Art Notes: Trio of artists bring dreamlike exhibitions to AVA Gallery

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    "Fire" is part of “Book of Sons,” an exhibition of photographs by Barnard, Vt., photographer Tara Wray at the AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, N.H., until June 4, 2022. (Tara Wray photograph) Tara Wray photograph

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    "Portal I" is part of “Book of Sons,” an exhibition of photographs by Barnard, Vt., photographer Tara Wray at the AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, N.H., until June 4, 2022. (Tara Wray photograph)

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    "Portal VI" is part of “Book of Sons,” an exhibition of photographs by Barnard, Vt., photographer Tara Wray at the AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, N.H., until June 4, 2022. (Tara Wray photograph)

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    "Portal II" is part of “Book of Sons,” an exhibition of photographs by Barnard, Vt., photographer Tara Wray at the AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, N.H., until June 4, 2022. (Tara Wray photograph) Tara Wray photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/5/2022 6:06:39 AM
Modified: 5/5/2022 6:05:08 AM

Childhood is a dreamy time. There’s too much coming at us to absorb all at once. Events blur together, a smear of colors, scents, song and cool evening air.

In “Book of Sons,” an exhibition of photographs at AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, Barnard documentarian Tara Wray has recorded some of those memories for her twin sons, James and Nick, now 11. While many of the images seem straightforward, some are impressions that anyone who had a rural New England childhood would recognize.

Portal II, for example, shows a tree bent into the form of a dancing human being. Any imaginative kid who grows up partly in the woods is going to see some kind of magical figures among the trees.

Portal VI shows a gently out-of-focus piece of countryside. It looks like dusk. There’s a power line stretched across the frame. Are we looking out the car window, on the way home from getting ice cream after dinner, or from a day at the beach, completely relaxed and ready for sleep, the Red Sox on the radio? I hope so.

Even Fire, a 2018 photograph that shows James and Nick outside the Woodstock Post Office, has a peculiar doubleness. The boys are turned toward the camera, and behind them smoke billows from the fire that destroyed the offices of the Vermont Standard and other businesses. Everything is in focus, but what is this photo for? The subject matter is strange for a family photograph, but that’s not what it is, not precisely. It’s a way for Wray’s boys to remember both what they saw and who they were.

Wray, who has been making documentary films and photography books for over two decades, says in an artist statement that she aims to “capture the specificity of our place and time, revealing bits of an open-ended life story in the process. I believe that what is safely contained in a book (or photo or movie or story) lives forever. That’s why I document my family and the things I love so obsessively.”

A book is due out later this year.

For now, “Book of Sons” shares AVA’s first floor galleries with two other equally obsessive and dreamlike exhibitions.

Each morning, Peacham, Vt., artist Cecelia Kane looked in the mirror and asked herself how she was feeling. She wrote the resulting state on her forehead in lipstick and photographed herself. Then she figured out how to open up her home printer and print the photograph onto a vintage handkerchief, which she then embroidered and beaded.

The results are so minutely observed and detailed that each tiny square of fabric is a small wonder. “How Am I Feeling Today? 1-89 Days.” gathers, as the title suggests, 89 of these works, over which she has labored for 11 years.

The tour de force, though, is Samantha Eckert’s installations of towers made of thousands of scorched popsicle sticks. They seem at once as provisional as memory and as indomitable as the past.

Five Ancestors Convene groups five of these figures together. The installation comprises the figures as well as the shadows they throw on the wall. The description says Eckert, who’s the exhibitions manager at AVA, has been working on the piece since 2015 and that it consists of “approximately 10,000 scorched popsicle sticks, hot glue, cast shadow drawings.”

Eckert’s show is titled “Beseiged by Wonder,” and like Wray’s and Kane’s work, it’s full of examples of how ancestors haunt us, even as our conscious memories grow indistinct.

The exhibitions are on view through June 4. All three artists will give talks at AVA in the coming weeks, starting with Kane at 2 p.m. Saturday. Wray will speak at 4 p.m. May 21 and Eckert at 5:30 p.m. May 27. For more information, go to avagallery.org.

First Friday anniversaries

This month’s First Friday festivities in White River Junction include a pair of milestones.

First, Scavenger Gallery celebrates 10 years. Owner Stacy Hopkins said she had no idea what to expect when she decided to show her jewelry and other fine art in a space that had only just ceased to be a convenience store.

“I didn’t really have any expectations,” Hopkins, an Upper Valley native who studied art in Italy. Even a decade ago, White River Junction was a little rougher around the edges than it is today. She had held open studio events, both in Italy and at AVA. She made a deal with David Briggs, owner of the Hotel Coolidge and the Gates-Briggs building, and opened up on a trial basis.

Right away, the gallery did well enough for Hopkins to earn a living from it. Jewelry, because it’s wearable, is an easier sell than art, according to Hopkins.

“It was like a whole other dimension opened up,” Hopkins said in a phone interview from Italy, where she was showing her work during Florence Jewelry Week.

Her jewelry is as much art as craft, based as it is on castings from nature. Hopkins has released work cast from the collections of La Specola, the natural history museum in Florence, Italy, and of the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee. Giant beetles, raven skulls, hawk claws and other natural forms become pendants, rings and bracelets in silver and bronze with patinated finishes.

She’s also shown work by dozens of artists, and for the gallery’s anniversary she has completed a series of prints of ravens, the bird in the gallery’s logo, that will be on view through July.

Friday night’s reception, from 5:30 to 7:30, also will include a tasting of wines from Artisanal Cellars.

Saving the best for last, the other anniversary is an art show in the Hotel Coolidge’s Zollikofer Gallery honoring Peggy Adams.

It was Adams who first included art in the Glory Days of the Railroad festival in 1996, and she also created the Zollikofer Gallery in 1998, when she invited a group of artists who had been studying with Aidron Duckworth to hang their work in the hotel.

“In these over 25 years, Peggy has played a quiet but important part … to bring a new era to the economy and the culture of White River Junction,” David Briggs wrote in honor of his wife.

A reception is planned from 3 to 7, and the gallery will open an exhibition of work by Jean Bomhower Rowzee.

Telling the truth

Truth Tellers, a documentary about the artist and activist Robert Shetterly, screens at 5 p.m. Friday in Woodstock’s Town Hall Theatre. Shetterly, who lives in Maine and whose work has been displayed in the Upper Valley, will be on hand to talk about his work, which consists of painting portraits of, and interviewing, prominent activists, a series he calls “Americans Who Tell the Truth.”

For more information go to pentanglearts.org.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.




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