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Sweet 16

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EXHIBIT: "Studio Show," works by members of Burlington City Arts' photography, clay and printmaking studios. Firehouse Gallery, Burlington. Through December 17.

ARTWORK: Ceramic vessels by George Breisch Gonzalez

A vibrant show of ceramics, photography and prints fills the Firehouse Gallery this month, the work of 16 members of the Burlington City Arts community studios in those media. Titled simply "Studio Show," it highlights "the diversity of processes used in the studios and the abundant talents of local emerging and professional artists," according to the exhibition card. BCA studio facilities are well equipped and, as the show demonstrates, successfully utilized.

A series of three silver-gelatin prints by Jeremy Gantz, collectively called "Untitled (nude behind glass)," were produced at the Firehouse Community Darkroom. The dramatic 16-by-18-inch photographs focus on the torso of a supple female model as she poses behind a pane of glass. Her pale skin contrasts with a dark - though not completely black - background. In a manner akin to several works by noted photographer Edward Weston, Gantz subtly modulates values with a judicious use of diffused light.

In 1998, master printmaker Don Hanson instituted the first BCA "Print Project" to raise funds for a community-owned etching press. Print Studio 250, located in the Memorial Auditorium Annex, is a direct result of that effort.

Burlington artist, educator and print studio member Lyna Lou Nordstrom is best known for her monotypes. Though she's an accomplished abstractionist, her vertically oriented floral prints in this show are almost childlike. The mixed-media 16-by-24-inch monotype entitled "Peeking Through" presents five tall tulips, organized from left to right as yellow, red, yellow, white and purple and standing against an expressive chine-collé background in crimson. Nordstrom's fine lines, reminiscent of the delicate ones etched by Paul Klee, meander upward enchantingly. "Emerging Tulips" restates the initial flowers, but its harmony of hues unfolds before a Naples-yellow background of thinly applied oils. Nordstrom's pair of tulip prints captures different two moods with the same subject: a sense of urgency in the first and calm in the second.

The BCA Clay and Craft Studio, also located at Memorial Auditorium, is the newest facility. The web page of the nicely appointed space boasts of "three classrooms, 14 pottery wheels, three kilns, a slab roller, extruder and a wide variety of hand tools . . .." This studio has yielded some of the most dynamic works in the current exhibit.

"Five Days to Impermanence," an unfired red earthenware installation by Clay Studio Manager Catherine Hastings Abraham, is an aggregation of 10 hand-built, ascending conical forms. The irregularly twisted shapes stand like exotic stalagmites - the tallest piece approaches 6 feet high. Abraham did more than design inventive shapes; she also worked their surfaces, dragging her fingers over the clay to render concentric swirls in the forms.

George Breisch Gonzalez's large, iridescent raku vessels are equally inventive. A 24-inch-tall sake-bottle form seems constructed from a patchwork of clay, each section of which is glazed differently. Warm earth tones, deep salmon and a foil-like, opaque blue appear on the bottle. In each of his works here, Gonzalez demonstrates a keen insight into the wizardry of raku's chemical reactions. His introduction of a leaf motif on several of the vessels is a particularly magical decorative element.

Membership fees at BCA's studios range from $50 to $100 a month (discounts for longer periods), making them accessible to many deserving Burlington-area artists, though by no means all. Scholarships are available, however, for the studios' educational opportunities, and funds raised through "Studio Show" sales will no doubt assist with that mission. Luckily, the works in this exhibition would make fine gifts for any art lover.

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