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Art Review


EXHIBIT: "Art in the Round Barn," a juried exhibition featuring works by Vermont artists. Round Barn, Waitsfield. Through October 9.

ARTWORK:"High Summer Bee Balm" by Carolyn Enz

Foliage season, a covered bridge, a beautifully restored 1910 round barn: The trip to Waitsfield's annual "Art in the Round Barn" exhibition is as picturesque as it gets. Happily, the juried show at the end of the drive is easy on the eyes, too. The 16th annual all-media exhibition includes about 200 works by nearly 50 Vermont artists, and it's as strong as ever.

Attempts to record local landscape using the meager materials of visual art are ultimately futile. So some of the best landscape artists are interpretive rather than simply descriptive, whether working in paint or other media. In her artist's statement, Pamela Druhen of Northfield writes that she's "completely taken in by the beauty and diversity of the landscape of Vermont." Her tools for the "exploration of light, texture and color" are fabric and thread. Druhen's "Valley View" is a 40-by-60-inch panoramic view of a Green Mountain valley transformed by winter. She utilized a range of techniques, from quilting to embroidery, to render a lively, white-on-white picture plane with glistening details.

Druhen's 32-by-48-inch "Going Home" is a more intimate image - a homestead enclosed by a canopy of trees - and is more colorful and detailed. Its broad border encompasses waves of yellow, sienna and green that capture autumnal light filtering through skillfully embroidered trees.

Norwich painter Georgina Forbes used a complex organization of light, medium and dark values to give mountain grandeur to her 36-by-40-inch oil "Highland Shoals." Yet her harmony of reds, light blue and orange is so over-the-top fiery that it flies beyond realism into the realm of abstraction.

Abstract landscapes are a common theme in the show, in fact. Many of this year's artists - painters in particular - use the genre as a point of departure, whence they seem to seek more mystical and intuitive places.

Adelaide Murphy Tyrol's stated profession is "botanical and natural history illustrator," but she took a break from scientifically accurate works to render a dream world of dramatic light and textures in the 11-foot-long triptych "Monkey Island." Its large central image, a tide-pool island at low tide inhabited by a few spider monkeys, is flanked by four canvasses framed in pairs. Opulent tropical clouds, a branch and a lone monkey appear. It's not clear if Tyrol is portraying a real place, but her vision is believable - with one exotic exception: In the upper right corner of the canvas, a small waterfall flows from a bas relief monkey face, like an odd detail in a lost temple.

Speaking of botany, the plants in Carolyn Enz's "High Summer Bee Balm" are no shrinking violets. Seven of the large, scarlet-blossomed wildflowers dance with abandon across the 48-by-60-inch canvas. Little yellow dots and sinewy green leaves and stalks provide a relatively stable backdrop for the bee balm's spry gavotte. Other large-scale floral works from the Thetford Center painter also use abstract lines and dots to create contrapuntal rhythms.

Table sculpture and other three-dimensional items, including art glass, add variety to the exhibition. Elegantly designed glass bowls and vases by David and Melanie Lapala of Plainfield share an intriguing color harmony of olive green along their top edges and amber below.

"Art in the Round Barn" is further diversified this year by the addition of art outside. More than 35 large and small sculptures by 10 prominent Vermont artists are sited by the ponds and in the fields around the barn, adding to the state's 2006 bumper crop of open-air exhibitions. Whether outside or in, the Round Barn offers a bountiful harvest for art lovers.