EXHIBIT: "Life Constructions," sculpture, painting and constructions by Jane Horner, June Campbell and Sharon Webster. VCAM Space, Burlington. Through March.
ARTWORK: "Vine Cupboard" by Sharon Webster
The VCAM Space is a new visual art venue in a very creative neighborhood -- Burlington's Flynn Avenue. Located within the post-industrial complex of buildings fronted by the Flynndog gallery, VCAM -- a.k.a. Vermont Community Access Media -- is blessed with ample wall space. The debut exhibition, "Life Constructions," features works by Jane Horner, June Campbell and Sharon Webster. It suggests a promising future.
Campbell's "Tax Map #99" is a modest but well-executed little painting that at first glance seems totally abstract. Its flat central shape floats groundlessly in a mauve space. Within the central form are blue, green and red rectangles, along with white dots outlined in black -- shapes reminiscent of Native American artistic idioms. Campbell's pictographic image represents a totally different worldview, however, especially when you recognize the dots as dwellings and the lines as streets.
Horner's delicate hanging sculpture, cryptically titled "Afterwards OOLC," is even more oblique. Its two forms -- a crumpled cloud of fine wire with the casing of a spent bullet dangling below -- are ominous and beautiful at the same time.
Campbell and Horner present strong artworks, but Webster's constructions dominate the show. Northern Vermont art viewers can finally see the pieces that were exhibited last December at the Southern Vermont Art Center. A reviewer from the Manchester Journal wrote at the time that Webster's constructions are "poignantly expressive." That appraisal seems particularly true of "Target" -- a scoreless black-white-and-gray dartboard that has been hit by three white darts. Perhaps the image expresses an existential conundrum, as it seems to make no difference whether the darts strike the center or somewhere nearer the rim. In this game, the act of throwing the darts is more important than where they land (the journey is more important than the destination?). Keeping score is futile and irrelevant.
Other Webster constructions are less easy to "read," but equally successful aesthetically. "Vine Cupboard" is exactly what the title says it is: a cupboard stuffed with dried vines. Nearly all her wall-mounted works are made from natural materials -- wood, paper, dried grasses, twigs -- so her colors are gentle and often monochromatic. She also juxtaposes textures with ease.
"Scrolls 1 & 2" are 5-foot-tall vertical works hung high on a VCAM wall. Webster is a writer as well as a visual artist, and several of her pieces contain words. Shredded bits of text, along with lengths of twig, appear within both scrolls. The 4-foot-tall "Hanging File" features five narrow shelves loaded with a sequence of grasses, twigs and a torn-up book. "Singing Grass Rack" includes words and sheet music.
Is there meaning to Webster's works, or are they simply engaging formal statements? It's impossible to view her constructions without thinking of Dada and Surrealism, and the question of meaning was certainly relevant in works by Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Cornell and other artists of those genres. There seems to be some logic, a hidden order, in Webster's creations, but she doesn't need to explain.
A pleasing ambiguity seems to be the thread that unifies the works of all three artists in "Life Constructions." What's perfectly clear is that VCAM's first exhibition is solid.