At archaeological digs, areas are carefully marked off into tiny grids where teams of scientists cautiously remove hundreds of years of natural deposits. Sometimes, bone shards or fragments from human civilization are found, seeming to be randomly wedged into layers upon layers of rock, soil and other debris. These discoveries offer evidence into the ways in which our planet has been occupied.
The “Strictly Sedimentary” show at Studio Place Arts in Barre, on view Jan. 22 through March 9, includes artwork with a purposeful approach to layering and deposition. The opening reception for all SPA shows will be held 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26. And Winter Open Studios will be held noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2.
The works by 22 regional artists make use of burned shards of papers, a wrapper from chemotherapy drugs, strips of exposed film, textured tree bark, torn and cut pages from books, pieces of clock works, gloves lost (and then found) on the streets of New York and Naples, sliced bits of newspaper and magazines, and unraveling spools of thread.
Modern glues, waxes and acrylic media take the place of historic, natural lava flows and unite these disparate pieces forever. Taken together, they reveal how we have lived and provide clues into the essential elements of our culture.
“Perhaps collages are actually a form of purposeful, reverse-archaeology,” says SPA Executive Director Sue Higby.
Enter the SPA gallery and you will walk through a collaged tent that can be viewed from the inside or outside, created by biologist and artist Kristian Brevik, of Burlington. This work, “The dead provide a home for us living,” gives viewers a glimpse of entangled fossils and roots encased with wax and cloth. Brevik created the work to explore “the ways in which our shelter the Earth is made of the past — both living and dead — and how our current use of fossil fuels, which themselves are a gift of the past dead, endanger a human future that the past made possible.”
Two sculptural works by Montpelier artist Matthew Monk, on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, preserve a variety of papers, including what appear to be a hand-addressed envelope, newspaper headlines, ledgers from a shop, a child’s drawing and a list in progress from someone’s files. The rectangular pieces have been carefully sliced and placed to create focused linear and dimensional qualities. The flanged forms appear to spin in the gallery like propellers from an aircraft.
Barre artist Larry Bowling is exhibiting a form of self-portrait using different views of his portrait printed on transparencies and then layered with wax and acrylic media. The three views of Bowling are paired in the work with photographs of American poet Walt Whitman and another photograph showing one of Bowling’s uncles with a military friend. A torn page from a poetry book exposes reflections on life taken from “Leaves of Grass” by Whitman, once considered provocative.
Two large-scale works by Jason Galligan-Baldwin, of Montpelier, use post-World War II restful green, pale blue and hot fuchsia pink tones along with period images from graphic novels, childhood books and other materials. His artist statement comments on his exploration of truth as it conforms to his personal reality. As Galligan-Baldwin puts it, using “apophenia (perceiving patterns or connections in meaningless data),” as well as a variety of materials, his works “embrace half-truths and pessimism” that unapologetically critique our contemporary existence.
A visit to SPA is capped off by two additional shows upstairs. “Going on Twenty” features the artwork of longtime painting instructor Jeneane Lunn and a group of nearly 20 of her students, on view in the second floor gallery. In “Interaction,” Alexandra Turner and Alissa Faber” explore the connections between the organic and vitreous through combinations of objects from the forest and glass, on view in the third floor gallery.
SPA is located at 201 N. Main St. in Barre; call 802-479-7069, or go online to www.studioplacearts.com.