'Borders & Boundaries' at Edgewater Gallery Brings the Bling | Art Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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'Borders & Boundaries' at Edgewater Gallery Brings the Bling


Published June 12, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.

"Haiku" by Alexis Serio - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • "Haiku" by Alexis Serio

A haiku is succinct and seasonal, giving an impression of a moment or thought. It makes sense, then, that Alexis Serio's painting "Haiku," currently on view in "Borders & Boundaries" at Edgewater Gallery at the Falls in Middlebury, restricts its visual language to do the same. Using a few shades of green, pale yellow and lavender, the Texas artist conjures up a spring vista. Her simple, blocky brushstrokes give us a hazy horizon, some young fields in the distance, glimpses of a river and a lush promontory from which to contemplate the scene.

In her artist's statement, Serio describes her paintings as "philosophical and formal investigations about the visual perception of light and color, the personal experience of remembering and inventing, and the natural illusiveness of time." Up close, wide streaks of paint are there for their own sake; farther away, they form familiar-seeming landscapes. She plays with the boundary where paint resolves into something recognizable.

Serio's treatment of that paint is juicy and luscious. In works such as "Threshold," the lip on the edge of a brushstroke catches the light, just the way the edge of a lake might at sunset. Her fluid technique makes these paintings look easy and graceful. Their scale — most are at least 2 by 3 feet — is immersive.

"Torres Del Paine" by Homer Wells - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • "Torres Del Paine" by Homer Wells

"Borders & Boundaries" pairs Serio with Vermont artist Homer Wells, whose "paintings" are actually aluminum panels that he engraves using power tools and drypoint techniques. Some are also coated with thin layers of automotive paint, which creates a colored glow.

Wells' artworks are experiential; as a viewer moves past a piece such as "The Sands of Time," the light catches on planes carved in opposing directions. It seems animated and dimensional — something not apparent in photos.

The artist's subtle coloration is most effective when paired with a highly worked scene, as in "Arctic Sunset" or "Torres Del Paine," where mountains float in a delicate pink sky. Jagged landscapes — mountains, icebergs, dramatic storm clouds — catch the light in the room exactly the way their real counterparts do when seen from above or a distance. This trick of illumination gives the works a more realistic look than the medium would seem to allow.

"Physical Jazz" by Homer Wells - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • "Physical Jazz" by Homer Wells

Wells' paintings are unusual and haunting, an effect that would be better served by showing fewer of them at once. Edgewater's lovely, expansive gallery overlooking the Otter Creek Falls is a perfect setting for larger work — many of Wells' pieces are at least 40 inches wide — but when there are so many shiny objects competing for the viewer's attention, their individual power is muted. Some of the most dramatic works are easily missed in the entranceway.

Several works feature birch trees, using matte and shiny finishes to differentiate black and white. The backgrounds often catch color from elsewhere in the room — an effect that works well with Serio's bright palette.

Wells has a few small-scale yet exciting sculptural pieces in the show, as well, each of them called "Physical Jazz." They are curls of copper, with tiny, twisting fronds like ferns or strange sea creatures. Some are patinaed or torched, giving them a deeper, colorful tone that's warmer than the larger paintings. These works have a playful, experimental sensibility, which is nice to see from a well-established artist.

"Borders & Boundaries" is on view through June 25 at Edgewater Gallery at the Falls in Middlebury. edgewatergallery.co

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