- "The Lowing" by Bonnie Baird
There are landscape paintings — oh, so many of them — and then there are paintings of the land as home. Bonnie Baird's work falls in the latter camp. A current exhibition at Northern Daughters in Vergennes puts her familiarity with place on display. The title, "Tethered," is apt: Baird was raised on a 730-acre dairy farm in Vermont, gallery text explains, and she and her husband, Robert, are the third generation to manage their dairy and maple farm in North Chittenden. Thus is Baird tied to the land.
"Working in the natural environment every day in every kind of weather allows her to truly feel the horizon; warm or cold, dark or light, intimate or expansive," reads her website.
Adds gallerist Justine Jackson in a press statement, "[W]e find this knowing so evident in her work."
And yet Baird is not exactly a plein air artist. Indeed, given the endless demands of a working farm, it's a wonder she finds any time to sit at an easel. According to Jackson, Baird paints from memory. That is why, Jackson suggests, the works "all feel so alive and show our home through the loving lens of a lifelong Vermonter."
But Baird's paintings show something else: isolation. Solitude. Serenity. Her tableaux contain the barest hints of animal or human life. Her palette is subdued — no verdant hillsides or shouty foliage. Ironically, Baird's canvases scarcely identify Vermont at all. Her open vistas set the horizon line far away, rarely serrated with mountains. She gently pulls our attention to the distance and upward, where we find unexpected seduction in the sky, clouds and light.
But here, too, Baird is exquisitely subtle, proffering not sunshine but the transitional illumination before sunrise or after sunset, before or after a storm. As poet William Blake found a world in a grain of sand, Baird observes endless possibilities in these liminal moments.
"Tethered" is on view through November 30.