In announcing its first biennial exhibit, the Boston-area DeCordova Sculpture Park & Museum says it will be “highlighting artists from across New England” with “an emphasis on quality.” A total of 17 artists have been selected for the show that opens next January: seven from Massachusetts, four from Maine, three from Connecticut, two from Rhode Island, one from New Hampshire ... and zero from Vermont.
Does that mean, in the DeCordova’s view, that Vermont artists are producing inferior work? Or that the state isn’t home to real New Englanders?
No dis was intended, insists Dina Deitsch, the show’s curator. “It’s not our goal to represent the full New England art scene,” she says. “We’re taking a snapshot and not trying to present the whole picture. I do know there are many good artists in Vermont.”
Deitsch says she viewed work by Vermonters in several exhibitions as part of a selection process involving more than 150 artists. She also consulted with the Firehouse Gallery in Burlington and with Vermont collector Mark Waskow. In choosing pieces that “give a taste of what sort of issues artists are grappling with today,” Deitsch was advised by a three-member panel composed of mavens from Yale University, the Portland Museum of Art and the Boston CyberArts Festival.
Located in Lincoln, Mass. — about 20 miles west of Boston — the DeCordova bills itself as New England’s largest museum of modern and contemporary American art. Before switching to an every-other-year schedule, the museum organized 20 annual exhibits showcasing regional artists. None of those shows included work from all six New England states, Deitsch says.
Denizens of the Vermont art scene aren’t assuaged.
Amanda Sanfilippo, assistant curator at the Firehouse, acknowledges that Vermont is associated much more with traditional landscape paintings than with avant-garde experimentation. “The number of Vermont artists participating in the contemporary art world is fairly small, and there aren’t a lot of collectors of contemporary work here,” she adds.
But Sanfilippo still finds it “disturbing — incredible, really” that the DeCordova’s inaugural biennial omits work from Vermont. “The scene may not be large here,” she says, “but it’s intensely vibrant.”