A woman — head and torso only — is submerged in the woods. A long, skinny tree beside her wears her shoes at its base, feet daintily crossed at the ankles. She appears to have a wing, rather than a left arm, which is exaggerated by the fact that half of her body is covered in feathers and actually looks like a turkey.
There’s more, but that’s the point of Erika Lawlor Schmidt’s collage art — to compel the viewer to spend time with it.
“That’s a tall order because today’s people want the quick read,” Schmidt said by phone recently. “But I like to invite the audience to really look, and I think that’s common for most people who work with collage.”
Her piece is part of an upcoming two-part collage exhibit which Schmidt, executive and artistic director of Stone Valley Arts, has just curated. It’s two shows in one — the International Collage Exchange and “Vermont Feministe” — both collage exhibits that opened in tandem Oct. 4, with a free public opening reception 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, at Stone Valley Arts in Poultney.
“Collage takes images and integrates them by layering,” Schmidt said. “I’m looking for images that come together to speak to something that is either personal or universal, and more than likely both.”
The International Collage Exchange is a traveling exhibit that has been going on for 20 years, as the title suggests, to venues around the world, by artists from all over the world. Stone Valley was chosen as the venue for its final show, comprised of the work of 76 artists. The smaller feminist exhibit features a handful of Vermont artists.
“I felt it important to include a select group of Vermont artists to exhibit in tandem to the international collage exchange show,” Schmidt said about the “Vermont Feministe” exhibit. “Each artist offers a unique take on the female experience.
“It’s a strong representation of collage art being made in this area, and it is going to be spectacular with the international show,” she added. “It’s a very personal language and one thing that fascinates me about collage is it’s rich in personal story.”
To wit, participating artist Heidi Smith from Middletown Springs says in her bio, “Through the process of collage my inner landscape is revealed to me, as well as how it may have been obscured from my consciousness. This manifestation inspires my desire to know myself.”
“I have come to know art as the manifestation of an internal process,” states Nina Dubois’ bio, whose art combines flash poetry, painting and collage.
“I try to throw together disparate elements, as if they washed up on the beach, and see how they relate to one another,” said artist Jane Davies. All three have art in “Vermont Feministe.”
“In terms of my process, it’s labor-intensive, but sometimes things come quite quickly,” Schmidt said. “(My) collages are full of images but I incorporate a lot of blank space, and that refers to silence. There’s a philosophical aspect to that, where form emerges from emptiness.”
Just like the bare walls at the gallery, which were being covered with art this week, and the exhibits, “rich in personal story,” are now ready to be shared.