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Art Notes: Hartland Artist Voyages Into the Third Dimension

Thursday, August 20, 2015
In her new work, Rachel Gross takes the two-dimensional surface of the print and gives it the appearance of three-dimensionality. Another way of putting it is that she is using one of the oldest devices in the artist’s bag of tricks, and that’s trompe l’oeil — the French term for deceiving the eye into believing that what it’s looking at is a scene with three-dimensional depth.

Gross, who currently has an exhibition of prints and wall sculptures on view at the Aidron Duckworth Museum in Meriden through Sept. 13, is accomplishing more than just fooling the eye.

Her prints and wall sculptures take the eye on a journey, as if it were in a maze or labyrinth. There are geometric shapes, sharp corners, overhangs and ovals that lead the eye up, down, around and through.

It’s a little like reading a book, but in this case you’re reading an ingenious, streamlined arrangement of form, color and materials. The mind supplies lines and depth that aren’t actually there, but look as if they are. This trick of the eye isn’t immediately apparent. You have to examine the prints to see just how unerringly Gross’ shapes dovetail. They have an aura of inevitability, as if Gross had found exactly the right way, the only way, to make them.

Gross, who lives in Hartland with husband James Sturm, co- founder of the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, and their two daughters, began working on these pieces some four years ago. They seemed a natural progression from the geometric print work she had already done.

“I was getting really fond of the shapes and pieces themselves. They became a way to get out of the rectangle of the paper,” she said in an interview at the museum.

The illusion of depth and palpable texture comes from Gross’s use of plywood as a base surface for her prints. For the wall sculptures she paints directly onto the wood, and for the prints she gets an impression of the wood’s grain by placing damp paper on to it. She uses Japanese kitakata paper, which is known for its absorbency and ability to register infinitesimal detail.

In the print Pink Box , an elegant, modern arrangement of hot pink spray paint and cool gray that reminded me of the optical illusions of 1960s Op Art (as do a number of other pieces), the kitakata paper picks up the diffused spray of pink so thoroughly that even at the edges of the print the viewer sees subtle pin pricks of color.

She also uses particle board, a synthesized wood product made from wood chips and shavings, often used in home building. The particle board has a mashed-together look, as if clumps of very different kinds of wood grain were crowded together.

Gross then applies spray paint in fluorescent pinks, yellows, greens and oranges to some, but not all of, her prints. “I liked the contrast of the traditional paper and the fluorescent spray,” she said.

Over the years, Gross has amassed numerous kinds of paper and images, including some 1960s-era photos of architecture and design that she incorporates into the prints and wood blocks as triangular snippets, flashes of pattern.

“I love the way that with a snippet of image you can get a time period,” Gross said.

Many of the pieces on view were seen this summer in a gallery show in Philadelphia. Gross would be open to seeing the works here reappear in another show, although she said she doesn’t find it necessary to keep all of them together.

What she has appreciated has been the opportunity to “gather work from a three-year span and see the evolution of certain ideas,” Gross said.

There will be a closing reception for the Rachel Gross exhibition from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12, at the Aidron Duckworth Museum in Meriden. Gross will give a few remarks during the reception. For information on the show and the museum go to or call 603-469-3444. For information on Gross, her website is

Also on view at the Duckworth Museum: “Exhibition XXVI, Aqueduct Series and Drawings and Paintings from Life, 1984 to 2001, by Aidron Duckworth”; and sculpture by Jay Mead: both exhibits run through October.

O ngoing

Arabella , Windsor. The gallery exhibits works by local artists and artisans in a variety of media including jewelry, oils, acrylics, photography, watercolors, pastels and textiles. A show of works focused on barns and bridges is o n view through Sept. 5.

ArtisTree Gallery , South Pomfret. “Unbound, Vol. V,” a show dedicated to exploring the art of the book, runs through Saturday.

AVA Gallery and Art Center , Lebanon. The juried summer exhibition, featuring the work of 50 artists, runs through Aug. 28. “the jump off...., “ an exhibit of collages by Joaquin Andres is on view through Aug. 31. Kira’s Garden, the outdoor sculpture garden, is open through Nov. 22.

Big Town Gallery , Rochester , Vt . “James McGarrell & Mark Goodwin. A Selection of the Imagistic Paintings from 1984 – 2004,” with related drawings on tile and paper, continues through Sept. 6.

Cider Hill Art Gallery , Windsor. The gallery (and garden nursery) exhibits an outdoor sculpture show through October. Sculptors include: Herb Ferris, Gary Haven Smith and the Myth Makers. The large vessels of Steven Procter are also on view. Egg tempera paintings by Gary Milek are in the gallery.

Chandler Galleries , Randolph. The landscapes and collages of Marie LaPré Grabon are up through Monday. Also on view is the exhibition “Creative Cosmos,” which includes the work of New Hampshire and Vermont artists Sabra Field, Paul Calter, Cameron Davis, Janet Van Fleet, Bhakti Ziek, Marcus Greene, and Jim Robinson; the show continues through Labor Day Weekend.

Converse Free Library , Lyme. The Betty Grant Gallery exhibits the paintings of Juliette Belmonte through Sept. 30.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center , Lebanon. Works by Susan Beere, Connie O’Leary, Tony Conner, Robert Chapla, Carla Zwahlen and Stefan Zwahlen, are on view through September.

H all Art Foundation , Reading, Vt. Works by Keith Sonnier and Peter Saul, and outdoor sculptures by Richard Deacon, Marc Quinn and Olafur Eliasson, are on view through Nov. 9.

Hood Museum of Art , Hanover. “About Face: Self-Portraiture in Contemporary Art,” is on view through Aug. 30. “Water Ways: Tension and Flow,” an exhibition of photographs that focus on the relationship between humans and water, is on view through Aug. 23. Two shows about collecting run through Dec. 6: they are “Canaletto’s Vedute Prints: An Exhibition in Honor of Adolph Weil, Jr.” and “The Stahl Collection.”

Hopkins Center , Dartmouth College, Hanover. Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College, Hanover. “Repeat,” in the Strauss Gallery, features the works of Deborah Morris, So-Il, Leslie Fry, Penelope Umbrico, Sarah Lutz, Tiffany Matula, Zachary Keeting and Andrew Forge. The POD Award exhibition, showcasing the art of recent Dartmouth graduates Danelle Finnan and Sera Boeno, is on view in the Jaffe-Friede and Strauss Galleries. Both shows run through Sunday.

Howe Library , Hanover. The Ledyard Gallery is featuring a show of photographs by Mort Wise, a Hanover resident who has traveled and photographed extensively in Nepal. It runs through Sept. 30.

Justin Smith Morrill Estate , Strafford. An exhibition on the Italian painter Constantine Brumidi, who painted the heroic “Apotheosis of Washington” in the dome of the U.S. Capitol in 1865, continues through Oct. 12.

Kilton Library , West Lebanon. Paintings, drawings and sculptures by Joan Fierabend are on view through September.

Long River Gallery and Gifts , Lyme. The “River” show, with large-scale paintings by Jean Gerber, Meg McLean and Betsy Derrick, is on view through Sept. 15.

Norwich Public Library . “Dogs,” an exhibition of paintings about man’s best friend by John Kantack, runs through Aug. 31.

Main Street Museum of Art , White River Junction. The museum looks at the Cold War period with an exhibit devoted to the Cuban Missile Crisis. It runs through October.

Royalton Memorial Library , South Royalton. The works of artist Ivy Leaf are on view through Sept. 26.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site , Cornish. “Looking for Saint-Gaudens,” a show of photographs by Shellburne Thurber runs through Aug. 27. The permanent collection is on view through Oct. 31.

Scavenger Gallery , White River Junction. Collagists Ben Peberdy and David Powell show their work through August.

Nicola Smith can be reached at

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