EXHIBIT:Art's Alive 20th Annual Festival of Fine Art, group show at Union Station, Burlington. Through June 17.
Sidewalk Chalk Pastel Competition for adults and children, City Hall Park, Burlington. June 10, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Info, 864-1557.
ARTWORK:"NYC: From the Train II" by Judith Rey
Twenty years after its inception, the Burlington nonprofit Art's Alive is still kicking, with its annual array of art exhibits in individual Church Street store windows and show of juried artists at Union Station. The festival's ability to attract new participants is evidence of its continued popularity, and this year's offerings are particularly strong. The first-place winner of the juried show is painter Phebe Mott of Hinesburg; second place went to Essex clay sculptor John Brickels, and third to painter Carol Boileau of Andover, Mass.
One of the newcomers in the group show is Robert Hitzig. Co-owner of the recently established Lazy Pear Gallery in Montpelier, he is also an exceptional sculptor of wood. His wall sculpture titled "Montpelierus Acer" seems equally influenced by Polynesian masks and American pop culture. The 4-foot-high, thinly vertical abstract figure has beady eyes and is topped with a jagged butch haircut. Hitzig employed a slice of blonde, curly maple for his whimsical image, then carved and finished it with exceptional craftsmanship.
Verticality seems a popular orientation this year. At roughly 6 feet tall and 40 inches wide, Graham Keegen's oil-on-paper abstraction "Your Ascent" is one of the largest works at Union Station. Keegen's phantasmagorical aggregation of bubbly, lime-green circles, surreal white stairs and smooth loops unfolds over a rich red-orange background. The theme of ascension is conveyed by a subtle, vermicular mass of abstract shapes rising and diminishing in space, like a winding trail climbing a hillside.
The oil pastel "Two Views" by Helene Amses is a vertical diptych presenting two views of a placid river. Amses matted and framed together a duet of long horizontal compositions -- one atop the other. The upper composition portrays a wooded riverbank, while the lower looks downstream, the riverbanks receding to a vanishing point. Amses activates her muted hues of pale blue, yellow and gray with rhythmic, staccato scratches across her oil-pastel surfaces. She also skillfully modulates values, beckoning the eye with white along the horizon lines of both landscapes.
"NYC: From the Train II" by Judith Rey is a Hopperesque cityscape, defined by a solid composition of angles and rectangles. In fact, the roughly 30-by-40-inch oil on canvas contains no curves at all. Rey portrays a tilted, red brick wall, as if from a snapshot taken out of a passing train. A geometric matrix of warm and cool grays surrounds the building's façade. The sky is steely gray, and the building's shadows are closely keyed deep blues, browns and black. The upper quarter of Rey's canvas is horizontally bisected by a wide, black power line in the extreme foreground. It's the only line that isn't gently angled vis-à-vis the edges of the picture plane. By virtue of Rey's spatial organization, "NYC: From the Train II" is a very sophisticated painting.
Photography has always been included in the Art's Alive show at Union Station, and two of the strongest photographic works this year are Eugene Garron's hand-tinted "This Old Farm" and Bruce Pendelton's stop-action shot, "The Golf Ball." Garron captured a ramshackle homestead with five planters full of flowers in the middle of its yard. The planters are made of cast-off metal cans and other detritus. Three bunches of flowers are fiery crimson; two are bright yellow. Garron also tinted trees and clumps of grass green, and the rest of the scene was imparted with warm sepia tones. Pendelton's "The Golf Ball" is a monochromatic, close-up digital photo of icy blue that captures the precise instant when a golf ball splashes into water.
About 40 artists are featured in the 2006 edition of Art's Alive. Participation has fluctuated over the years, as has the organization's leadership, but here's hoping it will continue to grow and thrive in its third decade.