EXHIBIT: "First Offerings," a multimedia group show. 215 College Artists' Cooperative Gallery, Burlington. Through April.
ARTWORK: "Weather" by Catherine Hall
Vermont gardens and trees aren't alone in presenting new growth this month. The recently established 215 College Artists' Cooperative Gallery in Burlington is right in step with spring, and its inaugural show is aptly titled "First Offerings." A joint effort of 11 distinguished Vermont artists, coincidently all women, the gallery will host individual and small-group member exhibitions throughout the year. That's a creative model, and a new one for northern Vermont. Judging by the quality of "First Offerings," which includes works by all its members, 215 College promises to be a strong venue.
Spring hues are evident in Sandra Berbeco's wonderfully textured, mixed-media acrylic "Dunes in Spring." The abstract landscape portrays two domed dunes under a silvery sky. Berbeco's uncluttered compositions are built upon horizontal bands of color, and this painting contains the bright greens and earth tones so abundant in this season.
Much brighter and seasonally unspecific is Catherine Hall's encaustic-on-panel abstract painting "Weather." In it, a central sea of sapphire blue mingles with pale grays swirling along the top, left and lower edges. Small areas of red and yellow are blended into the blue, further animating its hue. Hall's smaller, square encaustic "Treasure Trove" contains sheets of silver and gold leaf and glass beads at the top and bottom of the composition, which is painted onto a large ceramic tile. The gold and silver leaf sheets appear to be breaking up, like ice flows on a springtime pond.
The skate is a fish similar to a manta ray, and is common along New England's coastline. Linda E. Jones' encaustic-and-oil, mixed-media paintings entitled "Skate's Egg Drawings" seem like abstractions at first glance. But the three works are actually naturalistic depictions of skate eggs -- weird, four-cornered shapes with horns. Jones presents them as white forms immersed in green and sienna color fields. "Skate's Egg Drawing I" also has fine lines of illegible text, or perhaps just scribbles, to the right of the fish egg. Jones' encaustic is thick and waxy.
That's a popular medium in "First Offerings" -- Diane Gabriel lists encaustic among the many materials in her piece, "Child's Shoe with Thorns." She also notes teabags, thorns, plaster and steel. Her single shoe on a pedestal is inventive, and is easily the most sculptural piece in the show. Split-open tea bags give the odd work a translucent, pale-brown color. A dozen long thorns, which provide a bed for the shoe, manage to appear sinister and delicate at the same time.
Tea dye imparts a similarly organic brown to the six textile squares -- perhaps cloth napkins -- of Jude Bond's "Scorch" series. The works are tri-layered: An iron-scorched linen is sewn onto each square, and photo-transferred silk portraits of early-20th-century women are sewn onto the linens. Bond's six pre-Teflon irons each left a different pattern. The domestic drudgery implied in the textiles contrasts with the fancy dresses and well-coiffed hair of the women in the portraits.
Rosie Prevost presents luminous landscape scenes in her silver-gelatin prints, and her grays and blacks are crisply focused. "Untitled (Picnic)" shows a thick-trunked tree at right and an empty picnic table beneath its curving branches. Prevost contrasts those broad shapes with small details, such as grasses and budding shrubs, on two distinct horizons -- foreground and mid-ground. The deepest portions of the space are misty and indistinct.
"First Offerings" is a multimedia show that also includes collage and printmaking. 215 College Artists' Cooperative Gallery is located one flight up from H&R Block on the corner of College and South Winooski Avenue -- well positioned to attract stray taxpayers this week. And who knows? If visitors make out all right on the first floor, maybe they'll invest in art on the second.