EXHIBIT:"Hair," a show of art made from, or inspired by, hair. Main Gallery; and "T-Shirt," different takes on the American icon, Second Floor Gallery, Studio Place Arts, Barre. Through September 23.
ARTWORK:"Hairsbreadth" by Jude Bond
Barre's Studio Place Arts can easily be described as central Vermont's most dynamic visual arts venue. Its three floors of studios and classroom space exude creative activity, and there's a gallery on each level, invariably featuring top-quality talent from Vermont and beyond. SPA has also created a unique identity by regularly focusing shows with inventive themes. Two this month are "Hair," in the Main Gallery, and "T-Shirt," in the smaller Second Floor Gallery.
The former comprises works made from or inspired by hair - human or animal. Two of the hair pieces are wall hangings. "Hairsbreadth," a roughly 3-by-4-foot 1998 work by Burlington artist Jude Bond, is more straight-laced than the better-known textiles she creates from cut and reassembled feminine undergarments. "Hairsbreadth" is a more formalist, decorative piece featuring nine crimson squares woven into a field of mixed hues.
Eve Jacob-Carnahan of Montpelier created a similarly scaled, double-layered hanging entitled "Contemplative Window II," dated 2005. The sheets of naturally colored wool and yarn are surprisingly translucent.
Burlington artist Maea Brandt's geisha-wig-inspired drawings and prints fuse Pop Art with traditional Japanese line-drawing styles. "Japanese Hair," dated 2002, employs copper-plate etching and digital transfer to present two images: a traditional colored print transfer on the right side of a sheet of Arches paper, and a line drawing of just the figure's wig at left.
Burlington artist-architect Bren Alvarez has contributed a unique 2004 photographic self-portrait to the show. The 4-foot-tall vertical shot in muted colors focuses on the back of the artist's head. Her long hair, approaching salt-and-pepper, is held in place with a needle-secured cloth barrette with a Mexican design. Alvarez is also the director of the Flynndog gallery in Burlington,
Although the pieces in the "T-Shirt" exhibition tend to be life-sized, most are unwearable variations on the American icon. Ritula Fraenkel, from Darmstadt, Germany, created a shirt out of pictorial clothing labels and advertisements; the result is entitled "Shedding." Her shirt has varied textures and seems to have been hardened with varnish or acrylic mediums.
Other pieced-together paper products include: Northfield Falls artist Robin LeHue's "Tea Shirt," crafted from more than 100 tea bags; and Waterbury artist and gallery owner Axel Stohlberg's "Dark Venti w/Soy," assembled from circular coffee filters. These two hang next to each other, and both are tinted pale brown by their respective beverages.
There's no telling what might be entered into a theme show at SPA. Past exhibitions have featured poignant, disturbing or serious works in addition to the ironic, playful and downright silly pieces that appear among the present offerings. But at least since the days of Dada, fine art has assumed a role in society that simply reflects culture, rather than attempting to transform it with high-and-mighty pronouncements. Fun may be just what we need these days.