As the autumnal equinox rolls around every year, briefly balancing day and night before the gradual move toward winter, the now 20 year tradition of “Rock Solid” exhibitions at Barre’s Studio Place Arts also connects viewers to long-term time as well as to the moment.
Granite, alabaster, marble, slate and other stone in this annual exhibition have a timelessness that meets our current moment in the hands of talented sculptors and carvers.
“Rock Solid XX” seems to especially speak to our current time. Some sculptures directly reference COVID-19, others movingly turn toward relationships and beauty that we seek during this strange time — a mother and child, a Carrara marble retreat atop a massive river rock, an exquisitely carved five leafed clover.
“Rock Solid XX” and three other exhibitions just opened at SPA. In the Second Floor Gallery, Autumn Tomlinson’s “Ravel,” with woodblock prints, draws viewers to consider communication and connections in her intertwined lines and knots.
Layers, images and marks incised through layers in the collage and cold wax paintings of Larry Bowling’s “Faltering Towards Nirvana” in the Third Floor Gallery call out to viewers to spend time with individual works. In SPA’s Quick Change Gallery — art in a phone booth — is Ned Richardson’s “Data, Landscape, Network, Process,” with his mesh-dot drawings, a human/nonhuman collaboration between his original work and a deep learning digital system.
For 20 years, SPA’s “Rock Solid” exhibition has given visitors an opportunity to see work created by Vermont — and a few non-Vermont — artists working in stone. The talent and skill in shaping stone from Barre gray granite to petrified wood, and of combining stone with other stone or steel or other materials is always breathtaking. Stone-related paintings provide another layer of connections to qualities and processes of stone.
Giuliano Cecchinelli’s “COVID-19” gets right to the moment. In Barre gray, a regal crown sits atop a life-size skull that seems to gaze ahead through its eyeless sockets. The head rests in a pair of hands, elbows on the table — not skeletal but fully fleshed — a posture perhaps of weariness or disbelief.
Among Cecchinelli’s other pieces — there are about a dozen in the show altogether — are two slender, deeply moving pieces sculpted from thin, rough shards. The two physical sides of “Break Up” capture two raw emotional sides of a parting.
Peggy Schuning of Cincinnati, Ohio, is new to “Rock Solid.” Combining slabs of slate, fragments of stone and colored bits of stone and tile, her artworks evoke geologic and classical connections. Lines filled with vertically laid stone and colored bits recall the fractures and filling of fault lines in geologic processes. The pieces also recall ancient mosaics.
Autumn Tomlinson’s “Ravel” shows her focus and body of work through her year as recipient of SPA’s 2019-2020 Studio Residence Program. Each year, SPA invites applications from emerging artists. The selected artist has the use of a studio at SPA for the coming year for developing new work.
“Autumn, our fifth Studio Residency Program recipient, personifies how an emerging artist benefits from the use of a dedicated workspace,” noted Sue Higby, SPA’s executive director. “Autumn’s show demonstrates how committed she is to perfecting her artistic expression with exceptionally skilled use of woodblock printing. Who would have thought it possible to alter a chunk of wood with hand chisels to depict how a vintage typewriter might be teased apart into graceful meshes of sheer threads?”
During her residency, Tomlinson has focused work related to communications, connections, and patterns of behavior, she explained in a June interview. This has included drawing crocheted yarn, enlarging the images and then carving them in the woodblock. In some works, she overlays two sets of images.
“There is a lot of repetition of imagery at different scales in these pieces. These elements are meant to act as a sort of ‘noise’ aimed to distract from the elements that are crisply in focus,” Tomlinson explained.
Following the lines, she noted, “is similar to following a line of thought or communication in an attempt to better understand and connect with each other.”