Brattleboro Museum and Art Center: Talismans, mirages and flights of fancy
The opening features a group show of nine artists whose artwork incorporates images of animals. Also on display will be two installations by women coming to terms with personal loss; an exhibit celebrating the 25th anniversary of Brattleboro's In-Sight Photography Project; and an interactive exhibit inspired by artists who have been inspired by birds.
The exhibits open to the general public Saturday at 11 a.m.
The inspiration for "Touchstones, Totems, Talismans: Animals in Contemporary Art" dates back to the 2004 BMAC exhibit, "Andy Warhol: The Jon Gould Collection."
According to BMAC Chief Curator Mara Williams, the most commented-on works in that show were the large prints from Warhol's 1983 Endangered Species portfolio. "Observing visitors' reactions to those powerful images," said Williams, "I sensed that their aesthetic experiences were enriched by the deep connections humans have with animals, both domestic and wild."
The new exhibit includes three prints from that Warhol portfolio — Giant Panda, Siberian Tiger, and Bald Eagle — alongside paintings, prints, drawings, and sculpture by Walton Ford, Bharti Kher, Colleen Kiely, Stephen Petegorsky, Shelley Reed, Jane Rosen, Michal Rovner, and Rick Shaefer.
In her essay accompanying the exhibit, Williams writes, "The selected works are diverse in intention and execution. Some are humorous; others are unsettling. All invite contemplation of the various ways in which animals inhabit our personal experiences, our cultural history, and our common world."
Williams and several of the exhibiting artists will lead a gallery tour on Sunday, Dec. 3, at 1 p.m.
In the museum's Mary Sommer Room and East Gallery, visitors will encounter installations by Anila Quayyum Agha and Joan O'Beirne, respectively, each of which deals with the loss of a loved one.
Agha's "Shimmering Mirage" consists of a hollow steel cube hanging in the center of the gallery, with a 600-watt light bulb inside. The sides of the cube are incised with intricate patterns inspired by Islamic architecture. When the bulb is turned on, light passes through the sides of the cube casting crisp shadows on the walls, floor, ceiling, and all who are in the gallery.
"The installation magnifies the sculpture's floral and geometric motifs to inhabit a large space," said Agha, "covering and beautifying all within it, and suggesting the underlying orderliness of the cosmos revealed through the purity and symmetry of geometric design."
"The Scarf," by Joan O'Beirne, a new work funded in part by a grant from the Vermont Community Foundation's Vermont Arts Endowment Fund, comprises photographs, video, and a giant scarf fashioned out of bright orange industrial extension cords. Draped over a ladder and extending onto the gallery floor, the eponymous scarf is anything but warm and comforting. On the gallery walls behind it are a video depicting hands knitting the curious object and a large photograph of a tattered extension cord, printed on one-foot-square panels of brushed and burnished aluminum.
O'Beirne dedicated "The Scarf" to the memory of her brother, who took his life in June 2000.
"The three works in this installation — sculpture, video, and photograph — reflect the improbable effort of extracting sense from experience," she said. "All of them include aspects of tension, trauma, and the physical manifestation of transformation."
O'Beirne will give a free artist talk on Thursday, Jan. 11, at 7 p.m.
"In-Sight Exposed," on view in the museum's South Gallery, marks the 25th anniversary of Brattleboro's In-Sight Photography Project. Curator Rachel Portesi selected the photographs in the exhibit from among thousands of images created over the years by In-Sight students. The exhibit illustrates the variety of media taught and the range of programs offered by In-Sight, including analog and digital prints; video from the Exposures Cross-Cultural Program in South Dakota; a montage of project prints; photographs of students at work; and a booklet of interviews with photographers. Portesi and In-Sight co-founder John Willis will give a free talk about the exhibit and the history of In-Sight Photography Project on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m.
In the museum's Ticket Gallery, BMAC Education Curator Linda Whelihan has assembled images of iconic artworks inspired by birds, from Leonardo's sketches of flying machines to Ai Wei Wei's design for the Olympic stadium in Beijing. "Your Space: Flights of Fancy" invites visitors of all ages to create their own sculptures and drawings inspired by those masterworks. For those requiring more animated source material, Michael Clough of the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum will bring live falcons, owls, and hawks to BMAC for a special presentation on Saturday, Jan. 20, at 11 a.m.
In addition to the five new exhibits, "Constellations: Roger Sandes," which opened on Sept. 1, remains on view in the museum's Center Gallery.
For more information, call 802-257-0124 or visit www.brattleboromuseum.org.
Major support for BMAC is provided by its members, Allen Brothers Oil, C&S Wholesale Grocers, David Walter Goldsmith & Platinumsmith, the Four Columns Inn, People's United Bank, Sam's Outdoor Outfitters, and Whetstone Station Restaurant & Brewery.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.