Last year, Stowe’s annual outdoor sculpture exhibition, “Exposed,” spoke to visitors: the textual works expressed specific messages, often concerning ongoing social justice issues. In this year’s version, people can write their own messages in chalk on one of the sculptures: “Dream Home Dream”, a brightly painted plywood structure by the Montpellier artist. Rob Hitzig which is located, appropriately, opposite Stowe Town Hall.
The whole exhibition takes a much lighter turn this year, according to co-curators Rachel Moore and Alexandra Sherrill. It’s about “how to move forward, the future, the dreams,” said Moore, executive director and director of exhibits at the stream, which presents the annual exhibition. She and Sherrill, the Current’s assistant curator, selected nine works, all but one by Vermont artists, to convey the theme.
Inhabitant of Winooski Leslie Fry“Arise”, in cast bronze, one of four works on the gallery’s lawn, expresses irrepressible hope and joy – an impressive feat, given that the artist considers it his “COVID sculpture”. (She first modeled it in plaster in March 2020.)
One of Fry’s signature hybrid figures, the bird woman from “Arise” is poised to take off from her pedestal in fashionable platform boots. Her wings are still wrapped around her – each feather ending in the shape of a small hand – but her head is looking up and into the future that leaves a faint confident smile on her face.
From where she is positioned, the bird woman could fly through Lydia Kern‘s “1_365th of an orbit.” The airy arch, 10 feet by 8 feet with a depth of 3 feet, is covered in pink vinyl; its plywood structure is painted in all the colors of a spectacular sunset or sunrise. Monumental arches traditionally commemorate crucial historical moments; this one celebrates an indefinitely repeated one – one day – whose visual cues appear and fade so gradually that their greatness is often missed.
“We live and rest between the colors of sunrise and sunset,” Kern of Winooski says in an audio commentary. (Each artist provided one, accessible via QR codes on the panels.) “Can we replace our rushed relationship over time with a sense of admiration?”
Morrisville Sculptor Judith WrendThe kinetic artwork of “The Dreaming Mind” allows for more contemplation; in fact, she advises viewers to “let your thoughts go” and just watch. The horizontal arc of the aluminum work, bearing painted shapes at its ends, turns with the wind on a thin post fixed by two flared panels. The panels have cutouts that echo the shapes of the arch: a circle and a triangular notch affect the constantly changing visual balance of the work.
The Lawn’s fourth installation, a trio of mass-produced barn-like structures called “Barns-RGB”, are by Stowe artists Scott BoydThe jarring marriage of pastoral imagery with corporate maneuvers: He means the four-foot-tall pastel-painted trio to evoke Monopoly pieces.
These minimalist forms, with their identical rows of window-like rectangles, need maintenance to maintain their industrial look: Boyd regularly mows their grassy site, then blows the clippings away. (Similarly, Hitzig watered down “Dream Home Dream” to make room for more chalk commentary.)
A contribution to “Exposed” won’t change in our lifetime: “Blue Gilead,” by Brookline, Mass., sculptor Murray Dewart, a widely collected artist from St. Johnsbury. The polished aluminum structure painted blue, reminiscent of a Japanese torii, is mounted on a granite plinth along Main Street. Its perfectly symmetrical design encloses a circle in which, according to the audio commentary, “everything merges”.
Based in Johnson Harlan Mack not interested in Polish. His Corten steel sculpture “Abound and Again” is well rusted; chained tree stumps encircle its base. This is a one-third scale version of a sculpture he installed at a steel factory near Tangshan, a port city in northeast China, in 2019. The creation reads as three slices of a sphere topped with cutouts of buildings, plumes of smoke, trees, houses, octopus tentacles, all the swirling life of a small world.
According to Mack’s audio clip, “Abound and Again” tackles “themes of abundance.” But, like everything this multimedia artist creates, it also expands its ongoing artistic narrative set in a mythical era and featuring recurring characters. In this case, the steel sheets mimic the pages of a pop-up book depicting a giant octopus communing with the rain in a time when there were few humans left. The sphere is “a reservoir of rage for unwanted emotions,” Mack explained over email.
The last two works are along the Stowe Recreation Path. One is meant to be stepped on: Juniper Creative Arts“Dandelion Wishes”, a colorful mural applied to asphalt using a paint strong enough to last two years.
Juniper Creative Arts is a Brandon-based black and Dominican family collective comprised of Will Kasso Condry; his wife, Jennifer Herrera Condry; and their daughter, Alexa Herrera Condry. Will recently won Vermont’s top prize, awarded by curators at The Current, Burlington City Arts, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center and the Hall Art Foundation in Reading, as well as a guest curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. .
Juniper designs and produces – often with community input and assistance – murals that portray the lives and stories of the African diaspora in imaginary worlds of natural and symbolic beauty. “Dandelion Wishes” invites passers-by to walk through the weed from its root to its branching leaves to its stem – depicted as a dragonfly touching its nose with a snake – to its puff: the faces of two young brothers circled of abstract shapes.
Nature plays a different role further along the way. Hinesburg Artist Brian Collier“Change Markers” highlights Vermont’s invasive species by prominently displaying their roots atop three eight-foot-tall triangular pillar-like structures.
The roots of common buckthorn and Amur honeysuckle are painted blue, green and orange, making them highly visible markers of ecological change. Collier, an associate professor of art at Saint Michael’s College, reportedly used site-specific knotweed, he wrote in an email, but the plant’s roots would not have lasted the duration of the exposure. He considers their spatial inversion – from underground to treetop level – as a visual metaphor for ecological change.
Collier built the load-bearing structures in ash (itself threatened by the emerald ash borer) only with wooden joinery; the whole work is intended to disintegrate in place over time. It also aims to inspire viewers to notice local ecological changes and consider positive actions they can take. His approach is less alarmist than that of many contemporary environmental artists these days, and it suits a show that promotes positivity rather than prescriptiveness.