Art Notes: Jewelry Artist Teams Up With VINS to Render Bones in Metal

  • North Hartland artist Stacy Hopkins has partnered with VINS to make jewelry from specimens from the Quechee-based nature center. Specimens, left to right: northern flicker skull, bittern foot, raven skull and broad-winged hawk foot. Courtesy Stacy Hopkins

  • Jewelry made by North Hartland artist Stacy Hopkins from specimens at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee, from left: osprey talon in oxidized bronze; raven skull in bronze, sharp-shinned hawk with garnet in bronze; branch and broad-winged hawk necklace in oxidized bronze; broad-winged hawk foot ring in oxidized bronze; osprey talon in oxidized sterling silver. Courtesy Stacy Hopkins

Valley News Staff Writers
Published: 6/29/2017 12:05:17 AM
Modified: 6/29/2017 12:05:22 AM

When holding the skull of a raven in your palm, it’s hard not to think of the bird’s ominous role in Poe’s narrative poem, The Raven. Those hollow eye sockets and predator’s beak are haunting remnants of a creature that is nevermore.

But Stacy Hopkins, the founder and curator of Scavenger Gallery in White River Junction, thinks such things are beautiful. That’s why she makes jewelry from castings of various natural finds: skulls, beetles, talons, fossils, twigs. To her, wearing an organism’s bones, cast in bronze, is a way to commemorate its life, while making a striking statement about what that life means in the context of a broader natural history of which we, too, are a part.

“There a lot of evolution that’s happened far beyond what the human mind can invent, or even conceive of,” Hopkins said, picking up the casting of a blue jay’s skull that is now the pendant of a necklace. “See? It has proportion, it has harmony, it has all those things that are so appealing to artists. It elicits wonder and fascination and a lot of unanswerable questions.”

She got the chance to explore some of these questions through a recent collaboration with the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. The Quechee-based wildlife research and rehabilitation center lent Hopkins an assortment of educational specimens, including items like bird skulls and talons, which she has integrated into her latest jewelry collection.

VINS will hold a reception for Hopkins, featuring the work she has produced as part of the collaboration, Friday at the VINS nature store from 4 to 6 p.m. Her work will remain in a display in the nature store for the next two months, and a portion of the proceeds will go toward VINS.

“The metals she uses are of a very good quality,” said Mary Davidson Graham, assistant executive director of VINS. “But also, we really liked (her work) because there’s such an intricacy to it. There’s more of — I don’t want to say nature, but certainly more of a natural aspect to her work that’s just very different than what you usually see.”

Hopkins and Davidson Graham pointed to Judy Callens, a senior adviser at VINS, as a major force behind the partnership. Upon visiting Scavenger Gallery over the winter, Callens said, “I was really impressed by the beauty and accuracy the pieces (Hopkins) has produced. It’s very clear to me that she has a deep appreciation of the natural world, and so a collaboration with her seemed very natural, as well.”

This collaboration marks the latest node in Hopkins’ budding fascination with the symmetry and patterns of the natural world. A Hanover native, Hopkins majored in biology with a minor in art at the University of New Hamsphire. Though her major was a basic pre-med track, her primary scientific interest lay in evolutionary developmental biology — “evo-devo” to those in the field — which looks at embryonic development as a way to draw genetic comparisons across species and time periods.

She was frustrated when she realized how common it was for people to treat the arts and sciences as if they are mutually exclusive fields.

“So many times, subject matters get fragmented, but … you can’t see the whole picture by just focusing on a small detail,” she said. “I think a whole Renaissance of ideas can come from that merging of subjects.”

Finding herself increasingly drawn to that idea of cross-pollination between art and science, she decided to go to art school in Italy, where she’d studied abroad in high school and which still held a piece of her heart. She ended up staying for 10 years, immersing herself in Italian culture and refining the interdisciplinary focus of her craft. She returned to the Upper Valley in 2009, armed with a goldsmithing certification and a vision to enhance people’s appreciation of life’s — and death’s — bounty.

She founded Scavenger Gallery shortly after her return, and selected the raven as the gallery’s emblem. She was inspired by its role in Native American lore: “It’s often depicted as the seer of the unknown, and an omen of magic,” she explained.

But the raven also has a reputation for collecting bright, shining objects that catch its eye — items that are not necessarily of tremendous monetary value, but which, to the raven, might be beautiful.

Hopkins believes that in an age of commercialism, consumers have something to learn from the raven’s curatorial eye. “The raven represents a direction that I hope humanity is going in,” she said. “Somewhere that we’re not just being pushed into this mob mentality, somewhere where we’re actively seeking out and selecting interesting, special things.”

Not only does Hopkins seek to emulate the raven by scavenging for eye-catching materials, she also hopes her jewelry encourages people to hone their own eyes for naturally occurring treasures.

“So many people have come up to me and told me about their own private little skull collections that they’ve gotten from roadkill or stuff like that,” she said. “I hope that people are more enthused about how interesting a skull is, rather than creeped out by it.”

Stacy Hopkins will debut her jewelry made from castings of VINS specimens Friday evening, at a reception in the VINS nature shop from 4 to 6. More of Hopkins’ jewelry, which frequently incorporates materials found in the natural world, is on view at Scavenger Gallery in White River Junction, open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Openings and Receptions

Missouri photographer Julie Blackmon, whose work is on display at the Hood Downtown in Hanover, will atttend a public reception Friday evening from 5 to 7. Blackmon’s exhibit, “The Everyday Fantastic,” depicts the chaos of domestic life and is on view through August 27. For more information, visit

An exhibit of pastels by the Canaan-based artist Susan Pearson is on display in the Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon through September. The library will hold a free public reception tonight from 5 to 7. For more information, call the library at 603-298-8544.

“Moving Paint, Moving Bodies,” a collection of paintings by Chelsea resident and dance artist Hannah Dennison, goes up Friday at the Chelsea Public Library. Through August. For more information, call the library at 802-685-2188.

The Justin Morrill State Historic Site in Strafford will hold its annual “Gallery in the Garden” art reception and silent auction Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. The event will feature artists from the Strafford area and around the Upper Valley.

Guided tours of the Morrill Homestead’s art displays will run from 4 to 5:30, followed by an opening reception for the show “The Land and People” in the carriage barn from 5 to 6. A silent auction of mini-paintings will cap off the evening, with a hammered dulcimer accompaniment by Sam Moffatt. “The Land and People” is on view through July 16 and can be viewed during regular museum hours. For more information contact the Morrill Homestead at or call 802-765-4288.

This year’s SculptureFest opens Saturday at 509 Prosper Road in Woodstock. To celebrate the annual showcase of three-dimensional art, much of which was created by Upper Valley artists, a bring-your-own-picnic will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Free. Featured artists are Judith Wrend and Joseph Chirchirillo, with Murray Dewart as a special guest artist.

OSHER at Dartmouth opens “The Outsiders,” an exhibit featuring landscape and floral-inspired paintings by area artists Anne Hartmann, Judith Pettingell and Ann Semprebon, next Wednesday. A reception will follow on Thursday evening from 4 to 6. The exhibit is on view through Aug. 24.


BigTown Gallery, Rochester, Vt. An exhibition of photographs by Rosamond Purcell, the Boston writer and photographer, runs through July 23. Prints and sculpture by the late Hugh Townley are on view through Sept. 10.

Chandler Gallery, Randolph. “Scale: Models to Monuments,” explores public art through sculpture and large-scale photography. Randolph sculptor Jim Sardonis conceptualized and curated the exhibit, which is open Fridays and Saturdays from 12 to 6 p.m. through Sept. 2.

Center for the Arts, Lake Sunapee. The CFA sponsors three exhibitions throughout the Lake Sunapee region. An exhibition of landscape photography by James Mudie and photographs of flowers by Richard Gulezian is on view in the Lake Sunapee Bank’s micro gallery. Mary Beth Westward exhibits landscapes at Whipple Hall in New London. The second annual Center for the Arts exhibition, featuring oil, watercolor and acrylic paintings, as well as drawings and mixed media, is on view at the New London Inn. All three shows end July 29.

Cider Hill Art Gallery, Windsor. Cider Hill is open for the season with exhibitions of sculpture, painting and environmental installations by Steven Proctor, Herb Ferris, Gary Haven Smith, the Mythmakers and Gary Milek.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon. “Shedding Light on the Northern Forest,” a show of paintings by Kathleen Kolb with poetry by Verandah Porche, is up through Friday. Until then, the show is on view in the Endoscopy Hallway Gallery, Level 4, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Also on view at the hospital through Friday are: the annual employee and volunteer art show; paintings by Helen Shulman and Annette Jaret; photographs by Ron Levenson and oils and watercolors by Patricia Sweet-MacDonald.

Aidron Duckworth Museum, Meriden. Laura Moriarty exhibits works on paper and Claremont sculptor Ernest Montenegro exhibits “flatmensquared” through July 23.

Hall Art Foundation, Reading, Vt. There are three shows currently on view: “Hope and Hazard: A Comedy of Eros,” a show of more than 80 paintings on the subject of romantic and sexual love; “Ready. Fire! Aim,” a collaboration between the foundation and Burlington City Arts; and a solo show by David Shrigley. Through Nov. 26.

Howe Library, Hanover. The art work of Stephanie Gordon, who teaches art at Hanover High School, is featured in the exhibition “80 Degrees: Encaustic Paintings.” The show runs through Aug. 2.

Kilton Public Library, West Lebanon. Susan Pearson, a pastel artist from Canaan, exhibits her work during regular library hours There will be an opening reception today, from 5 to 7 p.m. Through Sept. 30.

Library Arts Center, Newport. Carmela Azzaro, Christine R. Hawkins, Ali Keller, Susan Lawrence, Laura Morrison, Richard Stockwell, Patricia Sweet-MacDonald and Tara Van Meter show their work in the annual “Selections” exhibition, culled from the best of the 2016 Regional Juried show. The show is up through July 28.

League of N.H. Craftsmen Hanover Fine Craft Gallery. The gallery’s exhibit of works by jeweler Deirdre Donnelly and fiber artist Tarja Cockell is up through Friday.

Long River Gallery and Gifts, White River Junction. The gallery, now relocated to 49 South Main St., exhibits the work of Elizabeth Mayor through July 6. See also Two Rivers Printmaking Studio, where Mayor also has a show.

Norwich Public Library. Artwork by elementary school students from Cornish, Woodstock, Lyme, Enfield, Unity, Thetford, Canaan, Norwich, Lempster, Fairlee, Lebanon, West Fairlee, Windsor, White River Junction and Hartland is on view through Friday.

Philip Read Memorial Library, Plainfield. Prints by East Barnard artist Sabra Field are on view through Saturday.

Royalton Memorial Library, South Royalton. “Frances & Friends,” an exhibition of fiber crafts, paintings, photographs, and drawings by six South Royalton-area artists is up is through July 14.

Scavenger Gallery, White River Junction. Black-and-white woodcuts, and handmade wooden serving spoons made by Norwich farmer, writer and artist Suzanne Lupien, are on view, in addition to the jewelry of Stacy Hopkins.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish. An exhibit of large-scale, multi-media constructions by Brooklyn artist Katie Bell, who was a 2016 Saint-Gaudens Fellow, is in the Picture Gallery through July 16.

Two Rivers Printmaking Studio, White River Junction. Elizabeth Mayor, one of the founders of AVA Gallery and Art Center and a well-known printmaker, shows work. There will be a reception on July 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. The show runs through July.

White River Gallery, South Royalton. W. David Powell, of Underhill, Vt., shows his work in the exhibition “The Golden Era of the New Dawn.” Through Saturday.

Zollikofer Gallery, Hotel Coolidge, White River Junction. The “God & Pony Show” brings together prints by Underhill, Vt., artist W. David Powell and the mixed-media collages of Deluxe Unlimited, the nom d’art of Corinth native Ben Peberdy. Through July.

EmmaJean Holley can be reached at or 603-727-3216. Nicola Smith can be reached at

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