At 'Exposed' in Stowe, Sculptors Consider the Future | Art Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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At 'Exposed' in Stowe, Sculptors Consider the Future


Published September 28, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.

  • Courtesy Of Paul Rogers Photography
  • "Arise" by Leslie Fry;

Last year, Stowe's annual outdoor sculpture show, "Exposed," talked at visitors: Text-based works expressed specific messages, often regarding ongoing social justice issues. At this year's version, people can write their own messages in chalk on one of the sculptures: "Dream Home Dream," a colorfully painted plywood playhouse-like structure by Montpelier artist Rob Hitzig that's sited, appropriately, in front of Stowe's town hall.

The whole exhibition takes a much lighter turn this year, according to cocurators Rachel Moore and Alexandra Sherrill. It's about "how to move on, the future, dreams," said Moore, executive director and director of exhibitions at the Current, 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.

Winooski resident Leslie Fry's cast-bronze "Arise," one of four works on the gallery's front lawn, expresses an irrepressible hope and joy — an impressive feat, given that the artist considers it her "COVID sculpture." (She first modeled it in plaster in March 2020.)

One of Fry's signature hybrid figures, the bird woman of "Arise" is poised to take off from her pedestal wearing fashionable platform boots. Her wings are still wrapped around her — each feather ends in the shape of a small hand — but her head looks up and toward a future that leaves a slight, confident smile on her face.

"1_365th of an Orbit" by Lydia Kern - AMY LILLY
  • Amy Lilly
  • "1_365th of an Orbit" by Lydia Kern

From where she's positioned, the bird woman might fly right through Lydia Kern's "1_365th of an Orbit." The airy arch, 10 by eight feet with a three-foot depth, is roofed with pink vinyl; its plywood structure is painted all the colors of a spectacular sunset or sunrise. Monumental arches traditionally commemorate pivotal historic moments; this one celebrates an endlessly repeated one — a day — whose visual markers appear and fade so gradually that their grandeur is often missed.

"We live and rest between the colors of sunrise and sunset," Kern of Winooski says on an audio commentary. (Each artist provided one, accessible through QR codes on the panels.) "Can we replace our rushed relationship with time with a sense of awe?"

Morrisville sculptor Judith Wrend's kinetic work "The Dreaming Mind" allows for more contemplation; in fact, she advises viewers to "let go of your thoughts" and just watch. The aluminum work's horizontal arc, bearing painted shapes at its ends, rotates with the wind atop a thin post secured with two flared panels. The panels have cutouts that echo the arc's shapes: A circle and a triangular notch affect the work's ever-changing visual balance.

"Barns-RGB" by Scott Boyd - AMY LILLY
  • Amy Lilly
  • "Barns-RGB" by Scott Boyd

The lawn's fourth installation, a trio of mass-produced-looking barn-shaped structures called "Barns-RGB," are Stowe artist Scott Boyd's jarring marriage of pastoral imagery with corporate maneuvers: He means the four-foot-high, pastel-painted trio to evoke Monopoly pieces.

These minimalist forms, with their identical rows of window-like rectangles, need maintenance to preserve their industrial look: Boyd regularly mows their grassy site, then blows away the clippings. (Similarly, Hitzig hosed down "Dream Home Dream" in order to make room for more commentary in chalk.)

  • Courtesy Of Paul Rogers Photography
  • "Blue Gilead" by Murray Dewart

One contribution to "Exposed" won't change in our lifetimes: "Blue Gilead," by Brookline, Mass., sculptor Murray Dewart, a widely collected artist originally from St. Johnsbury. The polished blue-painted aluminum structure, evocative of a Japanese torii gate, is mounted on a granite base along Main Street. Its perfectly symmetrical design encloses a circle in which, according to the audio commentary, "all things merge."

Johnson-based Harlan Mack is not interested in polish. His Corten steel sculpture "Abound and Again" is well rusted; tree stumps chained together encircle its base. It's 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 like three slices of a sphere topped with cutouts of buildings, smoke plumes, trees, houses, an octopus' tentacles — all the swirling life of a small world.

"Abound and Again" by Harlan Mack - AMY LILLY
  • Amy Lilly
  • "Abound and Again" by Harlan Mack

According to Mack's audio clip, "Abound and Again" addresses "themes of abundance." But, like everything this multimedia artist creates, it also expands his ongoing artistic narrative set in a mythic time and featuring recurring characters. In this case, the sheets of steel mimic the pages of a pop-up book depicting a giant octopus communing with the rain at a time of few remaining humans. The sphere is "a rage tank for unwanted emotion," Mack explained by email.

The final two works sit along the Stowe Recreation Path. One is meant to be walked on: Juniper Creative Arts' "Dandelion Wishes," a colorful mural applied to the blacktop using paint sturdy enough to last two years.

Juniper Creative Arts is a Brandon-based Black and Dominican family collective comprising Will Kasso Condry; his wife, Jennifer Herrera Condry; and their daughter, Alexa Herrera Condry. Will recently won the inaugural Vermont Prize, awarded by the curators of the Current, Burlington City Arts, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, and the Hall Art Foundation in Reading, along with a guest curator from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Juniper designs and produces — often with community input and help — murals that set the lives and stories of the African diaspora in imagined worlds of natural and symbolic beauty. "Dandelion Wishes" invites passersby to traverse the weed from its root to its branching leaves to its stem — depicted as a dragonfly touching noses with a snake — to its puff: two young brothers' faces encircled with abstract shapes.

"Dream Home Dream" by Rob Hitzig - AMY LILLY
  • Amy Lilly
  • "Dream Home Dream" by Rob Hitzig

Nature plays a different role farther along the path. Hinesburg artist Brian Collier's "Change Markers" highlights Vermont's invasive species by displaying their roots prominently at the tops of three eight-foot-tall triangular, pillar-like structures.

The common buckthorn and Amur honeysuckle roots 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, would have used site-specific knotweed, he wrote in an email, but that plant's roots wouldn't have lasted the length of the exhibition. He considers their spatial inversion — from underground to the level of treetops — a visual metaphor for ecological change.

Collier built the supporting structures from ash (which is itself threatened by the emerald ash borer) solely with wood joinery; the whole work is meant to disintegrate in place over time. It's also intended to prompt viewers to notice local ecological shifts and consider positive actions they can take. His approach is less alarmist than that of many contemporary ecological artists these days, and it's fitting for a show that promotes positivity over prescriptiveness. 

The original print version of this article was headlined "LookingOut"