Art Notes: Some Art Is Global, But Here, It's Local
Brooklyn Rider, made up of, from left, Johnny Gandelsman, Eric Jacobsen, Nicholas Cords and Colin Jacobsen, play to a packed house at the Main Street Museum in White River Junction on Monday. The group performs tomorrow night at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
In a recent essay in The Believer, art historian Rachel Cohen dug into the links between the financial sector and the art world. Gold, Golden, Gilded, Glittering, as it’s titled, is perhaps the most relevant and compelling piece of arts writing of the past 10 years.
It also reinforced my own thinking about how the art market works, or how the two art markets work. It’s my belief that there’s a distinct split. The part we think of as “the art world” is global, competitive and heavily capitalized. The one we live in, here in the Upper Valley, is local, cooperative and, for the most part, working class.
Having read Cohen’s essay just a week ago, I was thinking about it Monday night, when Brooklyn Rider, the justly celebrated string quartet, performed at White River Junction’s Main Street Museum, then participated in a discussion with several Upper Valley arts luminaries about what makes a creative community. The event, co-sponsored by Dartmouth’s well-funded Hopkins Center for the Arts and the less well-funded Main Street Museum, seemed to bring the global and the local together.
To her credit, Stephanie Pacheco, the Hop’s outreach director, presided over an event that was about drawing connections among artists. Brooklyn Rider was an appropriate standard bearer. The quartet takes its name from Der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider), a Munich-based collective that championed abstract expressionism and included visual artists Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc and composer Arnold Schoenberg. And they’ve made a home for themselves in Brooklyn, Gotham’s borough of choice for artists and designers of all types.
In short, they walk the line between local and global. Most artists do this, to some extent, in the quest for an audience.
“Our lives are defined by being itinerant musicians,” said Nicholas Cords, Brooklyn Rider’s violist. “I sometimes feel like a man without a country.” But wherever they go, they seek to form relationships that last, and can be resumed on subsequent visits, such as during the group’s residency at Dartmouth this week.
Relationships have been essential to building up White River Junction as an arts center. Monday night’s event, which drew 50 to 60 people to the small museum, was billed as an Upper Valley Almanac, a play on a printed almanac crafted by Blue Rider, and on the Brooklyn Rider Almanac, a suite of new compositions, commissioned by the Hop, that examine how artists are influenced by people working in other genres.
But it might as well have been called a “White River Junction Almanac,” as three of the four local presenters hailed from the former railroad village. Kim Souza, founder of Revolution, David Fairbanks Ford, founder of the Main Street Museum, and James Sturm, co-founder of the Center for Cartoon Studies, were joined by Adam Blue, education director at AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon.
At Pacheco’s urging, the local quartet talked about why they were in the Upper Valley, rather than, say, Brooklyn. “Rent,” said Ford, an assessment with which the others concurred. Blue, Souza and Sturm also are raising children, another factor. Ford stayed in White River Junction because he needed to be within walking distance of the train station so he could get to New York.
Each artist also made a brief slide presentation. In his, Ford cited local history, ranging from William Laurel Harris, a native Vermonter who became president of the Municipal Art Society in New York, to the late Tunbridge dairy farmer and Vermont icon Fred Tuttle. Vermont and New Hampshire have long been fertile ground for free thinkers, and each state makes much of that reputation.
Now that a community has grown up, it offers its own attraction. Artists work on their own, often in isolation, and the reward is going to see an exhibition of long gestation, said Blue. “You realize a conversation you had is peeking up someplace else,” he said.
The event made an impression on Brooklyn Rider. “Just being here and listening to you guys talk … it’s a very strong sense of community that you have here,” said Johnny Gandelsman, violinist.
The arts community is so strong that it’s easy to forget how new it is. The cartoon school isn’t yet a decade old, Ford purchased a permanent home for his museum only a few years ago, Revolution was resuscitated by new investors several years ago. Even Northern Stage, the White River Junction theater company, is only 15 years old. AVA is celebrating its 40th birthday this year, and seems like an unshakeable presence. Matt Bucy, who has already developed three substantial buildings in White River Junction that have expanded the arts community’s footprint, has just purchased the American Legion building on South Main Street.
But nothing is forever. Der Blaue Reiter, named for a Kandinsky painting, was short lived, eclipsed after only three years by the onset of World War I. So far, the Upper Valley art world seems more substantial. It has survived the Great Recession and the ongoing slow recovery. An almanac has yet to be written.
In her essay, Rachel Cohen’s most provocative and lyrical idea is that banking and art have rearranged how we value and understand the passing of time. The value of modern financial instruments, for example, is calculated without regard for the future, and contemporary art, on the global stage, immediately sells for princely sums.
Global art, thankfully, has little bearing on the more sincere work being done in studios in the Upper Valley. It’s an intrinsic quality, tied to the land and, as Ford indicated, to New England’s history.
“I think it’s an extraordinary place, the way things come together up here,” photographer Ted Degener said in an interview after the presentations ended. He cited the “old-fashioned character” of the Upper Valley. He moved here in 1972 after traveling in Guatemala.
“I came here because the presence of the people on the land made it more beautiful,” he said.
Years ago, Souza came up with a manifesto for Revolution. While most of the document’s credos are about personal style and attitude, one line still strikes me as the simplest and most apt description of life in the Upper Valley that I could ever hope to find: “We make our own fun.” That was what Monday night at the museum, and art in general, are all about.
Norwich Public Library exhibits “Nature,” paintings and collage by Brenda Phillips.
∎ Two Rivers Printmaking Studio in White River Junction is offering a slate of workshops this winter, including an installment of “Monotype Madness,” a fun, relaxing introduction to printmaking, this weekend with Lois Beatty. The workshop runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday and costs $195 plus a $20 materials fee.
∎ AVA Gallery and Art Center hosts “The Way We Work,” featuring works in progress by 19 artists with studios in AVA’s Carter-Kelsey Building. The exhibiting artists, who work in almost every imaginable material, will hold a gallery talk this evening at 5:30.
AVA also continues its series of events connected to “The Way We Worked,” past tense, a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution that examines how work shaped the nation. AVA has augmented the show with new prints of photographs taken at H.W. Carter and Sons, the former clothing factory that AVA calls home, and new photographs by Jack Rowell of people connected to the old factory, which closed in 1985.
On Sunday at 4 p.m., Jennifer Pustz, a museum historian at Historic New England, will deliver an illustrated lecture titled “Voices From the Back Stairs: Domestic Servants in 19th- and 20th-Century New England,” a look at three properties owned by Historic New England.
“The Way We Worked” is on view through Jan. 27. “The Way We Work” is on view through Feb. 1.
Openings and Receptions
Chandler Gallery in Randolph opens “20-30/2D-3D,” an exhibition of art by 15 young artists from around Vermont, with a reception Sunday afternoon, 4-6. Among the artists in the show are several from the Upper Valley, including Mayellen Matson of Strafford, Christopher Kerr-Ayer of Bethel, Abel Fillion of Tunbridge, Michelle Jacobs of Barnard, Ben Peberdy of White River Junction, Scott Welch of Norwich, and Christina Orcutt of Woodstock. The Chandler engaged White River Junction artists James Sturm and Rachel Gross to act as jurors. After the opening, gallery hours are limited to Friday afternoons, 3 to 5, and Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 2, or by appointment.
Sunday evening also marks the opening of the Chandler Film Society’s new season. Doors open at 6:15, and Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night screens after an opening talk by series curator Rick Winston at 7.
“Oil Paintings by Myra Hudson,” a show by the Royalton artist, is on view at the Tunbridge Public Library through tomorrow. Hudson’s first solo show includes landscapes and figure paintings.
“Survival Soup,” an exhibition at the Main Street Museum, features a riot of recent work by Travis Dunning and Matt Riley, who live in Stockbridge, Vt., and Seth Tracy, a Randolph native, along with a small display of work by Drew and Ben Peberdy of White River Junction.
∎ Dartmouth College’s Studio Art Exhibition Program hosts an exhibition of sculpture by artist-in-residence John Newman and an invitational show of “tiny work” in the Hopkins Center’s Jaffe-Friede and Strauss galleries.
∎ Taylor Gallery at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden exhibits work by graduates Joon Sung Park and Elizabeth Wilson.
∎ “Images of Nature,” photographs of wild animals and the natural world by the well-traveled Tom Sears, is on view in Ledyard Gallery, Howe Library, Hanover.
∎ “Beguiled by the Wild: The Art of Charley Harper,” a traveling show that has landed at Norwich’s Montshire Museum of Science, gives us a concentrated dose of Harper’s colorful prints. In addition, students and instructors from the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction have done a series of one-page comics about the natural world, incorporating Harper’s techniques. Both shows remain on view through Feb. 3. Entry to the Montshire costs $12 for adults and $10 for children ages two to 17.
∎ Two Rivers Printmaking Studio in White River Junction exhibits small matted works by the studio’s artist-members through January.
∎ Scavenger Gallery in White River Junction shows prints by Lois Beatty and jewelry by Stacy Hopkins.
∎ The winter exhibitions at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center include mixed media work by Lynda Knisley; photographs and digital paintings by Richard Wilson; photographs and poems by James Jones; paintings by members of the Vermont Watercolor Society; ink drawings and oil paintings by Kathleen Swift, and oil paintings by Betsy Derrick. A reception and “Art Rounds” conversation with the artists is planned for 4:30 p.m., Jan. 17 in the medical center’s Chilcott Lounge.
∎ Quechee Area Camera Club is exhibiting photographs at White River Junction’s Zollikofer Gallery, in the lobby of the Hotel Coolidge.
∎ “Light and Space,” an exhibition of large-scale prints by East Barnard artist Sabra Field, and work by fiber artist Karen Madden of Poughquag, N.Y., sculptor Pat Musick of Manchester, Vt., and Springfield, Vt., painter Dan O’Donnell, is on view in the Great Hall of the renovated Fellows Gear Shaper factory in Springfield, Vt.
∎ “The Past Meets with the Future,” paintings, drawings and mixed media by West Lebanon artist Fiorella Tasca Buck, is on view at West Lebanon’s Kilton Public Library.
∎ The Hood Museum of Art exhibits “Crossing Cultures: The Owen and Wagner Collection of Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Art at the Hood Museum of Art,” which offers a survey of Australian Aboriginal work since the 1960s.
Art Notes appears in the Valley News on Thursday. Notices must arrive two weeks prior to the Thursday before an event. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.