New exhibits are open at museum
Director Danny Lichtenfeld said their goal is to present art and ideas that inspire all ages
BRATTLEBORO — Where the past meets the present, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center — a railroad station turned museum — is managed by board members and staff who act as stewards of the historic building while maintaining a mission to exhibit exclusively contemporary art by living artists. Director of BMAC Danny Lichtenfeld said that as a non-profit museum its job is also to present art and ideas that inspire all ages. The six new exhibits ranging in a variety of styles and mediums that opened there this month are a testimony to those missions.
The largest of the six exhibits, front and center when entering the museum into the Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason Gallery, are interactive sculptures by kinetic artist Steve Gerberich in "Springs, Sprockets and Pulleys." If you loved the game Mouse Trap then you'll love the exhibits, but even that analogy doesn't do them justice. For the exhibit directly to the left, think the offspring of a marriage between Pixar's WALL-E and the Wizard of Oz's Tin Man form an orchestral band. Push a button and hear them play. According to a wooden placard overhead, Gerberich's great-great-grandfather Lyman Shuey Gerberich conducted the first orchestra in Des Moines, Iowa, so Gerberich grew up with these instruments. In addition, for over 30 years Gerberich has continued to acquire kitchen utensils, furniture scraps, discarded toys, motors, and other bric-a-brac at yard sales, given even more stuff from people, keeping it all organized in storage in such a way to find exactly what he needs as he dreams up his concoctions. He turns these found items into sculptures that encourage participatory action by engaging weights, pulleys, and momentum to see what makes everything move. From bicycle-powered whirligigs to a hand-cranked exhibit reminiscent of the smart kid's electricity project at the science fair, to a cow being milked sporting unlikely French horns, each installation grabs the imagination and is a delight in discovering all of the detail and imagery incorporated into them.
Gerberich moved to Brooklyn in '81 intending to do a gallery show of his photography portfolio when he started doing window dialogs in SoHo, Manhattan. He needed to make them move, basing his problem solving on what he learned from antique machines, sending his career path in an altogether different direction.
He has been doing this traveling show for 18 years. This is the third time at BMAC, packing up his exhibits into his circa mid-1990s Ford-150 (leaving a day early just in case it breaks down) to head north.
Gerberich called BMAC a treasure, saying it is one his bigger shows. He said, "Every show is site specific, it has to be set up just so. The BMAC is the best place and the installation went smoothly with two assistants. It is gratifying to watch people oohing and awing at the machines. I use the same techniques I learned 30 years ago."
Gerberich will lead a guided tour of the exhibit on June 17, at 2 p.m. This exhibit closes on Oct. 8.
Visit gerbomatic.com to get a preview of his work. He answers questions on Instagram at @gergography or @stevegerberich.
In the repurposed ticket office the vibrant abstract work of Gloria Garfinkel in "3D Color" is displayed. It is another interactive exhibit. These pristine and beautiful painted aluminum sculptures invite the viewer to engage by flipping colorful panels and twisting colored discs as a way to discover the relations between colors. Arranged on what was once the ticket counter are static sculptures for viewing pleasure.
A preview of her work may be found by visiting ggarts.com. This exhibit closes June 17.
Enter the Center Gallery to view 30 black and white watercolor selections by painter and filmmaker Alfred Leslie in "100 Views Along the Road," a title that echoes "Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo," a woodblock series of scenes from mid-nineteenth century Tokyo. Similar to Hiroshige's work, Leslie's scenes are familiar landscapes, in this case of the American road trip. These were painted from sketches he had made sometime between 1981 and 1983 on his road trip across the United States. The book "100 Views Along the Road: Watercolors by Alfred Leslie," also on view at the museum, shows these sketches paired with the watercolor painting subsequently created from those sketches.
When asked what inspired him to sketch these scenes, Leslie said, "Driving long stretches of road with nothing to see but contours. At one point I saw a small group of mountains, at the foot a tiny group of trailers." There he stopped to sketch "Outside of Lagana, New Mexico" and continued sketching on his way to his Massachusetts studio. A master of multiple mediums, he said he chose black and white watercolor because it is the best medium when you are going for the center of an idea. It simplifies composition and the elements.
As the name suggests, originally there were 100 pieces to the collection but since then many have been sold to collectors. The pieces in this exhibit from Leslie's remaining collection were picked by Lichtenfeld for their proximity to this area or because it was an iconic view. He is particularly fond of the rainbow series of Hadley, Mass. And, as luck would have it, the picture of Leslie in his Volvo in 1980 in which he traveled across the country belonged to a Northampton, Mass. artist who had recently exhibited at BMAC gave Lichtenfeld permission to show that photograph also.
More information on Leslie may be viewed at artsy.net/artist/alfred-leslie.
Next, in what was once the men's smoking room, is where Richard Klein set up his collection of "Bottle in the River" sculptures made from a variety of found glass objects, strategically lit to add depth shadows on the wall. Klein works exclusively in man-made transparent objects. He said, "It is about transparency and how light interacts with it." Klein's show is themed water, because he said, "I love the water."
He was intrigued by Brattleboro's museum being sited along the Connecticut River, creating the piece "Waterfall" specifically for this exhibit. It is the first piece that grabs your attention when entering that gallery. Accented with acrylic paper weights and a souvenir ash try from Niagara Falls when looking closely you'll see it is mostly made up of eyeglass lenses. "My first piece using eyeglasses was in 1995. I've worn glasses since 6th grade. Anyone who has glasses has old glasses in the drawer." He has said that he uses found glass, "Because I believe that there is too much 'stuff' in the world and it is better somehow to repurpose what already exists." Increasingly he has been using plastic, noting that even eyeglass lenses are now plastic. He looks for material at flea markets, tag sales, and at the Goodwill in his hometown of Norwalk, Conn., seeking out plain items to use in his sculptures.
Another sculpture created for this show was created with the waters of the Whetstone Brook and Connecticut River. It was originally created using Scotch and Chardonnay but because wine gets cloudy after a few months it needs to be changed out. Then, when planning an exhibit for a children's museum and not wanting to use alcohol in a children's piece, he exchanged the liquid for colorful mouthwash, maintaining the constant of the sculpture, merely exchanging liquids.
Klein's exhibit and his artist talk on May 31 at 7 p.m. are part of The Confluence Project, a collaborative experiment in creative placemaking involving BMAC, Vermont Performance Lab, Windham Regional Commission, and numerous other partners. More information is available at vermontperformancelab.org. In addition to maintaining his art practice, Klein is Exhibitions Director at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Conn.
Gowri Savoor's "We Walk in Their Shadows," is a mixed-media installation that explores the questions of cultural dislocation and the quest for home. As a first-generation immigrant of Indian heritage born in England, she has been living in Vermont for the last 10 years as a professional artist and art teacher. Her exhibit is a response to her personal experience of connecting to her environment and her relationship to it. It is about her own cultural journey, and on refugee and immigration issues, and she has a story that is particularly poignant in light of recent events.
In her show is her three-dimensional piece "Murmuration" of the synchronized flight of starlings and two maps that conjure up memories of our past. The maps resonate with people on how the past connects with the present, whether imagined or real. This work needs a little time to explore since there is a lot of detail. That is intentional, according to Savoor.
Savoor said, "It has been interesting talking to people who approached me who hadn't thought much about their own cultural immigration. We take our journey for granted, prevalent for me because I have been there." This exhibit and artist talk by Savoor on May 17, at 7 p.m. are also part of The Confluence Project.
Former BMAC education curator Susan von Glahn Calabria's "Hereandafter" work is done in gouache, an opaque watercolor with the exception of "Layers of Leaves" that is a mixed media of collage and gouache, and monotype with sections of prints on paper. Some of her paintings are on rag paper, while others are done on Japanese Rice paper with a preexisting background, while other paintings are all paint on paper. She has been working in gouache since the '90s. She likes the purity of color and because it is forgiving, and also because it mixes with water, so there are no toxic fumes. Although Calabria's subject matter is varied, she indicated that sometimes narrative painting is about more than one thing. The narrative here is the ongoing inspiration from the permanence of things and the impermanence of being hence the name "Hereandafter." The "Last Nasturtium" piece, for example, was picked the day before a killing frost and painted quickly, a bittersweet capture before it wilted. The show includes a portrait of her daughter, taken from a black and white photo painted in color from memory, plus still lifes and landscapes, all very detailed that merit close review.
For her talk at the museum on April 22, she will bring the black and white photo to show as an example. See more of her work at susanvonglahn.com.
The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center presents rotating exhibits of contemporary art, complemented by lectures, artist talks, film screenings, and other public programs. The museum's exhibits and gift shop are open every day except Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Regular admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $4 for students. Members and children 18 and under are admitted free of charge. Admission is free to all on Thursdays after 2 p.m. Located in historic Union Station in downtown 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.
Cicely M. Eastman may be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 261
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.