A giant buckle stands on a pedestal. Shoes are on the walls, including drawings of shoes and real shoes with faces peering out. A door, with an exquisite etched glass panel and intriguing sign hangs in the middle of the room. Sticks are scattered in paintings and assemblages, some in disarray, others laid out straight.
And there are hens — big fat hens. One hen is on a nest, one has knitted wings, some are ceramic.
If adults wonder what is going on at Barre’s Studio Place Arts, most children can probably explain. “Ten,” the exhibition that opens at SPA this week, considers a popular counting nursery rhyme, a ditty that dates back to at least the early 1800s. The show includes artwork inspired by the poem by more than 20 artists.
Two exhibitions also open this week in SPA’s upper floor galleries. “Road Trip: Life through the Windshield,” features automotive-inspired assemblages and constructions by Aaron Stein. Bringing together vintage license plates, postcards and photographs, Stein takes viewers on the road. “Trash Mounds,” with installations by Grace Amber, explores discarded, sometimes long discarded, objects and collections of them.
Child and family oriented, “Ten” is a delectable summer exhibition. The diverse artwork is witty, beautiful, silly, sublime, sometimes thought-provoking. Many artists consider individual elements named in the poem. A few pack all of them into one piece. The poem unfolds in a counterclockwise direction in the gallery. One, two,
Buckle my shoe;
Knock at the door;
Pick up sticks;
Lay them straight;
A big fat hen;
“Chicken Walk,” by Tom Batey, of Chelsea, takes on the entire poem in his bright acrylic. Batey’s plump orange fowl sports a pair of red shoes with blue straps and buckles as she strolls across a field of green littered with sticks. A small blue hooded figure walks along the chicken’s back laying out a neat line of sticks, like a path between two doors.
Julia Pavone, also of Chelsea, considers the opening objects in her assemblage “Steppin’ Out on Cue.” A pair of pool balls, numbers 1 and 2, accompany vintage wood shoe forms and a brass lock and clock gears.
Gwen Murphy’s pairs of shoes, real repurposed shoes, have personality. Expressive clay faces and eyes look out of them, neatly fitted to each pair’s style and imbuing it with spirit. In “Cyclops” a single eye looks out from the penny strap of each of two tidy loafers. The lower part of the face fills the space where a foot would be. In “Carnival,” it’s rouged and red lipped faces with aquiline noses in a pair of yellow and red snakeskin pumps.
A bouquet of spring flowers is etched in the glass panel of Phillip Godenschwager’s “Whose door Is It Anyway?” The handsome wooden door, with its aged patina and brass knob and plate, bears an enameled plaque reading “men.” A bright pink “X” precedes it.
In Maggie Neale’s highly textured “Pick Up Sticks,” the sticks extend off the canvas, against fields of blue and russet. The sticks are perhaps falling from the sky to the russet surface where a few lie straight. Or perhaps, they are ascending from it.
Of all the objects in the nursery rhyme, the plump and ponderous poultry attracted the most artists.
In Hasson Ewing’s “Nine, Ten, A Big Fat Hen,” the bulky biddy, in clay, sits atop her straw nest built in a water basin. Her demeanor hints that there may be some eggs.
In Sarah Rosedahl’s witty ink and watercolor “Counting with Fat Hens,” a little girl reads a book of that title, as she leans against a giant white hen.
Each fowl in Georgia Landau’s flock of ceramic hen vases has its own distinctive avian quality. Their beaks, combs and beady eyes recall barnyard birds. Upstairs at SPA, Aaron Stein’s exhibit transports viewers to road trips, cars, and sights of America past. Stein uses vintage license plates as his medium in exploring the automobile and automobile experiences in our society. Through a window in each shaped plate, viewers see a tiny scene — often a meticulously worked vintage postcard or photograph— that connects to the plate’s origin and era.
Stein’s work, he explains in his artist’s statement, “examines the love/hate relationship automotive consumerism forces us all to consider.”
He notes, “Between all the negative impacts automobiles have on our present-day society and the rose-colored nostalgic car memories we hold dearly such as family vacations, first kisses, or just cruising around with your friends with your first taste of freedom, my work chooses to focus on the conflict between both ends of the spectrum.”
On SPA’s third floor, Grace Amber explores and reconfigures trash mounds in her installations. The works open questions about our material culture and objects we value, then perhaps cease to value.
STUDIO PLACE ARTS
Studio Place Arts presents “Ten,” art inspired by the counting nursery rhyme, “One, two, buckle my shoe,” July 18-Aug. 24, at 201 N. Main St., Barre. Also on exhibit are “Road Trip: Life through the Windshield,” assemblages and constructions by Aaron Stein; and “Trash Mounds,” installations by Grace Amber. Hours are: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; noon to 4 p.m. Saturday; call 802-479-7069, or go online to www.studioplacearts.com. A public opening reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. today.