Two children stand barefoot on a beach, the girl watching sand slide from her open hand. A plume of sand also slips from the boy’s hands, but his gaze is turned to the adults behind them. A parade of them carry belongings — a refrigerator, luggage, wheelbarrow full of boxes — ascending a curving path toward a fantastic castle. Worry shows on the boy’s innocent face. Storm clouds roll in above them. Along with the castle’s grandeur, there are cracks in its walls.
Ann Young’s painting, “Legacy,” is among the large-scale oil paintings in her solo exhibition opening Jan. 3 at the Vermont Supreme Court Gallery in Montpelier. “Fellow Travelers” features recent work by Young, who lives in Barton. A public opening reception will be held Thursday, Jan. 3.
“Ann Young’s evocative images of travelers are haunting and powerful expressions of our humanity in a time when many of us are troubled and unsure. Her art helps us face our uncertainty,” Vermont State Curator David Schutz said.
Young’s diverse paintings range from moments in New York City transit stations to portraits of people deep in thought to narrative images. She draws the viewer to her subjects’ individuality and journeys.
“We are fellow travelers. We move about in space. We journey through a lifetime of emotion, only to find in the end, that it is not the goal that matters, it is the striving,” Young says in her artist’s statement.
Born in Chicago and raised in Illinois and Nebraska, Young has lived all of her adult life in the Northeast Kingdom. From her earlier career in ceramic sculpture, Young turned to oil painting in 2001, beginning with a class at Studio Place Arts in Barre. Almost immediately, she joined Warren artist Bill Brauer’s weekly model sessions in Montpelier.
Brauer, she noted, “encouraged me and I got my start there. I started in 2001 and went last night. Living in Barton, I’m fairly isolated. Attending classes kept me going as an artist. I wouldn’t be a painter today if I hadn’t had that.”
Young also credits Max Ginsburg and Dominique Medici for their support and influence in her development as an artist.
“I’ve always been drawn to people. It’s my major focus, but I don’t always have live models. But I see people and places that I want to paint and take photos,” Young said.
In her “Mass Transit” series, for example, Young said, “I’ll see people on the subway and think that looks interesting. I don’t know anything about them, but as I paint, I make up personalities for them and figure they are on their journeys as I am on mine.”
In “After Rush Hour,” the F train approaches the station on the curving track. Golden evening sky peaks through, over the station overhangs and skyline. There’s an unhurried air to the travelers on the platforms. On visits to New York, Young usually stays near this station, taking the F train into Manhattan.
Here, in “4th Avenue Station,” and in others in the series, Young’s figures are in the space together but are totally separate, each with their individual stories. The people and spaces come together in her work.
“Descending the gloomy staircases, on the platforms and in the cars are so many people — each one intent upon his or her own private affairs and isolated from the crowd by a few feet or perhaps by no space at all as they jam themselves into the overcrowded cars. They are busy. They are tired. Some of them are talking. Most of them are completely self-contained, sleeping, reading, checking their phones or just looking around, as I do,” she noted.
“Antonia’s Dream” draws viewers to a more intimate journey as a little girl approaches a window in her sleep. White cranes are flying by. Five images of the drowsy child evoke her sluggish state.
Young’s grandchildren were the models for “Legacy,” one of the paintings in her “In a Dangerous Time” series.
“For a long time I have done paintings that explore the idea of the present generation using up resources without regard for future generations,” Young said.
In “Legacy,” she noted, “The children are left with nothing but dust in their hands while adults go off to their fantasy land.”