For Jeannie Podolak, it was the moon. For Daniel Brett, beetles. The symbols that spoke to them as points of inspiration during the year of lockdown came out in their work — signs that life was still breathing under the heavy cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the Brandon Artists’ Guild new exhibit, “Signs of Life,” Podolak and Brett present a series of metaphorical pieces for surviving the past year, with titles like “Patience,” “Passage” and ‘Whimsy.”
“I started to use a circle and it evolved into the moon,” Podolak, a printmaker, said. “Every day when I was working in the studio I found some contentment by including that image, knowing that the moon is going to come up, and tomorrow will be, I hope, a better day. It was a symbol. Of having hope, having patience.”
“When I spoke to Jeannie about her pieces, she told me that she had been inspired by the lockdown to portray the feelings she was experiencing,” painter Daniel Brett said by email. “For this show, I decided to create a series of beetles, (and) that gave me the idea to name (them) after qualities I thought were needed to get through it all. One is called ‘Wherewithal,’ another ‘Serenity,’ and so on. They demonstrate the resiliency that we have all needed to tap into during this long slog of a pandemic.”
“Signs of Life” opened Friday at the BAG and runs through July 5. Other artist members also have work on display, created during the pandemic.
Podolak has a degree in art education and studio work in printmaking, and recently retired from a long teaching career, which was part of the catalyst for her work in this exhibit. She describes the process as “the nudging of accidents into purpose.”
“I do monotypes and monoprints,” Podolak explained. “A monotype is when you roll out the ink on a smooth surface — I use glass or Plexiglas — and you draw in it. Then you run it through the press or lay your paper on it and hand rub and lift the drawing off the plate and you have one print, a monotype. It’s a one shot deal.”
With monoprints, Podolak uses a matrix that allows for repeating parts of the monotype by using a familiar surface. But she says there are many different techniques you can combine to give you the results you want.
She also incorporated elements in her prints that she found in the woods and the field, inked up, and rolled through the press.
“It was a healing process, something that gave me stability during those months,” Polodak said.
Brett, a mostly self-taught artist, originally from the Midwest and arriving in Vermont (by way of Germany and Northern California) about 14 years ago, lives in Whiting with his family, two cats and 17 chickens.
His three-dimensional beetles are made of wood blocks, “which I cut apart into the basic shapes of the body parts,” he explained. “These shapes get refined on a spindle-sander, then glued back together. When the glue is dry, I paint them before mounting them on a pre-painted background. The legs are painted onto the background and given some three-dimensionality with wood glue and/or special heavy-body acrylic gels. I build a custom frame for each piece in my woodshop and add that last.”
“I am looking forward to sharing the wall with Jeannie’s prints,” Brett added. “Our work is different enough that I think it will be refreshing to go through, switching from one medium to the other. And I still think that our pieces are tied together by the expression of life going on through the turmoil of the past year.
As the name says: “These are signs of life from Vermont’s artist community. We are still here. Still creating. Still making art.”