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Down in the Valley

Art Review


Published August 10, 2005 at 4:00 a.m.

EXHIBIT: "A Splash of Color," abstract paintings by Leah Konecny and tapestries by Mary Hill. Northern Power Systems, Waitsfield. Through October 7.

ARTWORK: "Abstract III" by Leah Konecny

Naot many visual-art venues have a 100-foot-tall windmill and solar panels in their front yard, but the headquarters of Northern Power Systems in Waitsfield isn't a typical venue. The art appears on two spacious levels of the efficiently well-lit building. Its current show, entitled "A Splash of Color," will remain on the company's ample walls until the height of the fall foliage season. By then, the vibrant hues created by central Vermont artists Mary Hill and Leah Konecny will have plenty of chromatic competition.

Konecny is an abstractionist, yet several of her paintings have narrative content in the form of cursive writings etched into the wet paint. "Litany" is a multi-panel piece consisting of irregularly spaced, small canvases with cursive writing illegibly scrawled into layers of pale green. The greens were glazed over underpaintings of warm purples and reds, which rise up through the cloudy surfaces.

Konecny's multi-paneled paintings are her most intriguing. "Red Series" is a congregation of five canvases, arranged with the two largest paintings anchoring each end and three smaller, square pieces hung vertically in the middle of the group. All are energetically painted fields of crimson, vermilion and other reds slashed and smeared into the picture planes.

"Abstract III" is a 30-by-36-inch canvas with vertical sections. Greens fill the left and blues the middle, and a red rectangle within a white field is positioned at right. Again, Konecny has scraped lines into the surfaces of some areas, while elsewhere the canvas is just delicately painted. Almost invisible layers of dripped paint, the same color as the rectangles in which they appear, add dimensionality.

Mary Hill calls her works "tapestries," yet without weaving, her banners are technically unstretched paintings. She's a fiber artist nevertheless, adding mixed-media elements such as dried grasses to her banners and hanging them from sticks and dowels. Hill's "Community Banner," approximately 7 feet tall by 5 feet wide, was created specifically for this show. As she explains in her artist's statement, "The 'Community Banner' and the larger panels grew out of my plan to show in this large space. For me, working with images of connection, love and peace are fulfilling."

Hill's figures are often literally connected, like paper dolls, in a symbolic rendering of the theme of "connection." Among her other works are paintings on stretched canvas, which repeat the childlike imagery in simple passages of line drawing and richly scumbled, Chagall-like layers of translucent color.

"Multicolored House" portrays a bungalow with a peaked roof teetering at the edge of a colorful stream filled with expressive fish. Overhead, day transitions into night, with light blue at left, stars and moon at right -- a typical childlike firmament.

"A Splash of Color" is part of this year's Vermont Festival of the Arts, a growing Mad River Valley tradition that is highlighting local galleries and studios for its eighth consecutive year. The festival continues through August 21. Other major exhibitions include the "Big Red Barn Art Show" at the Lareau Farm, featuring about 100 artists; "The Heart of Rug Hooking Exhibit" at the General Wait House; and "The Valley Young Artists of the Year Exhibit" at Bundy Center for the Arts, presenting works by middle- and high-school-age artists.

All those locations, as well as glass and ceramic studios, can be found along the highly scenic Route 100 in Waitsfield. In central Vermont beyond the Interstate, the journey is often as enjoyable as the destination.