Art Notes: Hood Museum Installs First Show Devoted to Sound Art

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    As long, deep waves of sound play from the speakers of Alvin Lucier's "5 Graves to Cairo" buried on the lawn of Dartmouth College's Bema, Mary Joy, a Dartmouth freshman from Greensburg, Penn., studies to her own soundtrack of music playing from her phone in Hanover, N.H., Tuesday, September 19, 2017. The installation is part of "Resonant Spaces," an exhibition of works by eight sound artists on the campus. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

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    Amelia Kahl, associate curator of academic programming for the Hood Museum, and Spencer Topel, an assistant professor of music, worked together to curate the exhibition "Resonant Spaces: Sound Art at Dartmouth." The installations, spread across the Dartmouth College campus, are open from September 15 to December 10. Photographed at the Black Family Visual Arts Center, Monday, September 11, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

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    Amelia Kahl, a curator of "Resonant Spaces," an exhibition of sound art installations around the Dartmouth College campus, works near a piece by Julianne Swartz entitled "Transfer (objects)," in Dartmouth's Sherman Art Library in Hanover, N.H., Wednesday, September 20, 2017. Three book-sized wooden objects, when held to a listener's ear, play recordings of Swartz reading passages of text aloud as she transcribes them. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

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    "Micro Soundings," an installation by artist Bill Fontana, uses a metal shade structure outside Dartmouth College's Life Sciences Center as a mount for speakers playing recordings of water and mechanical systems from inside the building. People can also interact with the installation by knocking on the structure's supports, creating vibrations that are picked up by accelerometers and played through speakers. A student walks past the installation in Hanover, N.H., Tuesday, September 19, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/21/2017 12:06:07 AM
Modified: 9/21/2017 12:06:16 AM

Bill Fontana, one of eight artists participating in “Resonant Spaces: Sound Art at Dartmouth,” a campus-wide installation of sound art, and the first of its kind at the college, is an American sculptor and sound artist who studied with composer John Cage. His work has been exhibited internationally in London, San Francisco, Berlin and Sydney.

There’s a certain irony in using the word “exhibited,” which his own website does; to state the obvious, sound isn’t something that easily lends itself to visual representation, apart from musical notation itself, and the Splats, Kabooms and Pows of cartoons and comic books.

But, in bringing together sound composition and physical sculpture, which are site-specific, Fontana nudges us to think about the way sound shapes the way we live, and yet how little we are conscious of it.

His large sound sculpture at Dartmouth, MicroSoundings, is an edifice of steel that climbs up the wall of the entrance to the Life Sciences building at the north end of the campus. As you near the building you begin to hear what sound like loud burbles and hiccups of water. But where are they emanating from?

It’s part of a sonic landscape, a way of bringing the ambient noises of the building from the inside to the outside.

Fontana, who made field recordings in the building and used them in the sound sculpture, is making us aware of the vast and pervasive range of sound around us, an aural river of blips and beeps, cars, voices, birds and, occasionally, silence — although even silence has its own sound.

And he’s making us aware of context: Water burping in a water cooler or rippling in a lab bath sounds very different from water running through a stream.

Our ears are highly sophisticated receivers, and when something sounds as if it doesn’t belong, or has intruded into, a given context, we pick it up quickly.

Even the subtlest of shifts in sounds can “redirect your attention,” said Amelia Kahl, a curator of academic programming at the Hood Museum and co-curator of “Resonant Spaces” with Spencer Topel, a composer and professor of music at Dartmouth. The installations, which were commissioned for the show, are located across the campus and also are on view at Hood Downtown on South Main Street.

One of the themes of the exhibition, coming out of such pre- and post-World War II experimental art movements as Dada and Fluxus, said Topel, is that you can “make sound into art without having to have a musician. The subject of the artwork is sound itself.”

For the artists featured in “Resonant Spaces” — the late Terry Adkins, Bill Fontana, Christine Sun Kim, Jacob Kirkegaard, Alvin Lucier, Laura Maes, Jess Rowland and Julianne Swartz — “sound is the core of their practice,” said Kahl.

The artists were selected because they represent a good range of the kind of work being done in the medium, from the sound “books” of Julianne Swartz in the Sherman Art Library to Kirkegaard’s capture of sound at important geological sites in the American West to the deep vibrations and hums produced when people walk over Alvin Lucier’s installation within the natural amphitheater of the Bema. In addition, the artists, who hail from the U.S. and Europe, are all at different points in their careers, said Kahl.

Admittedly these kinds of installations can be a pivot for visitors in a “really visually-centric culture,” Topel said. How often do we really listen to the sound around us, and break it down into its discrete components?

“(Sound art is) a different experience for people not sure what it is or what to make of it,” Kahl said. “It can be daunting.”

That said, sound art can redefine and expand our relationships to space in a way that visual art may not always pull off. It works on body as well as mind, Kahl said.

The sound of Kirkegaard’s Transmission aren’t immediately noticeable when you enter the Physical Sciences building, for example, but you gradually become aware of an in-the-bones, thrumming vibration. You consider where it’s coming from and how it sounds different from one corner to another, and how that alters, if it does, your sense of the space around you. 

“We encourage people to listen on their own terms and be open to the experience,” Topel said.

“And some of it is just really cool. There’s a sense of discovery,” Kahl said.

“Resonant Spaces: Sound Art at Dartmouth” continues through Dec. 10. Hood Downtown exhibits selected works from the late conceptual artist Terry Adkins, as well as a multimedia display that includes information about the exhibition and the remaining seven artists. Public hours at Hood Downtown are Wednesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m., and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

On Saturday Bill Fontana, Christine Sun Kim, Jacob Kirkegaard, Alvin Lucier, Laura Maes, Jess Rowland and Julianne Swartz will give presentations at a symposium at the Loew Auditorium in the Black Family Visual Arts Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by a roundtable discussion from 2:30 to 4.


AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon. The encaustic paintings of Stephanie Gordon are on view in the Johnson Sisters Library on the second floor. The downstairs galleries exhibit the work of China Marks, Janet Hulings Bleicken and Leah Woods. All four shows are also on view through Oct. 6.

Woods gives a gallery talk on Saturday at 3 p.m.; and Bleicken on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 3 p.m.

Artists from AVA show work at Pompanoosuc Mills showrooms in East Thetford. The show includes work by Joe Carton, Penny Koburger, Judy Laliberte, Elizabeth Mayor, Rosamond Orford and Sue Schiller. Through Sept. 23.

BigTown Gallery, Rochester, Vt. Two exhibitions at the gallery have been extended. The paintings of Peter Brooke, “Land, Sea and Sky” are on view at the Rochester Gallery through Oct. 21; the wood work of Hugh Townley is on view through Dec. 2.

Center for the Arts, New London. Three exhibitions are on view in micro-galleries throughout town: “Kearsarge and Beyond,” a collection of photographs by New London resident Larry Harper, are on view at the Lake Sunapee Bank in New London. Enfield artist Amy Fortier exhibits “Faux-Zaic Designs” in the micro-gallery at Whipple Hall. Maria Blanck, a part-time resident of New London, and Yvonne Shukovsky, of Springfield, N.H., show their work in the exhibition “Potpourri” in the lobby of the New London Inn. All through Oct. 28.

Chelsea Public Library. “In The Garden,” a show of watercolor and mixed-media paintings by part-time Corinth resident Megan Murphy, runs through October.

Chew & Co., Hanover. The water photographs of Rockland, Maine resident Joan Wright are on view through November.

Cider Hill Gardens and Gallery, Windsor. “Converging Viewpoints,” a show of work by Gary Milek and Charlie Shurcliff, runs through Oct. 28. Also on view at the gallery and gardens are sculpture, painting and installations by Steven Proctor, Herb Ferris, Gary Haven Smith and the Mythmakers.

Converse Free Library, Lyme. Members of the artists’ group Odanaksis show their work in the exhibition “Summer Time in Lyme.” Through Sept. 30.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon. The hospital’s summer art exhibitions include the work of seven New England artists: Mark Bolton, Carol Keiser, Alison Palizzolo, Richard Perry, Sheryl Trainor and Robin Weisburger. It also features masks created by patients in the psychiatric unit as part of the project “The Faces of Mental Illness and Healing.” Through September.

Aidron Duckworth Museum, Meriden. Massachusetts artist Tracy Spadafora exhibits her paintings and assemblages in “Everything Underlying: Work from the DNA and Evolve Series.” Sculptures by Claremont artist Ernest Montenegro are on view, as is “Pride of Plainfield,” a community exhibition celebrating the town’s agricultural richness through photographs, articles and audio. All through Oct. 29.

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. On display in Ledyard Gallery is an exhibition of photographs by Max Fehr, of Berlin, Vt. Each photo is paired with one of Fehr’s poems. The show runs through Oct. 4.

Library Arts Center, Newport. The annual juried regional exhibition continues through Sept. 29.

Long River Gallery and Gifts, White River Junction. “The True Beauty of Clay,” a show of sculpture, pottery and jewelry by artist-in-residence Anna Hranovska Vincelette, continues through Oct. 31.

Kilton Public Library, West Lebanon. Susan Pearson, a pastel artist from Canaan, exhibits her work during regular library hours through Sept. 30.

Norman Williams Public Library, Woodstock. An exhibit featuring diverse work from the craft group Women of Wonder (WOW) is on view through Sept. 30.

Norwich Public Library. An exhibition of photographs by Norwich resident Seth Goodwin, “Spaces and Places: Photographs from Near and Far,” is on view through Oct. 28. Goodwin will give a gallery talk today at 6:30 p.m.

Philip Read Memorial Library, Plainfield. “A World of Color,” a multimedia exhibit featuring work by 12 artists from Plainfield, Cornish and Windsor, is up through Oct. 14.

Royalton Memorial Library, South Royalton. Lindsey Cole, a seventh-generation Vermonter and South Royalton native with a master’s degree in environmental law from Vermont Law School, shows paintings, drawings and photographs through Sept. 29.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish. The Canadian sculptor Cal Lane’s show “It Was Never Like This” continues through October.

Scavenger Gallery, White River Junction. Mark Ezra Merrill’s “My F*$%ing Bleeding Heart,” a show of abstract paintings, is on view through Sept. 27.

SculptureFest, Woodstock. The extension of SculptureFest is curated by Jay Mead and Meg Brazill, and features work by Mary Admasian, Ethan Ames, Barbara Bartlett, Brenna Colt, Charlet Davenport, Nera Granott Fox, Susie Gray, Rachel Gross, Margaret Jacobs, Marek Jacism, Jay Mead, Mary Mead, Murray Ngoima, Tracy Penfield, Otto Pierce, Cristina Salusti and Jeffrey Simpson.

Tunbridge Public Library. An exhibition of “Landscapes from Around New England” by artist Pat Little continues through Oct. 20. There will be a public reception on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.

Two Rivers Printmaking Studio, White River Junction. The prints of Nori Pepe are on view through September.

White River Gallery at BALE, Royalton. “Patrick Dunfey: Large Works on Paper” is up through Sept. 30.

Nicola Smith can be reached at

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