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Animals in the Art News

State of the Arts


Published May 5, 2010 at 9:38 a.m.

It’s easy to miss the sheep “grazing” on the lawn of Williams Hall at the University of Vermont, aka the art department. After all, the critters are made of barbed wire, and their rusty brown outlines tend to disappear against the green grass. But student Tyler Buswell did place some signage near the 13-member flock explaining his project, which is part of his senior thesis in environmental studies and studio art. On a recent sunny afternoon, several passersby stopped to read.

What they learned, from a statement titled “Sheep Mania in Vermont,” was a bullet-point history of the 19th-century sheep-raising industry in the state. For example, the animals chowed down on this very campus back in the day. Another page hints at the aesthetic underpinnings of Buswell’s project: “Effective ritual stems from homage to life-support systems.” Certainly, a nod to Vermont’s agricultural past, in the form of cute sheep made of gnarly barbed wire, makes some kind of statement. And why barbed wire? I didn’t get that part, exactly, and Buswell says it was a bit mysterious to him as well. He did make clear that the stuff is generally not used to pen sheep. Maybe because their wool would get stuck on it? Anyway, you can view the ewes through May 16 (Buswell says the flock will grow to 20), and they may inspire weightier questions about “the future of the human-terrestrial relationship as expressed through agriculture.”

In an altogether different creative endeavor, Champlain College senior Ali Wisch, a professional writing major, is presenting her first play this weekend — and she’s graduating between the Friday and Saturday shows. The play, titled 25 Squirrels, is, “in essence, a story about a dead cat,” she says. Not one but two species! Actually, the play is more about “the importance of being honest to your friends,” which no doubt looks better on a résumé. So does the fact that Wisch cast and produced the play, booked the venue, arranged the lighting, etc., all while finishing her final semester and working a part-time job. Brava, Ali!

Finally, if you’re in the Upper Valley this Saturday, you may want to pop in at the Hanover Inn for the Great Goose Egg Auction. Somehow the organizers of this biennial fundraiser for the private Open Fields School of Thetford Hill, Vt., rounded up 100 goose, ostrich and duck eggs and then got artists “from all over the world” to turn them into lovely, fragile works of art. The public is invited to, um, shell out for its favorites, and for a good cause.

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