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Art Notes: New Faces in Visual Art

  • Visitors take a closer look at the unveiled bronze cast of Saint-Gaudens' sculpture "Abraham Lincoln: The Man" at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, N.H., on June 26, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • John Stomberg, director of the Hood Museum of Art, interviewed at his office in Hanover, N.H., on April 22, 2106. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Paul "Trip" Anderson was named executive director of AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, N.H., in August 2016, succeeding longtime director Bente Torjusen. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Mila Pinigin became director of the Aidron Duckworth Museum in Meriden, N.H., in January 2016. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Artist Bunny Harvey, of Tunbridge, Vt., has a show of her paintings at White River Gallery in South Royalton, Vt., on July 1, 2016.(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • "Luminaries," a drawing in charcoal and black pastel on paper, is among the works on view in "Fully Involved," an exhibition of work by Bunny Harvey at White River Gallery in South Royalton, Vt.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, December 29, 2016

End-of-the-year summations are almost obligatory in newspapers, whether they cover politics, sports, or the arts. I tire of Best Of lists, but it can be useful to look back on a year to see whether any common threads emerge or whether there are any signposts for the year to come. In the visual arts scene locally there were some big changes to note.

Comings and Goings: John Stomberg officially took over the directorship of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College in January. He oversaw some big acquisitions that had already been in the works: in September the college announced that the it had acquired the archive of famed photojournalist James Nachtwey, a Dartmouth graduate, through a combination of donation and purchase. The archive will include: 330,000 photographic negatives, 170,000 digital image files, 7,200 exhibition-quality prints, 2,000 large-format works, 25,500 small-scale prints, and 12,500 contact sheets.

Stomberg also maneuvered his way through a p.r. kerfuffle this spring. The museum closed its doors in March in preparation for the new construction and expansion of the building designed by Charles Moore and erected in 1985. In April, the director of the Charles Moore Foundation in Austin, Texas, criticized the expansion design by the architectural team of Billie Tsien and Tod Williams as insufficiently respectful of Moore’s architecture.

The Moore Foundation’s public campaign led to press coverage in The New York Times and leading architectural journals but ultimately it didn’t slow or derail the expansion.

And Stomberg spearheaded Hood Downtown, a new gallery space on South Main Street for contemporary art which opened with an exhibition of photography by French-born, Brooklyn-based Laetitia Soulier.

This is a welcome development because it pushes the boundaries of the Hood out into the community, and it brings new art and ideas to an otherwise relatively stodgy street. The next exhibition to open at Hood Downtown, next Thursday, is “Let the Garden Eram Flourish” by Iranian-born Bahar Behbahani, based in where else? Brooklyn. A reception is planned for Jan. 13.

Also in the Comings and Goings department was the announcement in August of the appointment of Paul “Trip” Anderson as executive director of AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, succeeding longtime director Bente Torjusen. Anderson, previously a grants officer at the Worcester Art Museum who lives in Grantham, takes over a more-than-$700,000 annual budget, and a highly successful organization that, together with the Opera House, has made Lebanon a center of the arts.

And at the Aidron Duckworth Museum in Meriden, Mila Pinigin took over the role of director in January, bringing new focus and attention to the museum. Pinigin is young (under 30) and that is probably one of the best things to happen to arts in the Upper Valley in the past year. Local arts organizations need to promote and train younger people to lead them. Otherwise, they won’t stay relevant. There’s much to be said for experience, but without new ideas, experience risks looking tired and dull.

I can’t leave out another arrival in the Upper Valley. In June a new casting of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Standing Lincoln was erected at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish to commemorate both the 50th anniversary of the national historic site and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

An examination of the “goings” segment of 2016’s comings and going starts and ends with Bente Torjusen, who retired on Dec. 2. Much has been written about her tenure over the years so I won’t recount it all here.

Suffice it to say, Torjusen is an example of how one person can wield the right kind of influence in a community, and open up educational opportunities for groups of people who were either under-represented or not represented at all. Not that she did it alone, because AVA is successful thanks to the efforts of scores of staff, artists and volunteers. But she certainly played an outsized role.

Best Of, sort of. This is a list of some of the art shows of the past year that made a strong impression on me.

Before it closed in March for construction, the Hood Museum showed “Ice Cuts,” an exhibition of paintings by Eric Aho, a Saxtons River, Vt., artist of Finnish descent who turned the holes cut in ice for the ritual Finnish sauna into beautiful, spare trapezoids of color.

The Hood also exhibited “Inventory: New Works and Conversations Around African Art,” a show curated by Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi, the Hood’s curator of African art, that offered new perspectives on contemporary African art. Given the size of the continent, which is home to hundreds of cultures and languages, the show managed to give a good overview of some of the schools of art at work, a proposition as far-ranging as that sounds.

This spring and early summer BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vt. highlighted the works of such post-war artists as John Udvardy, Varujan Boghosian, Helen and Ira Matteson and Hugh Townley. It was a really satisfying look at how post-war artists who didn’t belong to any particular “-ism” carved out their own niches doing idiosyncratic, meaningful work.

White River Gallery at BALE in South Royalton had two strong shows by women that reimagined landscapes: This summer it exhibited paintings of Vermont by Randolph artist Bunny Harvey that are visual and temporal landscapes, evoking sound and motion. This fall the gallery exhibited sculptures and drawings focusing on water and clay by Brenda Garand, a professor of studio art at Dartmouth College. They were simultaneously delicate and sinewy.

In the fall, AVA Gallery exhibited the quite amazing photographs of Rob Kesseler, a British art photographer based in London. Kesseler takes such natural organisms as seeds, seed pods, pollen and petals and photographs them through electron microscopes, hand-coloring the images and printing them on aluminum in large-scale works. His perspective on the natural world is fresh and revelatory.

This summer, Patrick Dunfey, exhibition preparator at the Hood, and Enrico Riley, a painter who teaches in the Dartmouth College Department of Studio Art, collaborated on a joint show in Dunfey’s studio in the Tip Top Building in White River Junction. Dunfey put his smaller, enigmatic canvases next to Riley’s larger, more visceral paintings which evoked the violence and turmoil of this year, both in this country and abroad.

Finally: The best thing to happen to the arts this year? The election of Donald Trump.

I’m not being entirely flippant. Look at how the Weimar Republic in the late teens and ’20s, after the disaster of World War I, led to an astonishing outburst of art, music and literature. Granted, we don’t want to see what came after the Weimar Republic. But, whatever policies Trump carries out, you can be sure that artists — by which I mean visual and performing artists, writers and playwrights — will respond in some way. Were artists, whatever their political stripes, as complacent as the press and pundits? Perhaps. But they’re not anymore.

Ongoing

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.

BigTown Gallery, Rochester, Vt. “Figuration,” which features the works of Lucy Mink Covello, Mark Goodwin and Fulvio Testa, runs through Feb. 25.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon. 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 are on view throughout the hospital through Saturday. For information call the Dartmouth-Hitchcock arts program at 603-650-6187.

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

Howe Library, Hanover. “A Life in Watercolors,” a show of work by Marion Kummel, ends Tuesday.

Kilton Public Library, West Lebanon. An exhibition of work by Enfield painter Penny Koburger continues through January.

Long River Galleries and Gifts, Lyme. “Of Transcendent Joy,” an exhibition of landscape paintings by the late Deborah Frankel Reese is on view through Jan. 8.

Royalton Memorial Library, South Royalton. A show of work by 20th-century commercial artist Louis Chap is on view through Feb. 18.

SculptureFest, Woodstock. While some works have been removed, 80 percent of the show is still on view. “Grounding,” a show of site-specific work curated by sculptors Jay Mead and Edythe Wright, is on view at the King Farm. For more information, go to sculpturefest.org.

Tunbridge Public Library. Anne and Mitch Beck, of Royalton, exhibit collages through Jan. 13.