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Art Notes: Thetford Painter Jean Gerber Stays Close to Nature

Thursday, June 12, 2014
Jean Gerber has arranged her life so she can devote as much time as possible to painting. She lives off-the-grid in a small cabin in Thetford, has no mortgage, few bills to pay, and, she estimates, has divested herself of some three-quarters of her possessions. She’s lived in a tent and is outside as often as possible, leading guided wilderness expeditions and making solo canoe trips on rivers in Canada, Maine and the Adirondacks, the big wild places.

A few years ago she put her canoe into the Connecticut River at Thetford, and paddled all the way to Old Lyme, Conn., where the river empties into Long Island Sound; her only companion was her collie Jonathon. She didn’t have her sketchbook with her on that trip, but the old power plants she saw along the river during her 13-day voyage are images she’d like to go back to.

An exhibition of her paintings, which will run through July, goes on view at L ong River Studios in Lyme this weekend. Gerber will also be giving a demonstration of how she turns a sketch into a painting this Saturday at the gallery from 10 :30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

She paints riverbanks, dense vegetation and trees that act as the spine of the landscape. The colors are luminous, and the canvases pulse with life. Gerber had always made art as a child but started painting oils in college.

“When I was outside I just needed to draw. It’s just a way of connecting with what I see,” she said in an interview in her cabin. “I hold it much more in my memory.”

Gerber is not a plein air painter, nor does she work from photographs. She sketches scenes in pencil and graphite first, and then works up the canvas. One of her paintings, of cotton grass growing in an Adirondacks bog, developed in such a way that she realized “it wasn’t cotton grass anymore.”

A literal transcription of what she saw was less important to her than whether the painting was “accurate to the feeling I got, the white puffiness and cloudiness.” The aim is catch the spirit of a place in a particular season and a particular light.

Gerber has been influenced by the Canadian school the Group of Seven, which concentrated on Canadian themes and landscapes in the 1920s and 1930s, and also by Canadian painter Emily Carr, who was part of the Group of Seven before branching out into her own exploration of Canada’s First Nations on the Pacific Coast.

It’s not unusual for Gerber to work on three or four canvases at a time, she said. A few paintings in various stages of completion are on easels in her cabin. Gerber paints by instinct, working and reworking until something tells her to stop. “I know when I get what I like,” she said.

To reserve a space at Long River Studios for Gerber’s demonstration, email Space is limited. For information on the show, call 603-795-4904 or or go to

Openings and Receptions

There are so many new shows opening tomorrow night at AVA Gallery in Lebanon that you could easily spend hours going from room to room. No fewer than five exhibitions will be going up, and they will showcase such media as oil, pastels, drawing, collage, artist’s books, sculpture and multimedia. The opening receptions for all the shows goes from 5 to 7 p.m., and all the exhibitions are up through July 16, with one exception.

Charlie Hunter, a landscape painter, will exhibit his oils in the Rebecca Lawrence Gallery entry. Benjamin Entner, a conceptual artist whose show “Sumus” (Latin for “We are.”) will be seen in the Clifford B. West Gallery, works with video, installation, performance, drawing, sewing, sound and painting.

Robert Gold works with photographs that he manipulates with PhotoShop and acrylic paints. His show, “Urban Settings,” can be seen in the E.N. Wennberg Gallery . Carolyn Shattuck exhibits her sculptural artist’s book, works on paper and collages in the Elizabeth Rowland Mayor Gallery. And up on the third floor, Steve Chase’s acrylics and oil pastels will be on view through July 19.

∎ Randolph artist Bhakti Ziek, fresh from her recent installation of six panels in a chapel at Princeton Universty, will exhibit her woven abstract landscapes the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden through July 27. The wood-fired, salt-glazed stoneware of Massachusetts ceramic maker Mark Shapiro will also be on view at the museum through July 27. There will be an opening reception this Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the museum. Ziek will give a talk at 4 p.m., and Shapiro at 4:30. Sculptor Bob Shannahan, of Hanover, fashions prehistoric creatures from woody plants, and those will take up the lawn at the museum as part of Sculpture on the Grounds. Those can be seen through Nov. 2, as can the sculptures of Fitzhugh Karol.


Aidron Duckworth Art Museum , in Duckworth’s former home and studio on Bean Road in Meriden, hosts “How Colors Sing,” a show of landscape drawings and abstract paintings by Duckworth, up through Nov. 2.

Art on the River Gallery , Springfield. “802: Just Vermont,” a photography show by artists Goldie May and John Sinclair continues through Aug . 19.

The Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) Thesis Exhibition, featuring work by the class of 2014, continues in White River Junction through June 22.

Big Town Gallery , Rochester , Vt . Collage work by Marcus Ratliff is at Big Town Gallery in Rochester through the end of June.

Chandler Gallery , Randolph. The Area Artists Show, featuring work by artists from east-central Vermont, through Sunday .

Cider Hill Art Gallery , Windsor. Egg tempera paintings by Gary Milek, co-owner with Sarah Milek of the gardens and gallery, are up through the summer.

Collective — the Art of Craft , a cooperative gallery in Woodstock, is featuring the work of jeweler Joy Raskin, photographer Miranda Hammond and leathersmith Kim Rilleau through the month of June.

Converse Free Library , Lyme. A show of drawings and paintings by Carole-Anne Centre called “Nature Observed and Imagined” continues through July 31.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center , Lebanon. The spring arts shows include work by painter Georgina Forbes, digital painter Gloria King Merritt and photographer Hunter Paye, as well as participants in the yearly Employee & Volunteer Art Show.

Great Hall , Springfield , Vt. Jack Rowell’s exhibition of photographs of The Hale Street Gang, a group of seniors who meet regularly for a memoir class in Randolph, t hrough Oct. 10. Also exhibiting is Randolph designer and artist Phil Godenschwager.

Hood Museum of Art , Hanover . “The Art of Weapons: Selections from the African Collection,” on view through December 20, and “In Residence: Contemporary Artists at Dartmouth,” on view through July 6.

H owe Library , Hanover. “One Word Project: Portraits from Two Communities,” an exhibition of photographs by Hanover High School student Mason McNulty is up in the Ledyard Gallery through June 25.

Main Street Museum , White River Junction. “Girls, Girls, Girls,” recent paintings by Daisy Rockwell, is on view at the Main Street Museum in White River Junction.

Roth Center for Jewish Life , Hanover. “2-D 4-D Fiber Art,” an exhibition of work by Hanover fiber artist Shari Boraz, is on view through Sunday .

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site , Cornish. “Ceremonial Concealment,” a show by Elaine Bradford is in the Picture Gallery at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site through July 6.

Scavenger Gallery , White River Junction. A rtist Judith Vivell shows “Never seen again, an Homage.”

Two Rivers Printmaking Studio , White River Junction. P rints by artist Isabelle O’Connor are on view through June.

Tunbridge Library . ArtSpace at the Tunbridge Library features the works of Abel Fillion and Lyal Michel. Fillion makes woodcut prints and Michel, figurative, narrative oil paintings. The show runs through July 25.

Vermont Supreme Court , Montpelier . Judith Vivell, whose work can be seen at the Scavenger Gallery in White River Junction, also has an exhibition of large-scale portraits of birds in the lobby of the Vermont Supreme Court in Montpelier, through June 27.

Nicola Smith can be reached at


“Urban Settings,” an exhibition of artwork by Robert Gold, opened in AVA Gallery and Art Center’s E.N. Wennberg Gallery. The name of the gallery was incorrect in a an earlier version of the Art Notes column.

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