BRATTLEBORO >> In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) presents an exhibit featuring the work of nine contemporary artists exploring issues related to guns. "Up in Arms: Taking Stock of Guns," opens to the public Saturday, and remains on view through Oct. 23. While the exhibit is on view, BMAC will host a series of lectures, panel discussions, and artist talks providing a variety of opportunities for visitors to delve into one of today's most vexing social issues.
Four other exhibits will open at BMAC alongside "Up in Arms" They are "The Stilled Passage: Photographs of Un-Restored Ellis Island," "Union Station: Gateway to the World," "Chaos and Light: Jamie Young," and "Your Space/Imagination Station." A preview reception for BMAC members and the exhibiting artists is scheduled for Friday, at 5:30 p.m.
According to Director Danny Lichtenfeld, BMAC has been developing "Up in Arms" for several years. "That the exhibit is slated to open so soon after the horrific shooting in Orlando is a devastating reminder of our society's fraught relationship with guns," said Lichtenfeld. "We sincerely hope the timing of the exhibit does not cause anyone any additional pain."
Lichtenfeld added that BMAC does not take a political stance on guns and gun control, but rather seeks to share the ideas and work of a range of artists influenced by guns, and to provide a platform for reasoned discussion. "Our job as a non-profit museum and art center is not to provide answers, but to ask questions and to do what we can to stimulate helpful conversation around a difficult issue."
As is typical of BMAC exhibits, "Up in Arms" features work by both internationally renowned and emerging artists. The famed Chinese artist Liu Bolin is represented by the photograph "Hiding in New York No. 9 - Gun Rack." One wall of the museum will be devoted to an installation of photographs by Kyle Cassidy, who traveled around the United States taking pictures of gun owners in their homes and asking the, "Why do you own a gun?" Other artists featured in the exhibit are Linda Bond, Madeline Fan, Susan Graham, Jane Hammond, Don Nice, Sabine Pearlman, and Jerilea Zempel.
In connection with "Up in Arms," BMAC and various partners will present a number of related events. On September 1, Keene State College journalism professor Mark Timney will give a talk on the ways in which society's perceptions of firearms have been distorted by media and folklore. On September 8, historian and museum curator Carrie Brown will give a talk on the significance of the Connecticut River Valley in the history of American gun manufacturing. Panel discussions on September 21 and October 6 will explore the intersection of guns and art and issues surrounding guns in the greater Brattleboro community, respectively. On October 20, photographer Kyle Cassidy will give a talk about his two-year art/research project, "Armed America." For more information on these and other events at BMAC, visit www.brattleboromuseum.org.
In a related offering, Guilford's Vermont Performance Lab will present "A Gun Show," a new interdisciplinary work created by the percussion ensemble So Percussion, at Brattleboro's New England Youth Theatre on September 23-24. The members of So Percussion began working on "A Gun Show" with choreographer Emily Johnson and theater director Ain Gordon in 2012 in the wake of the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. For more information on "A Gun Show," visit www.vermontperformancelab.org/events.
Opening in BMAC's Center Gallery, "The Stilled Passage: Photographs of Un-Restored Ellis Island" consists of photographs by Philip J. Calabria, Visual Arts Department Chair and Gallery Director at Northfield Mount Hermon. Calabria's pictures of un-restored, decaying hospital buildings at the iconic immigration center evoke a liminal state, not unlike that experienced by the millions who passed through Ellis Island a century ago.
In the museum's South Gallery, "Union Station: Gateway to the World" marks this summer's 100th anniversary of the opening of BMAC's Union Station building. Organized around a series of historical vignettes written by Brattleboro-based journalist Kevin O'Connor, the exhibit includes original architectural drawings and archival photographs.
"Chaos and Light: Jamie Young" fills the museum's East Gallery with large oil paintings from the Ashfield, Massachusetts-based artist's Vineage Series. "I have been working on the Vineage Series for many years, exploring several species of vines covering trees all over New England," said Young. "I am fascinated by the chaos of the climbers, their varied forms, and the subtle patterns that emerge."
In the museum's Ticket Gallery, formerly the Union Station ticket office, Museum Educator Linda Whelihan has designed an interactive space inspired by the building's history as a departure point for great travel adventures, "Your Space/Imagination Station" invites visitors of all ages to create and display on the museum walls their very own imaginary destinations.
Located in the Union Station, Brattleboro, at the intersection of Main Street and Routes 119 and 142, the museum is wheelchair accessible. For more information, call 802-257-0124 or visit brattleboromuseum.org.