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Art Notes: Painters Share Contrasting Views of the Connecticut

  • Gary Milek, of Windsor, uses gold leaf to invoke the sense of the late-day sun illuminating the fields and hills of his landscapes, on view in a joint show with Cornish painter Charlie Shurcliff in "Converging Viewpoints" at the Cider Hill Art Gallery in Windsor, Vt., from September 16 through October 28. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Painters Charlie Shurcliff, of Cornish, left, and Gary Milek, of Windsor, talk outside the Cider Hill Art Gallery in Windsor, Vt., Friday, September 1, 2017. The painters have a joint show of their landscape paintings entitled "Converging Viewpoints" at the gallery from September 16 through October 28. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • "You might think I'm painting trees or houses," said artist Charlie Shurcliff, of Cornish, N.H., Friday, September 1, 2017. "The real subject is light." Shurcliff and Windsor, Vt., painter Gary Milek are showing their work at the Cider Hill Art Gallery in Windsor, Vt., from September 16 through October 28. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Gary Milek's "View Across the Connecticut River Valley Looking East" is on display as part of "Converging Viewpoints," a show at the Cider Hill Art Gallery in Windsor, Vt. from September 16 to October 28. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Charlie Shurcliff's "Mount Ascutney From The Terrace" is on display as part of "Converging Viewpoints," a show at the Cider Hill Art Gallery in Windsor, Vt. from September 16 to October 28. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, September 14, 2017

Gary Milek and Charlie Shurcliff, whose works are on view in the exhibition “Converging Viewpoints” at Cider Hill Gardens and Gallery in Windsor, which opens Saturday, Sept. 16, take dramatically different approaches to painting landscape.

Milek uses egg tempera, gesso and gold leaf, each of which has its own painstaking requirements, to achieve a delicate luster both in his landscapes and paintings of plant life. Shurcliff paints watercolors, with their freshness and immediacy, to summon wind, air, water and light. There are nearly 40 works in the show, divided more or less evenly between the two artists.

What the men have in common, apart from an abiding friendship dating to the 1980s, is a fascination with the Connecticut River: Shurcliff, a landscape architect who lives in Ipswich, Mass., summers in Cornish, while Milek and his wife, Sarah, have, since the 1970s, lived full time in Windsor, where they run the gallery and perennial gardens.

For some time, both artists had the idea to put together a show that would focus on the Connecticut and its surrounding fields and mountains.

“We’ve been chewing on it for a while,” Milek, 77, said during a joint interview with Shurcliff at Cider Hill Gallery last month. Shurcliff, 73, liked the idea of focusing a show on the particular stretch of the Connecticut that runs past Plainfield, Cornish and Windsor, including Sumner Falls, which is one of the few undammed stretches of the river, he said.

Shurcliff grew up in Boston. His grandfather Charles Hopkinson (1869-1962) was a well-known portrait painter whose clients included a very young e.e. cummings, Calvin Coolidge and John D. Rockefeller. But he also painted the Connecticut River and Mount Ascutney from the same family summer home where Shurcliff now spends time.

As a child, Shurcliff was fascinated by watching his grandfather paint. “We grew up with that sense that that was what you did,” he said. From him he learned a few tricks, such as squinting at a scene, or looking at a scene upside down, to see it differently.

His watercolors — actually acrylics which he thins to watercolor consistency — are loose and free, almost gestural, suggesting places and objects rather than delineating them.

Milek originally hails from Glastonbury, Conn. Before moving to Windsor, he and his wife lived in Walpole, N.H. “My life next to the river is a sort of continuum,” he said.

As a boy he would visit the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn., and was struck by the collection of Byzantine art, and its lavish use of gold leaf to convey holiness and spirituality. The gold gave off “a flickering light, like candles,” Milek said.

After attending Syracuse University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Milek went to Amsterdam where he learned the technique of egg tempera, gesso and gold leaf at the Rijks Academy, the art school of the Rijksmuseum. He also taught art at Dartmouth for 17 years, having been referred there by Hartland resident and noted post-war painter George Tooker, who was renowned for his use of egg tempera and gesso.

It would be too much to say that Milek’s landscapes have a religious aura, but the egg tempera and gold leaf do imbue the landscapes with a sense of awe at what nature has wrought.

There is a kind of wonder in the act of painting, Milek said. “It becomes more magical as I get older. I almost will say that what I’m doing, I’m not really doing; it’s something within me.”

When a painter is painting, Shurcliff said, everything around him appears to be a potential subject. In their daily lives, most people see the “utilitarian side of things,” but, he said, “everything is harmonious and magical.”

That means, both men said, tearing yourself away from cell phones and computer screens to look anew at what is around us.

“The digital world has encompassed human beings to a point that I don’t understand,” Milek said.

For his part Shurcliff does not have a computer or cell phone. “The last thing I want to do is look at a little screen,” he said, with an expression somewhere between skepticism and alarm.

A quote from Thoreau’s Walden, which Shurcliff has scrawled across the bottom of one of his larger watercolors, showing the interior of his studio, seems to sum up the ethos of both artists: “Where I lived, and what I lived for.”

“Converging Viewpoints” opens at Cider Hill Gardens and Gallery with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday. It runs through Oct. 28. Also on view at the gallery and gardens are sculpture, painting and installations by Steven Proctor, Herb Ferris, Gary Haven Smith and the Mythmakers.

Openings and Receptions

The Hood Downtown in Hanover unveils “Resonant Spaces: Sound Art at Dartmouth” on Friday. The campus-wide exhibit features seven site-specific installations by Bill Fontana, Christine Sun Kim, Jacob Kirkegaard, Alvin Lucier, Laura Maes, Julianne Swartz and Jess Rowland. The Hood Downtown’s gallery space will house a multimedia display that will include information about the exhibition and artists, and will also show selected works from the late conceptual artist Terry Adkins. Spencer Topel, an assistant professor of music at Dartmouth, is a guest curator of the show.

On Saturday, Sept. 23, the seven artists will give presentations at a symposium at the Loew Auditorium in the Black Family Visual Arts Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by a roundtable discussion from 2:30 to 4.

“Out of Bounds,” a series of photographic collages by Ann Peck, opens Saturday at Towle Hill Studio in Corinth. The show marks a departure from the Topsham artist’s favored medium, painting on silk. A reception will be held Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m.

The Canadian sculptor Cal Lane’s show “It Was Never Like This” goes up at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish on Saturday, and continues through October. The park will hold an opening reception from 4 to 6 p.m., with an artist talk at 5. Admission is included with the $10 park entrance fee.

Massachusetts artist Tracy Spadafora exhibits her paintings and assemblages in “Everything Underlying: Work from the DNA and Evolve Series” at the Aidron Duckworth Museum in Meriden, with an opening reception Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. Spadafora will give a gallery talk at 4 p.m on her work, which addresses such issues as climate change and genetic modification of food. The show runs through Oct. 29.

Also on view at the Duckworth is “Pride of Plainfield,” a community exhibition celebrating the town’s agricultural richness through photographs, articles and audio, through Oct. 29. Featured businesses include Edgewater Farm, Garfield’s Smokehouse, Hall Apiaries, McNamara Dairy, Noda Farm, Riverview Farm and Taylor Brothers Farm.

Sculptures by Claremont artist Ernest Montenegro are on view through Oct. 29.

Scavenger Gallery in White River Junction reopens after a month’s sojourn in Hartland. On Friday, the gallery will have an opening reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. for Mark Ezra Merrill’s “My F*$%ing Bleeding Heart,” a show of abstract paintings in response to the political climate, or perhaps more significantly to the ceaseless commercialization of nearly every human experience. Merrill is also well known in the area for his fashion design, and his work at the Main Street Museum.

The Norwich Public Library hosts an exhibition of photographs by Norwich resident Seth Goodwin, whose previous show at the library centered on photos taken in the late 1980s in the Soviet Union. “Spaces and Places: Photographs from Near and Far” includes photos shot in New England and the American West. It is on view through Oct. 28. Goodwin will give a gallery talk next Thursday, Sept. 21, at 6:30 p.m.

Chew & Co. Design in Hanover shows work by Maine photographer Joan Wright, whose primary subject is water, through November.

Ongoing

AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon. The encaustic paintings of Stephanie Gordon are on view in the Johnson Sisters Library on the second floor. The downstairs galleries exhibit the work of China Marks, Janet Hulings Bleicken and Leah Woods. All four shows are also on view through Oct. 6.

Woods gives a gallery talk on Saturday, Sept. 23 at 3 p.m.; and Bleicken, Saturday, Sept. 30 at 3 p.m.

Artists from AVA show work at Pompanoosuc Mills showrooms in East Thetford. The show includes work by Joe Carton, Penny Koburger, Judy Laliberte, Elizabeth Mayor, Rosamond Orford, and Sue Schiller. Through Sept. 23.

BigTown Gallery, Rochester, Vt. Two exhibitions at the gallery have been extended. The paintings of Peter Brooke, “Land, Sea and Sky” are on view at the Rochester Gallery through Oct. 21; the wood work of Hugh Townley is on view through Dec. 2.

Center for the Arts, New London. Three exhibitions are on view in micro-galleries throughout town: “Kearsarge and Beyond,” a collection of photographs by New London resident Larry Harper, are on view at the Lake Sunapee Bank in New London. Enfield artist Amy Fortier exhibits “Faux-Zaic Designs” in the micro-gallery at Whipple Hall. Maria Blanck, a part-time resident of New London, and Yvonne Shukovsky, of Springfield, N.H., show their work in the exhibition “Potpourri” in the lobby of the New London Inn. All through Oct. 28.

Chelsea Public Library. “In The Garden,” a show of watercolor and mixed-media paintings by part-time Corinth resident Megan Murphy, runs through October.

Converse Free Library, Lyme. Members of the artists’ group Odanaksis show their work in the exhibition “Summer Time in Lyme.” Through Sept. 30.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon. The hospital’s summer art exhibitions include the work of seven New England artists: Mark Bolton, Carol Keiser, Alison Palizzolo, Richard Perry, Sheryl Trainor and Robin Weisburger. It also features masks created by patients in the psychiatric unit as part of the project “The Faces of Mental Illness and Healing.” Through September.

Hall Art Foundation, Reading, Vt. There are three shows currently on view: “Hope and Hazard: A Comedy of Eros,” a show of more than 80 paintings on the subject of romantic and sexual love; “Ready. Fire! Aim,” a collaboration between the foundation and Burlington City Arts; and a solo show by David Shrigley. Through Nov. 26.

Howe Library, Hanover. On display in Ledyard Gallery is an exhibition of photographs by Max Fehr, of Berlin, Vt. Each photo is paired with one of Fehr’s poems. The show runs through Oct. 4.

Library Arts Center, Newport. The annual juried regional exhibition continues through Sept. 29.

Kilton Public Library, West Lebanon. Susan Pearson, a pastel artist from Canaan, exhibits her work during regular library hours through Sept. 30.

Norman Williams Public Library, Woodstock. An exhibit featuring diverse work from the craft group Women of Wonder (WOW) is on view through Sept. 30.

Philip Read Memorial Library, Plainfield. “A World of Color,” a multimedia exhibit featuring work by 12 artists from Plainfield, Cornish or Windsor, is up through Oct. 14.

Royalton Memorial Library, South Royalton. Lindsey Cole, a seventh-generation Vermonter and South Royalton native with a master’s degree in environmental law from Vermont Law School, shows paintings, drawings and photographs through Sept. 29.

SculptureFest, Woodstock. The extension of SculptureFest is curated by Jay Mead and Meg Brazill, and features work by Mary Admasian, Ethan Ames, Barbara Bartlett, Brenna Colt, Charlet Davenport, Nera Granott Fox, Susie Gray, Rachel Gross, Margaret Jacobs, Marek Jacism, Jay Mead, Mary Mead, Murray Ngoima, Tracy Penfield, Otto Pierce, Cristina Salusti and Jeffrey Simpson.

Tunbridge Public Library. An exhibition of “Landscapes from Around New England” by artist Pat Little continues through Oct. 20. There will be a public reception on Sunday, Sept. 24, from 2 to 4 p.m.

Two Rivers Printmaking Studio, White River Junction. The prints of Nori Pepe are on view through September.

White River Gallery at BALE, Royalton. “Patrick Dunfey: Large Works on Paper” is up through Sept. 30.

Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com.

Correction

On Saturday, Sept. 23, seven artists featured in the “Resonant Spaces: Sound Art at Dartmouth” exhibition will give presentations at a symposium at the Loew Auditorium in the Black Family Visual Arts Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by a roundtable discussion from 2:30 to 4. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect date.