Art Notes: Artist’s Work Draws on Nature’s Strengths

  • Brenda Garand at her studio in West Hartford, Vt. Garand has a show at White River Gallery at BALE, South Royalton, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • Brenda Garand's studio wall in West Hartford, Vt., shows sketches of her work Garand has a show at White River Gallery at BALE, South Royalton, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

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    Artist Brenda Garand's show "Touching at a Distance" is on display at the White River Gallery at BALE in South Royalton, Vt., through December 11, 2016. (Courtesy photograph)

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    "Deluge #4," a print by Brenda Garand, incorporates clay that the flooded White River deposited in Garand's West Hartford home and studio during Tropical Storm Irene. Courtesy image

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/20/2016 12:30:01 AM
Modified: 10/21/2016 4:30:05 PM

On the afternoon of Aug. 28, 2011, artist Brenda Garand, who lives in West Hartford along the White River, noticed that the river looked different. It was higher and faster and carrying with it the kind of large debris you wouldn’t normally see, even in a spring thaw: pieces of houses and porches, whole trees.

“The river kept rising, rising, rising,” Garand said.

It lapped at Route 14, came up over it, into her cellar, then her first floor. As the water crept upward, Garand began to move what she could up onto the second floor. A photograph collection, some of her art and, most important, her old dog.

But by the time the flood waters of Tropical Storm Irene began to recede the next day, Garand, a professor of studio art at Dartmouth College, had lost much of her art and sculpture, both from her home and her studio, farther south on Route 14. Her house was choked with mud and clay and detritus from the river.

“It was life-changing, I think,” Garand said in an interview at White River Gallery at BALE in South Royalton, which is exhibiting her work in the exhibition “Touching at a Distance” through Dec. 11.

The drawings and sculpture in the show allude, if not specifically to Irene, to the flux and turmoil of nature. The abstract drawings are awash in deep blacks and muted browns, calling to mind swirling, eddying water and drifting plants.

After the flood, Garand said, her colleagues, friends, students and people she didn’t know showed up to help her clean up and restore her home and studio. If not for them, she said, she doesn’t think she would still be in the Upper Valley. And as a souvenir, she kept some of the clay that washed into the house, storing it in coffee cans.

That clay has found its way into her drawings in the show, as have india ink and homemade ink made from black walnut shells.

Garand applies the clay and ink to heavy paper that can withstand water. Garand then hoses down the paper, and the reddish-brown clay becomes embedded, contrasting with the deep blacks and grays of the inks.

Her sculptures, which use tree branches, a wasp nest, porcupine quills, hawthorne tree thorns, steel, silk, wood and scraps of finely teased wool from the Johnson Woolen Mill in Vermont, are hung on the wall, and the gallery lights thrust them into relief and cast shadows, which give the pieces another kind of life.

The sculptures convey both delicacy and strength, proof that you don’t have to make something gargantuan out of steel to put across the idea of durability or potency. The tiny, slightly curved steel bolts that Garand made to hang the wall sculptures are also evidence of that.

“As a sculptor, materials are really important to me; they mean something,” Garand said.

Garand grew up in Hancock, N.H., the youngest of seven children. Her father, of Abenaki and French-Canadian descent, was a shepherd, who moved from farm to farm taking care of sheep, until he moved to Hancock, where he was a carpenter. Her mother grew up on Martha’s Vineyard.

Because her parents never emphasized stereotypical gender roles all the children grew up doing everything, Garand said. So she worked alongside her father doing roofing and carpentry.

“It helped me be not afraid of tools,” she said.

Garand graduated from the University of New Hampshire and then moved to New York City to do graduate work at Queens College at the City University of New York. (One of her professors at UNH likened drawing to “touching at a distance,” a phrase which has given the show at the White River Gallery its title.)

Garand lived in the city for 14 years and then moved to the Upper Valley in 1995, taking a position in the department of Studio Art at Dartmouth.

She has also received a Fulbright to go to France, where she lived in Paris and studied medieval art, concentrating on Chartres Cathedral, about an hour outside the city.

In the years since, Garand has been traveling to Quebec and Newfoundland to explore her French-Canadian heritage, according to an essay by independent curator Ronny Cohen, who wrote a monograph that accompanied a 2009 exibition of Garand’s work at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth.

Garand knew from a young age that she wanted to be an artist, and studying how to make sculpture only confirmed her instincts.

“I felt that making sculpture completed me as a person. I could really describe things in 3-D and make my ideas real that way,” she said.

Garand has had a set of rules for herself, some of which she has disregarded over time. She used to tell herself, no found materials in her work. That’s no longer the case.

Another rule: No wall sculpture. “But then I had a studio in Greenpoint (Brooklyn) where I had an enormous wall,” she said.

There have to be some constraints, Garand said, but then you set about expanding and breaking them.

What she knows is that she feels most alive when she’s making work, and as a middle-aged person, she has a sense of urgency about the artistic explorations she undertakes.

“Time is elusive: I just want to get to it,” she said.

“Touching at a Distance” continues at the White River Gallery at BALE, through Dec. 11. Hours are Monday-Friday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment. Contact gallery director and curator, Dian Parker at

Openings and Receptions

AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon will hold an opening reception Friday from 5 to 7 p.m., for its show, “Take Home Geometry,” an exhibition of work by Gerald Auten, the director of the Studio Art exhibition program at Dartmouth College, and John Kemp Lee, also a lecturer in art in the Studio Art Department. Auten will show small and large-scale drawings, while Lee will exhibit sculpture. Both artists will give a gallery talk on Friday, Nov. 11 at 4 p.m; a closing reception will follow at 5 p.m.

Also opening Friday at AVA is the “Vermont Watercolor Society’s Fall Juried Exhibition,” which features the work of 40 Vermont artists. The selection of works was made by Jeanne McGuire, a Pittsburgh-based artist who is a member of the American Watercolor Society; the Awards Juror is Margaret Dwyer, a Vermont watercolorist. The exhibition runs through Nov. 11, when there will also be a closing reception from 5 to 7 p.m.

There was an opening reception this past Sunday for Enfield painter Penny Koburger at the Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon. Koburger is exhibiting watercolors and oils on a variety of themes, including nature. The show runs through January 2017.

As part of its ongoing Projects series of exhibitions BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vt. will feature the textile art of Randolph artist Bhakti Ziek in the show “Lexicon,” which opens Wednesday. Ziek works in three ancient weaving techniques: taqueté, samitum, and lampas. The show runs until Saturday, Nov. 26 in the back gallery. Ziek will talk about the work on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 5:30 p.m.

Also on view is the recently opened show, “Toward Form,” which features the work of Rick Skogsberg, Laurie Sverdlove and Marcy Hermanstader. The show continues through Nov. 19.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center will have an opening today from 5 to 6:30 p.m. for its fall exhibition, which features the photography of Nicolas Doak; acrylics and pastels by Norman Rhodes; work by members of the Upper Valley Ship Modeler’s Guild; fiber art by Dianne Shullenberger; digital art by Gloria King Merritt and oils and acrylics by Prabhjot Kaur. The show also features work by participants and facilitators in the Dartmouth-Hitchcock HIV Program. The reception will be held at the 4th floor south information desk near the parking garage entrance. The exhibitions close Dec. 31. For information call the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Arts program at 603-650-6187.

Artist Gary Milek, who works in gold leaf and egg tempera, will have an opening reception for his exhibition “All the Seasons” at Cider Hill Art Gallery and Gardens in Windsor on Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. The show runs through Nov. 20.


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.

ArtisTree Gallery, Pomfret. “Local Color,” an exhibition of work by area artists on the theme of fall, continues through Oct. 30.

Claremont Opera House. Marilyn Ray, a radiologist who works at a number of hospitals in the Upper Valley, exhibits paintings inspired by the Baha’i faith in the John D. Bennett atrium. The show runs through Nov. 17.

Converse Free Library, Lyme. “Paul Klee: The World Through My Lens” continues through Dec. 23.

Hall Art Foundation, Reading, Vt. “Landscapes After Ruskin: Redefining the Sublime,” curated by photographer Joel Sternfeld, continues through Nov. 27.

Hanover League Fine Craft Gallery, Hanover. The autumn exhibition features work by ceramicists Robin Ascher and David Ernster, textile artists Rachel Kahn and Kathleen Litchfield, and photographer Rosamond Orford.

Hood Downtown, Hanover. The photographs of Laetitia Soulier are on view in the exhibition “The Fractal Architectures” through Dec. 11.

Hopkins Center, Hanover. The sculpture and paintings of artist-in-residence Diana Al-Hadid are on view in the Jaffe-Friede Gallery, and “Speak! Listen! CT! A Kaleidoscope of Architectural Elements for Public Space,” with work by Zenovia Toloudi of Studio Z, and students, is in the Strauss Gallery, both through Nov. 13.

Howe Library, Hanover. An exhibition of colorful abstract work by Amy Fortier, “Mandalascopes and Faux-zaics” is up through Nov. 29.

Library Arts Center, Newport. “Voices & Visions: Empowerment Through Art,” an exhibition addressing sexual and domestic violence continues, through Oct. 28.

Long River Galleries, Lyme. “Following the Silk Road: From India to New England,” works by textile artist Ann Peck, through Nov. 6.

Main Street Museum, White River Junction. The museum’s exhibition of memorabilia associated with the Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the late 1950s and early 1960s continues through Oct. 28.

Mill at Maxham Meadow Way, Woodstock. The Mill exhibits the work of Rachel Gross, Lisa Kippen, Anne Mapplebeck, Amy Morel, and Edythe Wright. The artists are part of an ongoing critique group. The mill will be open from noon to 4 p.m. this Saturday and on Saturday, Oct. 29: there will be a closing reception on Oct. 29 from 4 to 6 p.m.

Norwich Public Library. “Mixed Bag,” an exhibition of abstract and realist work by Lynda Knisley and Linda Reeves Potter runs through Oct. 28.

OSHER in Hanover. Photographer Thomas Urgo shows his work in the exhibition “World Views” at the OSHER offices at 7 Lebanon Street in Hanover through Dec. 20.

Royalton Memorial Library, South Royalton. Sue Lenfest shows works related to nature and agriculture through Saturday.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish. Multimedia artist Candice Ivy exhibits her work in the exhibition “Within Above Below the Skin,” on view in the Picture Gallery through Oct. 31.

Scavenger Gallery, White River Junction. Margaret Jacobs exhibits her sculpture in “Lost and Found” through Dec. 2.

SculptureFest, Woodstock. The annual celebration of three-dimensional art continues through foliage season. “Grounding,” a show of site-specific work curated by sculptors Jay Mead and Edythe Wright, is on view at the King Farm, while the Prosper Road site also shows new work. For more information, go to

Tunbridge Public Library. “Facial Recognition,” a show by painter Marianne McCann, continues until Nov. 4.

Two Rivers Printmaking Studio, White River Junction. Sue Schiller and Nancy Wightman exhibit their prints through Nov. 30. A reception is planned for First Friday, Nov. 4, from 6 to 8 p.m. Two Rivers member-artists are also exhibiting work related to Northern Stage’s current and upcoming productions of Macbeth and A Christmas Carol in the lobby of the Barrette Center for the Arts, through December.

Nicola Smith can be reached at


An opening reception for a show of work by Enfield painter Penny Koburger was held this past Sunday at the Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon, and the exhibit will run through January. An earlier version of this column incorrectly said the opening was this weekend. 

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