Curating Joy at Kents’ Corner Annual Exhibition | Art review | Seven days

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  • Pamela Polston ©️ Seven days
  • “The Wayward Bench” by George Sawyer; “Mud Season 9 Patch” Quilt by Rosalind Daniels

Writing about the annual Art at the Kent exhibition is both a pleasure and an exercise in frustration: the former because each work of art exhibited at the Kent’s Corner State Historic Site in Calais is engaging; the latter because there are way too many pieces to recognize in that limited space. But we can’t complain about such a cheerful convention of creativity. The 2022 iteration, “Interplay,” brilliantly merges a slew of works by 20 Vermont artists.

Space is something Kent has in abundance: a maze of small rooms and, up a steep staircase, a spacious former ballroom. The building shows its age gracefully, with layers of faded wallpaper, exposed slats, and windows and doors that first opened in the 19th century. This backdrop is a secondary player in the historical reconstruction of the exhibition, necessarily brief since the place is not wintered. The sweet mix of old and new is reminiscent of a line from William Shakespeare Storm: “What is past is a prologue.”

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From left to right : "queen of light" and "feathered friends" by Pamela Smith - PAMELA POLSTON ©️ SEVEN DAYS

  • Pamela Polston ©️ Seven days
  • From left to right: “Queen of Light” and “Feathered Friends” by Pamela Smith

Co-curators Nel Emlen and Allyson Evans, plus state curator David Schutz, excel at curating contemporary artwork inside and outside their beloved historic site, finding purpose for every nook and cranny. But ‘Interplay’, the 15th exhibition in Kent, is perhaps their most vivid assemblage to date.

“When we were putting together works, we were looking for bridges between disparate pieces,” Emlen said. Seven days. “This time we paid more attention to that [than usual]. Battered by COVID-19 and ‘feeling the weight of the world’, she added, ‘we intentionally looked at work that was joyful’.

Even so, the trio was slow to make it to the show’s title. “We didn’t want to tell people how they felt,” Emlen observed.

Artwork does a good job on its own – first and foremost with color. From bold abstractions of Sara Katz with the meditative pastel canvases of Cynthia Kirkwood to monotypes of pigmented inks richly saturated in Drew Clay, imagery appears in every room. Curators sometimes combine works of similar chromatic value, doubling their visual vitality, and elsewhere create energetic contrasts.

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"mother and child" sculpture by Clark Derbes; "Dream 022721.001" by Drew Clay - PAMELA POLSTON ©️ SEVEN DAYS

  • Pamela Polston ©️ Seven days
  • “Mother and child” sculpture by Clark Derbes; “Dream 022721.001” by Drew Clay

The idea of ​​interaction goes further than hue, however, manifesting in thematically related subsets of form, pattern, materiality or concept. On a fireplace in a room, for example, there is a James Secor painting titled “Useful Structures Keep Us Apart”. The distorted triangular and rectilinear forms of the dreamlike semi-figurative landscape seem to commune with Clark Derbes “Fractal Time Traveler” protruding carved wooden piece, perched on a pedestal below.

The curator’s choice to disperse each artist’s works throughout the rooms provides frequent opportunities to consider their dialogues. Derbes painted polygons are similar to a number of 2D pieces throughout Kent. engraver Rachel BigMasterful geometric compositions on paper or shaped plywood complement other works of art while commanding attention.

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"Eschaton from Leviathan & Messiah Birdshead" by Eva Sturm-Gross - PAMELA POLSTON ©️ SEVEN DAYS

  • Pamela Polston ©️ Seven days
  • Eschaton of Leviathan and the Messiah Birdshead by Eva Sturm-Gross

Gross represents a smaller subset within “Interplay”: parents. In a room on the second floor, her intaglio and woodcuts face a multimedia installation by her daughter, Eva Sturm Gross. The latter, “Eschaton of Leviathan & the Birdshead Messiah”, consists of four floor-to-ceiling scrolls of paper with two hanging banners hanging perpendicularly from each end, forming a semi-enclosure. Printed in black and red with esoteric symbology, including the Ouroboros, the installation is graphically arresting and impeccably crafted.

Seats are another subset of this exhibit, and some of them are funny LOL. Timothy ClarkThe Armless Windsor Chair, painted robin’s egg blue, sits demurely in front of a fireplace and echoes the color of a trio of Katz paintings over the fireplace. In contrast, Clark’s “Big Red Chair” on the lawn is too big even for Papa Bear.

Not to be outdone, Marc Ragonese presents a very twisted driftwood high chair. Back inside, a long black bench by George Sawyer aggressively swoops skyward at one end, deterring any onlookers.

Pamela Smith embodies its own category: folk art flavored with magical realism. His vivid, beautifully rendered figure paintings and papier-mâché sculptures are charming and deviously sophisticated, certainly answering the curators’ call for joy.

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"Introglass/decotage" by Josh Bernbaum - PAMELA POLSTON ©️ SEVEN DAYS

  • Pamela Polston ©️ Seven days
  • “Introverre/decoltage” by Josh Bernbaum

Josh and Marta Bernbaum contribute the only glass works in the exhibition, in forms that demonstrate the versatility of the medium. Josh’s blown, sculpted and shaped pieces, such as the “Introverre/decoltage” curves, are simply exquisite.

In Marta’s “Heavy Necklace” series, teardrop-shaped “jewels” the size of paperweights are chained and arranged on pedestals. Looking at them, a viewer sees slightly distorted photographs that illustrate their titles. “Dissolution of Democracy,” for example, reveals depressing images we really don’t want to see. This collar, if worn, would be a real albatross.

The only dark note in this year’s Kent exhibition highlights its mission: to observe how well we can play together.