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Art Notes: Laura Boyajian’s Art Is About Conversation, Not Commerce

Artist Laura Boyajian talks about her work at her home in West Lebanon. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Artist Laura Boyajian talks about her work at her home in West Lebanon. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

It frequently happens that an artist in the Upper Valley holds an open studio, usually with the intention of selling some work.

Laura Boyajian is taking a different approach: She’s holding a salon at her West Lebanon home from 2 to 4 on Saturday afternoon. The walls of her house are covered with recent work, but none of it is for sale.

“I don’t sell,” Boyajian said. “I lost control of my work when I sold it. … I don’t know if I’ll ever sell again.” Rather than sell her work, Boyajian is looking for a conversation.

Saturday’s salon will be the third Boyajian has held, and it has become her preferred way of showing her work. She sent out 112 invitations, and the public is welcome.

“I think it’s a very social act to create and to have people come and give you feedback,” she said.

Boyajian has been a fixture among Upper Valley artists for many years. She had work in a recent show at AVA Gallery and Art Center celebrating AVA’s four decades. She is perhaps best known for her assured, expressive pen-and-ink drawings, for her candor about her struggle with mental illness and for her ability to talk with clarity about the relationship between her art and her life.

Although the art isn’t exactly therapy for her, Boyajian said that the making of it is important to her well being. She explained that a vision or an imagined event needs to be brought out into the tactile world, to become part of the shared reality.

There’s an important distinction between art therapy, which is used to help people heal regardless of their prior training as artists, and Boyajian’s work. She comes from a family of artists and began her art education as a young child.

Her most recent work consists of vibrant still-lifes and portraits, often of her boyfriend, Fred Elser, and of saints. There’s a buzzing energy in Boyajian’s work that looks back to the early German expressionist painter Emil Nolde. She has put down the pen in favor of oil paints, which she moves around the paper in thick layers.

“I only use the tube and the palette knife — I never use a brush — and that allows me to be more painterly,” Boyajian said. “I like the immediacy of the color out of the tube.”

Two notable examples are a set of portraits of Padre Pio, a 20th-century Italian priest who was declared a saint in 2002. In a few masterful strokes, Boyajian has rendered the holy man in primary colors on a vast background of white paper.

Although she doesn’t plan to let any work out of her home, she would make an exception for the church. If the Vatican wanted a painting for its collection, Boyajian wouldn’t say no. She has been a devout Catholic since her early 20s and has often depicted religious scenes.

“Most of the artwork done for the Catholic church these days is kitsch,” she said. “For the most part, I don’t like what I see as religious art,” she added.

Boyajian said she plans to continue with her salons, but she has also been showing work in a gallery in the front room of a Brattleboro law office for the past five months, an arrangement that keeps her busy making new work. She’s hoping to find a venue in Brattleboro that will bring more people to her work on the town’s monthly art walks. She feels she has “a public” in the Upper Valley and would like to engage another one, she said.

“I want to share it. I want all kinds of feedback,” she said.

The salon is open to the public Saturday afternoon, 2 to 4, and by appointment, at 55 Westboro Woods Lane in West Lebanon. Contact Laura Boyajian at laura@lauraboyajian.com.

Of Note

The Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden is holding a couple of art-making days for seniors later this month. “Doorways to Art-Making” consists of a three-hour workshop with Jim Schubert, a retired Kimball Union Academy art teacher. Workshops are planned for June 21 and 28, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Participation is limited to six seniors per session. There is no fee for the workshops, but donations are welcome. Reserve a space by June 19.

∎ The Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish holds a sculpture workshop on Saturday called “Flora & Fauna: Sculpting the Natural World.” The workshop runs from 1 to 4 p.m. and costs $40. For information, call 603-675-2175.

∎ Continuing its transition from museum to nightclub, the Main Street Museum hosts four bands tomorrow night, and four more Sunday night. Tomorrow night Ryan/Timothy, the Breakmaids and Violette Ultraviolet open for the Boston-based band Tallahassee. The show starts at 8. Sunday night’s lineup features Belligerence, Up Up We Go, Minor Flail and Elder Scrolls, not necessarily in that order. The bands are from New Orleans and Brooklyn and are all over the stylistic spectrum. A pot-luck barbecue (the museum will have coals) starts at 5, the music starts at 7 or so. The cover charge is set at $2 to $20, depending on the depth of your gratitude and pockets.

Openings and Receptions

“Vermonty,” illustrations by Shawn Braley, opens tomorrow evening with a reception from 7 to 9 at Tunbridge Public Library.

The Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden opens an exhibition of oil paintings on paper by Bakersfield, Vt., artist Rona Lee Cohen and an outdoor exhibition of sculpture by Fitzhugh Karol, an Orford native now living in Brooklyn, N.Y., with a reception Saturday afternoon, 3 to 6. Also on view is “Forms in Space,” the museum’s 21st exhibition of its namesake artist, which consists of paintings from a 1970 exhibition in South Africa, when Duckworth was head of the Department of Fine Art at the University of Natal.

Summer exhibitions at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center include fabric figures by Linda Rubenstein, photographs by Kelly Michaelsen, mixed media by Carolyn Enz Hack, oil paintings by Alison Vernon, collages by Barbara Newton and paintings and sculpture by Gowri Savoor.

Last Chance

ArtisTree Gallery in Woodstock marks the centennial of painter Bill James, grandson of the philosopher William James, who painted in Woodstock over 50 years ago. The show is on view through Saturday.

∎ “Generous Spirits,” pottery, basketry and furniture by Walt Hazelton and driftwood-found-object sculpture by Bruce Marshall, are on view at Nuance Gallery in Windsor through Saturday.

Ongoing

“Changing Gears: The Digital Evolution,” digital paintings by Har tland artist Gloria King Merritt, is on display in The Great Hall, in Springfield, Vt., through Aug. 23. Also in The Great Hall is a wonderfully potent exhibition of five paintings by Henry Swierczynski, a former engineer at Fellows Gear Shaper.

∎ Two Rivers Printmaking Studio in White River Junction hosts a show of prints from the collections of the studio’s artist members.

Scavenger Gallery in White River Junction holds a wine tasting tomorrow evening from 5:30 to 8. Gallery owner Stacy Hopkins will be on hand to show her recent jewelry collection. She is just back from a trip to Europe to show work to shops in Florence and Paris.

∎ AVA Gallery and Art Center exhibits drawings by C. Stuart White Jr., a co-founder of Banwell Architects, through July 6, in the second-floor Johnson Sisters Library.

∎ Zollikofer Gallery at the Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction exhibits “Black and White River,” photographs of White River Junction by Swanton, Vt., photographer Clair Dunn.

∎ Christine Orcutt Henderson is showing a selection of her latest horse paintings at Woodstock’s Norman Williams Public Library through Saturday.

∎ Newport’s Library Arts Center hosts a themed exhibition on the subject of “Heroes.”

“Re Constructions: Sculpture and Works on Paper” by Elana Herzog, a New York-based sculpture and installation artist who is the 2013 Saint-Gaudens Fellow, is on view through July 14 in the Cornish park’s Picture Gallery. A closing reception is planned for July 13, 4:30 to 6 p.m., which will include a talk by Herzog at 5.

∎ Randolph’s Chandler Gallery hosts “Suspended Worlds,” an exhibition of photographs of some of Vermont’s restored painted theater curtains that date from 1890 to 1940.

∎ Hanover’s Howe Library hosts its annual “55+ Art Show,” which features work by amateur artists over the age of 55.

∎ Norwich Public Library hosts “Landscapes & Wildlife,” works in watercolor, oils, gouache, scratch board, colored pencil, and pen and ink by Fran Greenwood.

∎ The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, Hanover Gallery is showing the work of wildlife photographer Andrew Thompson, through June.

∎ The Monshire Museum of Science hosts “Playing with Time,” a traveling exhibition that allows viewers to seemingly change the speed of time, to perceive such hidden phenomena as the flapping of a hummingbird’s wings or the expansion of the universe.

∎ Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art hosts “Word and Image in Contemporary Art,” a show curated in collaboration with 24 senior studio art majors that includes Ed Ruscha’s great 1963 painting Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas; “The Women of Shin Hanga: The Judith and Joseph Barker Collection of Japanese Prints”; and “Evolving Perspectives: Highlights from the African Art Collection at the Hood Museum of Art.”

∎ BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vt., hosts “Masterworks,” which features both sculpture and prints by the late Hugh Townley as well as works from his collection, which includes pieces by Eugene Atget, Harry Callahan, Salvador Dali, Jean Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Aaron Siskind, H.C. Westermann and Ossip Zadkine.

Art Notes appears in the “Valley News” on Thursday. Send email to artnotes@vnews .com.