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Barn to Be Wild

Art Review


Published March 16, 2005 at 5:00 a.m.

EXHIBIT: "Honoring the Barn," a group show in multiple media. Shelburne Craft School's Gallery on the Green, Shelburne. Through April.

ARTWORK: "Sabra's Barn" by Leonard Duffy

The new Gallery on the Green exhibition, entitled "Honoring the Barn," is about more than rural architecture. Each of the nine artists in the show looked beyond cupolas and rustic gables to produce images that transcend specific places. The exhibiting artists include five painters, two photographers, a printmaker and a ceramist. Many of the show's images are primarily abstract, highlighting the geometry and simplicity of barns. Others are evocative of memories and moods, presenting barns as poetic structures rather than merely bovine domiciles.

Anne Cady's oils belong to the evocative camp. The title "To Be There Again on My Golden Horse II" suggests she is recapturing a memory. The painting is a collection of connected structures, including a barn with cupola, painted in an almost folksy style. The New Haven artist's buildings are bright red with white trim, but their shadows are layers of color that add up to black.

"Barre Barn" is one of two large-scale drawings in graphite by Vergennes artist Denis Versweyveld. A pale sun hangs behind a barn's roofline and hay is heaped up in the foreground with decisive strokes of silvery graphite. His "Grove Street Barn" is equally well executed, with a composition situated along a sloping horizontal axis that adds movement to the drawing.

Connecticut artist S. Chandler Kissell works in watercolors and oil. "The Red Tractor (Tinmouth, Vermont)" is a golden-yellow canvas of a decaying barn on top of a hill. A shadowy tractor is nestled inside the barn. "Checkered Collars (Whiting, Vermont)" is a loose watercolor of twin silos. It's beautifully painted in nearly monochromatic pale blues and gray.

David Orser of Plainfield, Maine, describes his earthy stoneware ceramics as "a melting pot of ideas and techniques." His pieces are barn forms but often vessels as well. "Barn w/Lid and Interior Maze" has a secret compartment in its roof; and his round "Hancock Shaker Barn" is actually a lidded bowl.

Marshall Webb grew up at Shelburne Farms. He describes his family homestead as having "some of the most incredible barns in the world," and that isn't hyperbole. Webb's photography is almost as incredible - he's an adept colorist. In "Full Moon Rising," highly saturated hues of indigo and mauve creep across a flock of sheep, while the Adirondacks appear purple in the distance. "South Tower Detail" is a corner of the Tudor-styled Farm Barn at Shelburne Farms. Dark exterior timbers and olive-green details contrast with its ruddy masonry.

The other photographer in the show is Charlotte artist Gary Hall. His "Intersection" is a black-and-white giclée print focusing on the lines and shapes of a barn's roof and silos. Values are smoothly modulated throughout the image.

Leonard Duffy of Hinesburg is an abstractionist working in the tradition of Milton Avery, producing inventive images in flat spaces using a limited array of colors. In his "Sabra's Barn," patterns of jagged lines create a contrapuntal rhythm against hulking triangles and rectangles. Duffy skillfully alters warm and cool whites in the snowy roofs, and grays in the negative space of the sky.

Ferrisburgh artist Judith Rey is even more minimal; her paintings are soft-edged geometric abstractions. "Red Barn #2" is a strong abstraction with three horizontal bands of red and grays and a vertical line of green at the left. The title indicates the subject is a barn, but by any name this is a successful piece with a shallow space and a warm surface.

Michael Cassidy's barns are the most literal of the exhibition. He works with waterless lithography, which gives great character to the quality of his lines. His "Before Sunset" is a precisionist rendering of an abandoned barn. Cassidy's eye for detail includes attention to light, as evidenced by the long shadows drifting over an overgrown pasture. "Along the Road" has a two-lane road in front of a decaying barn with gaps in its walls. On its roof Cassidy has created the textures of rusted tin.

The most common barn type in New England is known as the English barn - it has a straight-edged roof and doors on the side. Bulky Dutch barns are the classic "barn-shaped" structures prevalent in most other parts of the country, but Vermont has some of those, too, as well as round barns. This exhibit shows all three, while also "honoring" the metaphysical kind.

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