant figures in moments of movement: “Girandola” with outstretched arms and swirling skirt, a lithe woman stretching in “Morning Exercise.” In “Lily Pad of Vermont,” three kinds of stone bring out qualities of pond, floating foliage, flower and frog.
In Sophia Bettmann-Kerson’s moving “Protecting Lost Border Children,” young faces cluster alongside a strong and serene woman, a relief in white Italian marble. Jeanne Cariati’s “Sea Dreams II: Homage to Jane” glows as light passes through the soft curves of smooth Italian alabaster.
Christopher Curtis’s 8-foot-tall “Thought Cage” stands on the sidewalk in front of SPA. Its four vertical elements, highly polished on inner faces, rough on outer ones, frame different views of street and passersby as viewers move around it.
“Weaving Community,” is an apt companion exhibit to “Rock Solid,” with inorganic stone in one gallery and fibers made from an array of plants and animals in the adjacent one. Like the stone show, “Weaving Community” also offers a look at the breadth and creativity of current work in this medium.
The show features over 50 pieces of fiber art by 15 members of the Vermont Weavers Guild. From finely wrought tapestries with abstract compositions of fields of color, to complex patterns woven on looms with as many as 32 shafts, “Weaving Community” showcases the diversity of fiber arts in Vermont today.
“This work is incredibly skilled and with a high level of creativity,” said weaver and ceramicist Pamela Wilson. “It has value not just to collectors but to the history of hand weaving in the state of Vermont. Talk about studio craft — these are the people.”
From beautifully detailed patterns to sculptured vessels to abstract wall hangings to rag rugs, “Weaving Community” covers a lot of ground, offering an in-depth look at directions in this timeless craft.
Dena Hirchak, a 35-year weaver, turned to Georgia O’Keefe for color inspiration for her brilliant “Twill Lake.” Julia Singer George turned to Egyptian hieroglyphics in her “Ariel’s Journey,” weaving symbols for the bird, water, life, the moon, sun and star in red against gray. In a pair of abstract wall hangings, Katherine Price brought together cotton, horsehair and porcupine quills.
SPA’s Second Floor Gallery features Tuyen My Nguyen’s “Perspective” exhibition. The artist is the recipient of the SPA 2018-2019 Studio Residency program.
The center of the gallery is filled with a taut thread installation with lines stretching out from a white painted gun rack. Loose nooses hang at the ends of threads in this social commentary piece. Nguyen was moved to create the piece by reflection on suicide statistics, she explained.
A trio of smaller string artworks line one wall. They are, she noted, “Studies of how I can create separate structures for twine or thread, and how they morph into different concepts. In a lot of my work I play with materials. I am interested in how lines can expand off of two-dimensional pieces.”
In “Humanity: No Fear of the Other and the Good Life,” in the Third Floor Gallery, viewers come face to face with the compelling women of Damariscotta Rouelle’s new paintings. This new body of work, Rouelle explains in her artist’s statement, “reflects my interest in the uniqueness of identity in each of us and knowing the Good Life.” Rouelle worked for over a year on the paintings in the show, knowing that they would be shown in her solo show at SPA.
At first, she, notes, her inspirations were technical, “getting the look that I was intending,” and she took weekly photographs documenting the work and, “ to see how the pieces evolved as my inspirations and ideas changed.”
Through the year, Rouelle found, “continuing inspiration from artists, stories, history, and this changed how my paintings started in my sketchbook as well as mimics how our identity changes as we are subjected to humanity and all that it offers and acquires.”