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Playfully Inventive Art From Elizabeth Mayor

Thursday, September 19, 2013
As a co-founder of AVA Gallery, then called the Alliance for the Visual Arts, Elizabeth Mayor has earned a certain standing at the nonprofit Lebanon art center.

So it’s fitting that AVA has afforded her an uncommon opportunity to celebrate the organization’s 40th anniversary. In addition to exhibiting her own work, Mayor was permitted to choose three other artists to exhibit with her. The show, “Four Artists, Four Decades: Mayor, Keenan, Randall, West,” covers all the bases.

By including abstract paintings by Colleen Randall, ceramics by Jon Keenan and drawings by the late Clifford West, Mayor, who works primarily as a printmaker, has brought together work in four distinct media. And each of the artists work in a different idiom. Mayor’s work is sleek and modern. Randall’s paintings are woolly abstractions, thick with texture and color. Keenan’s ceramic forms make use of traditional glazes and firings, but range from wide open to hermetically sealed. And West’s drawings, most of them taken from his sketchbooks, are relaxed, effortlessly poised, and balanced between the classical tradition and minimalist economy.

To my mind, Mayor’s work takes center stage. The show isn’t a retrospective, since it encompasses only the past two decades or so. Mayor started out as a sculptor, but resumed woodcut printmaking after she started to teach it at AVA, and her portion of the show, the lion’s share, consists entirely of prints.

Mayor’s prints can exude a cool detachment. She works mostly in black and white, using color sparingly. She often deploys stripes and other geometric forms, and several prints in the show pay homage to Sol LeWitt.

Her work can also display a messy, almost childish warmth. In her prints of animals, she compresses their busy little bodies into small spaces. A flock of birds is rendered as a jumble, and in She Dog, a long, lean mother dog is a launchpad for her puppies.

Some of her most recent work is also among her most inventive. With her “Toy Boxes” series, Mayor takes her almost obsessive manipulation of the paper she prints on to a new place. The boxes bear the stamps of some of her earlier prints, but she has cut and folded them into paper boxes with color across the tab for the lid.

What’s revelatory about the show is seeing the cool and warm strains of Mayor’s work in the same place. They create a pleasing sense of emotional balance.

The other revelation was West’s drawings. His paintings have been exhibited in the Upper Valley, but the drawings are almost too numerous to sort out. The sheer number of them is cause for reconsidering an artist’s motivation. For West, drawing was like smoking; it gave him something to do with his hands.

A pair of drawings, Repose I and Repose II, exhibit a sense of form that traces straight back to the Old Masters, but with a minimalist feeling for line. West’s drawings also feature animals.

I have less standing to assess Randall and Keenan’s work, mainly because I’m less familiar both with their personal work and with the languages they employ. Mayor chose the three artists in part because of their ties to art institutions. Randall and Keenan chair the art departments at Dartmouth and Colby-Sawyer colleges, respectively, and West, who died in 2006, was a fixture at AVA and was married to AVA Executive Director Bente Torjusen.

“I wanted to make the show a reaching out to other institutions,” Mayor said in a brief interview this week.

AVA Gallery and Art Center hosts “Four Artists, Four Decades,” through Oct. 4.

Also at AVA: “Chisel, Brush and Pen,” an exhibition of work by Winkie Kelsey, is on view in the stone carving studio through Sept. 29. Proceeds from the show benefit AVA.

Of Note

Newport’s Library Arts Center opens an exhibition and silent auction of a large collection of work by the late New London artist Carl M. Cochran, donated by the artist’s family, on Saturday. The exhibition continues through a reception Sept. 27, 5 to 7 p.m., where attendees can make final auction bids. The auction includes hundreds of works, ranging from large-scale sculptures and framed paintings to unframed sketches. Proceeds from the auction will be split between the Library Arts Center and the adjoining Richards Free Library. A full catalog is available for viewing at

∎ The Main Street Museum in White River Junction is seeking submissions for “Written in Stone: Voices of the GLBTQ Community, an exhibition “celebrating queer voices near and far” that will open Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day. The submission deadline is Sept. 30. The show will be “lightly juried,” and submissions may be brought to the museum Thursday through Sunday, 1 to 6 p.m. Digital photographs of submissions too large or fragile to transport for consideration can be sent to Molly O’Hara, who is organizing the project, at

∎ BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vt., hosts a lecture and slide show on 19th-century sandpaper drawings on Saturday afternoon at 3:30. Randall Holton, the preeminent scholar on American sandpaper drawings, will deliver the lecture, which will be followed by a panel discussion with Vermont Folklife Center Director Greg Sharrow, artists/collectors Marcy Hermansader, Mark Goodwin and Bhakti Ziek, Peter Thomashow and BigTown owner Anni Mackay. Admission to the talk, the panel discussion and a wine and cheese reception is $15. The evening’s events are held in conjunction with the exhibition “Folk Vision: Folk Art from New England and Beyond.”

∎ “From the Mountains to the Sea: Plants, Trees, and Shrubs of New England,” the first traveling exhibition of The New England Society of Botanical Artists, is on view at the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich. The show features portraits of more than 60 plants and is designed to promote public appreciation of botanical art and the diversity and beauty of plants in our own backyards.

∎ The Jaffe-Friede Gallery in Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center opens “Attention,” a series of five print projects by the Philadelpha artist Daniel Heyman, on Tuesday. Heyman, a 1985 Dartmouth graduate, has focused his attention on the victims of abuse in Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison during the American occupation. He is the fall artist-in-residence and will give a talk on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in the Hood Auditorium, with a reception to follow in the Hop’s galleries.

∎ Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art has received a $150,000 grant to digitize its collection of Native American art. The grant, from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, will pay for a three-year effort to digitize the 3,500 Native American objects in the Hood’s collections and make them available for scholars. The Native American collection is the first in the museum to be prioritized for digitization.

∎ ArtisTree Gallery in Woodstock has issued a call for entries for an autumn group exhibition, “Local Color-2013.” The show is open to Vermont and New Hampshire artists. The submission deadline is Friday at 4 p.m.

∎ The High Horses Therapeutic Riding Program hosts “Patterns Around Us,” photographs by Mary Gerakaris, on Sept. 20, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the organization’s offices at 2456 Christian St., Route 5, in Wilder. Half the proceeds from sales will go to High Horses.

∎ The Utility Club of Lyme and Long River Studios are holding the annual Fine Art, Fine Food fundraiser on Sept. 28. The event features a silent art auction with wine and hors d’oeuvres, with the proceeds going toward scholarships and local charities. Tickets are $35 in advance at Lyme Country Store or at the door. Call 603-795-2904 with questions.

Openings and Receptions

Colby-Sawyer College in New London opens an exhibition of work by the college’s fine arts faculty this evening with a reception from 5 to 7 in Colby-Sawyer’s Marian Graves Mugar Art Gallery. Artists in the show include Loretta S.W. Barnett, Lucy Covello-Mink, David Ernster, Nicholas Gaffney, Douglas Harp, Jon Keenan, Mary Mead, Julie Puttgen, Hilary Walrod and Bert Yarborough.

∎ Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden opens an exhibition of mixed media work by Alton, N.H., artist Amparo Carvajal-Hufschmid with a reception Saturday afternoon from 3 to 6. Carvajal-Hufschmid will talk about her work at 4. Also at the museum: “Interiority,” large works on canvas from 1979-1981 by Aidron Duckworth and an outdoor exhibition of sculpture by Fitzhugh Karol, an Orford native now living in Brooklyn, N.Y., which will remain on view into the fall.

∎ Zollikofer Gallery, in White River Junction’s Hotel Coolidge, opens “Ordinary Beauty,” photographs by Carla Kimball, on Friday. A reception is planned for Nov. 1, 5 to 7 p.m.

Last Chance

“A Celebration of Upper Valley Artists,” a group show at Pompanoosuc Mills in East Thetford organized by AVA Gallery and Art Center, is on view through Sunday.

∎ Gifford Medical Center in Randolph shows watercolors by Greg Crawford of Stockbridge, Vt., through Wednesday.


“Field of the Stars: A Pilgrim Life on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela,” an exhibition that documents the recent walks by Kimball Union Academy students and staff and Upper Valley residents who have walked the pilgrimage route across northern Spain, is on view in KUA’s Taylor Gallery.

∎ Fall art shows at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center include mixed media from Long River Studios in Lyme; colored pencil drawings by Corrina Thurston; pen and ink and watercolors by Lone Mountain Artists; photographs by C.E. Morse; and pen and inks and water colors by Carole-Anne Centre.

∎ “Inuverse,” sculptures by Brooklyn, N.Y., artist David Shaw, is on view at The Picture Gallery at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish.

∎ “Landscape Reveries,” acrylic paintings that explore the elements of earth, air, fire and especially water, by Georgina Forbes, is on view in Norwich Public Library.

∎ Ledyard Gallery, in Hanover’s Howe Library, shows recent work in watercolor by Lynn Wiley.

∎ Springfield, Vt., native Jamie Townsend is the featured artist at Sculpturefest, the annual exhibition at the Woodstock home of Charlet and Peter Davenport and the nearby King Farm. Sculpturefest adds a third venue this year with a small exhibition of sculpture at the Woodstock History Center. Directions to the Sculpturefest sites are available at

∎ Barnard-based BarnArts Center for the Arts is producing performances of ART , by Yasmina Reza in the King Farm Barn. For tickets and information call 802-332-6020 or go to

∎ Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art is hosting a pair of exhibitions that examine Cubism. Foremost of the two is a show of Picasso’s “Vollard Suite,” a series of etchings made between 1930 and 1937, when Picasso was at his most fertile, along with prints by Rembrandt and Goya that inspired the Vollard prints. Accompanying the Picasso show is “Cubism and Its Legacy,” which features work by artists who developed cubism and others who followed their angled path. An opening party for the Vollard show is planned for Oct. 2. Also at the Hood: “Shadowplay: Transgressive Photography from the Hood Musem of Art,” an exhibition organized by Dartmouth studio art professors Virginia Beahan and Brian Miller, and “Evolving Perspectives: Highlights from the African Art Collection at the Hood Museum of Art.”

∎ Tunbridge Library hosts an exhibition of photographs by Tunbridge native Emily Ferro.

∎ Giovanna Lepore shows “New Small Works,” recent oil and watercolor paintings at Galleria Giovanna Fine Art in Canaan. Sales benefit the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The gallery is located at 313 River Road, Canaan. For more info visit

∎ Scavenger Gallery in White River Junction shows recent paintings, sculpture and woodware by Ria Blaas, and jewelry and work in bronze by gallery owner Stacy Hopkins.

∎ “Watercolor Stories,” paintings by members of the local chapter of the Vermont Watercolor Society, is on view at West Lebanon’s Kilton Public Library.

Art Notes appears in the “Valley News” on Thursday. Send email to

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