Johannes Kepler, the mathematician and astronomer who recognized the elliptical nature of planetary orbits in 1608, wrote a book about a journey to Earth’s moon. He described using sponges in the nostrils to aid breathing, frigid temperatures of the journey and more. His book “Somnium,” an imaginative story grounded in science, is widely considered the first work of science fiction. With it Kepler bridged science and art, taking readers into futuristic realms.
“Futures,” a new exhibition at Barre’s Studio Place Arts, invites viewers to the sci-fi world. In artworks in a variety of media, over two-dozen artists envision the future and characters, experiences, places, moments that one may find there. The exhibition is among the events of “2020 Vision: Seeing the World through Technology,” a collaborative statewide project.
SPA, at this time, is open regular hours, with an abundance of caution. New protocols allow viewers to see the art while practicing social distancing. The gallery also has a robust presence online at its website, and Facebook and Instagram pages.
After this was written, Gov. Phil Scott ordered Vermonters to “stay home” and “stay safe” to slow the outbreak of the coronavirus in Vermont until April 15. All businesses “not expressly exempt” must suspend all in-person operations.
Upstairs , in SPA’s Third Floor Gallery, “The Edges and Corners of the Day,” an exquisite exhibition, takes viewers in a different direction, with ceramic and textile art and photography by artists Pamela Wilson, Sarah Burns, Kimberly Hamlin and Alana Phinney.
SPA’s Quick Change Gallery, the mini art space in a former telephone booth, features photographs taken by Times Argus photographer Josh Kuckens just a few weeks ago. “Movement, Momentum and Narrative: New Hampshire 2020 Primary” includes images of candidate events, voters, and the political spectacle leading up to primary day there.
SPA’s annual fundraising silent auction is in the Second Floor gallery.
“I’ve never been oriented to sci-fi, so this show has been an eye-opening and fun experience,” said Sue Higby, SPA executive director. “Maybe I’ve been missing out on some important aspects of pop culture. I’m so glad that I worked with Michael Ridge on the show, because this is a world in which he has considerable experience.”
Ridge, a Montpelier watercolor artist, is among the “2020Vision” organizers. Beside his paintings, Ridge has long expertise in sculpting animatronic and other otherworldly figures, including his recent “Shampuvian” series.
Through the collaboration with Ridge and connecting with the New York Foundation of the Arts, Higby notes that the exhibition attracted artists from out of state as well as Vermont who explore science-fiction themes.
Patrick Casey, of Arlington, Massachusetts, brings together the age-old medium of woodcut prints with futuristic themes, including relationships with technology. In “Control All Delete,” an almost featureless blue figure peers out with perhaps weary eyes with an array of screens of digital face shots behind.
“Speculative narratives in woodcut explore who we are in the age of the Internet and imagine what we may become as the dawn of the post-human era approaches,” Casey says in his artist’s statement.
Casey notes that “the subjects in my work struggle with unfamiliar ethics, self-imposed disconnections and new solitudes. They exist after the dawn of the post-human age, though they may exist in separate universes and throughout multiple timelines.”
In “On the Last Day of the World I Would Want to Plant a Tree” by Ann Young, of Barton, the viewer sees the bare legs and hands of a figure leaning to the ground — ground littered with cups, a gun, a doll’s head, a grenade and other post-consumer detritus. The hands gently plant a bright green seedling.
Young notes that her paintings, “offer a vision of the future that has been so totally sullied by technology. With plastic, electronics and just too much stuff, we have shifted our priorities to those things which are ruining what is really important in the world, leaving the next generations with nothing.”
Painter, illustrator, art educator and political cartoonist Robert Waldo Brunelle, of Jericho, has three digital cartoons in the show from his “Mr. Brunelle Explains It All” series. From the Internet cloud to new computer set up to old fashioned printed book, true to his title, he reveals life’s secrets.
“The Edges and Corners of the Day” on SPA’s third floor offers welcome serenity with ceramics, textiles and photographs that invite viewers to take time to savor. Phinney turns to dance for her photographs, a selection that includes video performance. Burns’ ceramics, inspired by historic basket forms, invite close examination, their multi layered forms and glazing details offering layers of discovery.
The clean-lined shapes of Wilson’s ceramic pieces are complemented by their unique glazing. The atmospheric glazing process allows some portions to have the precision of planned geometric shapes and the rest, somewhat random coloring produced by the impact of air around the vessel during firing.
Fiber artist Hamlin uses naturally dyed thread and yarn in her woven compositions, bringing together shape, color and texture in compelling pieces.