Art Review: ‘Exposed’, Helen Day Art Center | Art review | Seven days

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  • Pamela Polston
  • “Looking Away #1 & #2” by Jonathan Waters

Sixteen artists and a poet are contributing to this year’s ‘Expositions’ exhibition, presented by the Helen Day Art Center and patrons/collectors Petra and Stephen Levin. As the Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit has done for the past 24 years, this one features works along Main Street/Route 100 in Stowe Village and for a short distance along its recreational path. At each stop, a sign offers the title of the work, the artist’s name, and a phone number to call for a brief audio commentary on the work.

One would expect “Exposed”‘s silver anniversary to be more spectacular than previous iterations. It’s not. This year’s exhibition is slightly larger, with 20 sculptures by these 16 artists; by comparison, last year’s exhibition featured 17 works by 13 artists. And less than half of the 2016 selections could be called spectacular. Burlington Poet ryan walsh“The Pines” speaks well of our place in nature, but its presentation – vinyl lettering on store windows – is almost obscured by the merchandise behind the glass.

That said, “Exposed” remains an engaging focus for a walk through downtown Stowe, and this year’s show isn’t without its moments of wonder. For accidental viewers of the exhibition, finding works of art in unexpected quarters is part of the goal.

In addition to being weather resistant, sculpture installed outdoors must meet two criteria: it must possess intrinsic merit as an artistic creation and be appropriate or functional in its location. Most of the plays in “Exposed” pass the first test, having pleased the show’s foreign jurors.

Curator Rachel Moore took on the biggest challenges of the second test: can the sculpture withstand the distractions inherent in the outdoors, especially on a busy street? Or, does a piece “work” because it announces itself subtly, offering spectators the pleasant surprise of discovery? Ideally, a site serves the art, and vice versa, so that some sort of dialogue emerges between the two – and, by extension, gets the viewer thinking. Collectively, “Exposed” does all of these things, but some of its individual tracks do none.

The gently sloping lawn of the Helen Day Art Center is a veritable showcase, with little visual distraction and plenty of room to walk around an artwork and view it from all sides. All three of David TanitchRusted Steel pieces have the advantage of this slot. His works are ordinary pieces of hardware written in large—very large. “Stack of Nails” features three of the titular objects, perhaps 12 feet tall, leaning against each other like a teepee. “Wing Nut” by Tanych emphasizes the playfulness of this range; just as small things are always cute, the absurd enlargement of normally small things can be hilarious.

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"Cone" by Jaehyo Lee - PAMELA POLSTON

  • Pamela Polston
  • “Cone” by Jaehyo Lee

Speaking of playful – and over the top – Rob Hitzig“Pick ‘Em Up” by may have the most ingenious location of all: on the tower of the building that houses the gallery and the public library. A reference to pick-up sticks, the piece consists of a dozen narrow, brightly painted lengths of wood that overlap in the splatter pattern of childhood play. But the assembly that would normally have been placed on a table or floor is here frozen in place and attached to a highly unlikely vertical surface. It is the visitor’s responsibility to remember to look up.

On the other side of the street, Marc Chatterley‘The Watchers’ is garnering attention both for its talent and for being slightly creepy. Made of fired clay, the installation includes a serene male figure in a lotus position surrounded by six “stacks” of three figures each, seated on top of each other like acrobats. Chatterley easily evokes thoughts of surveillance with this enigmatic piece, but the central figure can represent vigorous protest.

Two masterful pieces that support their locations on the main street – and the attention of viewers – are “Cone” by the Korean artist Jaehyo Lee and “Demeter” by sculptor Stowe Christopher Curtis. Both are large and exquisitely made. “Cone” was placed ahead of IC Scoops but has nothing to do with ice cream. Lee sliced ​​and cut wood into flat paramecia shapes and finials, then bent, lacquered, and arranged them to conform to the conical shape, which adhered to a steel armature.

Curtis, co-owner of West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park on Mountain Road, scores once again with a stunning assemblage of metal and stone. “Demeter” is a graceful stroke of stainless steel anchored to a granite base; he is somehow holding a partially polished 900-pound rock in the middle, as if it were harpooned. The juxtaposition of textures and the defiance of gravity exemplify what Curtis calls in his artist statement “Beauty and peril – an intriguing combination”.

Works on the path to rec arguably have the best opportunity to engage with the environment, especially when they invite viewers into conversation. Three works here do it very well and in completely different ways.

jonathan waters‘ “Looking In Looking Out #1 & #2” is deceptively simple. Two large-scale steel rectangles literally frame the views behind them but also successively frame each other, then overlap, then separate as the viewer walks past. These pieces address perception and perspective in both literal and metaphorical ways – and evoke our changing viewpoints as we move through the world.

With the simple title “Carbon”, Theodore Ceraldi reveals the agenda of his striking sculpture: He addresses the destruction of Earth’s forests. A dozen vertical steel rods, painted red and arranged in a circle like a tepee, simultaneously support and penetrate a thick log with a burnt surface. Ceraldi describes it best: “This piece draws attention to destruction by raising a 144-year-old white cedar log, cut in the Northeast Kingdom, to a sacrificial state…indicating omnipotent human intervention.”

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"The large auditory landscape" by Torin Porter - PAMELA POLSTON

  • Pamela Polston
  • “The Great Auditory Landscape” by Torin Porter

Torin Porter addresses humanity itself with audacity and humour. “The Great Earscape”, made of fiberglass, papier-mâché and PVC pipes, consists of seven gigantic ears painted in Shrek green. Grouped along the recreation path like so many mushrooms, the ears of corn bend towards the sky. Yet Porter suggests that they listen not to, say, heavenly messages, but to the words of passers-by. Ears “feed on the whispers, gurgles and songs of the lifeforms around them,” he wrote in a wry statement, “beckoning those within range to speak their heart’s desires into the ears of these slingshots. attentive”.

Porter’s large green ears are refreshing and fun, a striking but non-threatening presence in an otherwise bucolic landscape. “The Great Earscape” reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously.

Historically, “Exposed” hasn’t often confronted viewers with uncomfortable questions or big statements. Instead, he simply took advantage of the area’s natural beauty to turn the walkable downtown into a summery gallery. Certainly, normalizing the presence of art in everyday places elevates an everyday experience to a more reflective experience. Still, some viewers might like to see Helen Day push the boundaries of contemporary art even further in this annual outdoor exhibition, just as she increasingly does within gallery walls.