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On the Right Path

Art Review


Published September 7, 2005 at 4:00 a.m.

EXHIBIT:"Exposed! 2005," an annual outdoor sculpture exhibit featuring 21 regional artists. Helen Day Art Center, Stowe. Through October 15.

ARTWORK: "Grounded" by Shannon Matthew Long

The old painter's dig that "sculpture is what one walks around to get to the paintings" certainly doesn't apply to the Helen Day Art Center's annual outdoor sculpture show, "Exposed!" The exhibition is mounted along meandering (though handicap-accessible) paths that are worth traversing in their own right. And the sculptures to be discovered there this year are among the best outdoor works in Vermont. Twenty artists were accepted for the 2005 show; their aesthetic approaches include figurative, abstract and earth art in a variety of media.

Earth art, perhaps best exemplified by Robert Smithson's monumental "Spiral Jetty" of 1970, is about altering nature without overt environmental degradation, while sculpturally reconnecting society and landscape. Montpelier artist Peter Harris transforms dead trees into such earthworks, and his contributions to "Exposed!" are always a highlight of the show. His "Re-Forest I" is a deceased deciduous specimen, perhaps a box elder, with strips of birch bark nailed along the trunk creating alternating gray and white bands of tonality. The tree trunk dangles over a stream, and will eventually fall into it as the piece disintegrates.

Shannon Matthew Long's "Grounded" makes a different kind of organic statement with adobe. The Johnson-based sculptor fashioned a form resembling a hollow wave, with a light-gray textural exterior and dark concave interior, which includes steel reinforcing rods. Handprints, left from smoothing and shaping the mud-like medium, have solidified -- a reminder of the artist's energy in creating the piece.

Leila Bandar, also of Johnson, combined pipes and other tubular steel items to construct her large-scale work, "Chain Reaction." The connected tubes result in a veritable forest of interrelated images.

Natural science is also at the root of "Ode to Charlotte" by Burlington artist Kate Pond. On the lawn of the Helen Day she has installed a 20-foot-long abstraction in cut-steel sections. Its title refers to the white whale skeleton -- now the state fossil -- discovered in Charlotte in 1849. Pond has captured the undulation of a sounding whale in an interesting way.

Figurative sculptures also appear in "Exposed!" Trina Zide's "The Mavens" are described as "abstractions of living forms in Vermont." The Shelburne artist created a pair of birdlike objects and positioned them directly on the ground. Though the work is not specifically allegorical, one of her forms is a bit like a dove. The other is a rusty, craggy, mechanical-looking creature. "War and Peace" would have been a reasonable title, but Zide allows viewers to make their own subliminal connections. She also created a strong composition with the installation of "The Mavens."

"Eurynome" by Nicole Terreri, yet another Johnson artist, is the silhouette of a dancer crafted in steel and copper. The mythological Eurynome was rather sprightly for a Titan -- one of the gods who ruled the Earth before the Olympians -- and Terreri's portrait is suitably bulky, yet graceful. The negative space around the dancer makes her seem light on her pedestal, and her copper "skin" has developed a rich patina

Harris' "Re-Forest I" is perhaps the only piece that will ultimately decay entirely, but the elements eventually take a toll on all outdoor sculpture. And this isn't necessarily all bad -- would the Great Sphinx of Giza be as mysterious with its nose intact? Some of the works in "Exposed!" are weathering well already.