A young woman in a red dress sits with her knees folded up, teacup dangling from an index finger as she gazes ahead, her image filling the canvas from her tan suede heels at the base to her black hair at the top in “The Giant Asian Girl, Alice,” by Shelburne artist Misoo. Behind the young woman, the landscape is a patchwork of vignettes from children’s stories — traditional fairy tales, Disney princesses, Richard Scarry vehicles among them. This is a strong reflective woman, an image in contrast to a stereotype of Asian women as submissive and delicate.
In the nighttime photograph “Star Trails & Fireflies” by Mark Collier of Montpelier, a lone maple tree and its sloped meadow are unmoving as the curved paths of stars etch the night sky and the flash of fireflies in summer mate-seeking exuberance leave scribbles of lines of their flight. The photo draws viewers to the light of tiny living creatures as well as of the vast universe.
Misoo and Mark Collier are two of the 10 artists featured in the “2020 Vermont Artists to Watch” exhibition at the Spotlight Gallery at the Vermont Council in Montpelier that opened last week and the special feature in Vermont Art Guide magazine, issue #11, coming out this week.
Conceived and curated by writer, artist, publisher and cultural worker Ric Kasini Kadour, “Vermont Artists to Watch” is an annual survey of artists who are making contemporary art that commands attention. This year’s exhibition and feature mark the third year of the survey and its collaboration between Kadour and the Vermont Arts Council.
“Vermont Artists to Watch” is a collective effort. Each year, Kadour recruits 10 Vermont art professionals — curators, artists, directors of arts associations — from around the state, and asks them to nominate artists making compelling contemporary work.
“All of the professionals who nominated spend hours watching artists. They make studio visits, follow artists on social media, attend openings and talks. They consider issues going on in the community and look for artists whose work speaks to themes they hope resonate with the public,” Kadour said.
From this detailed process, the 2020 artists were selected. They are: J Blackwell (Bennington), Collier (Montpelier), Trevor Corp (Wolcott), Brian Fekete (Kingston, New York), Patty Hudak (Underhill), Susan Larkin (Isle la Motte), Kathryn Lipke (Belvidere Center), Misoo (Shelburne), Steve Sharon (Burlington); and Kathy Stark (Craftsbury Common).The artists work in diverse media — photography, collage, oil and acrylic painting among them. In. J Blackwell’s “Neveruses (Rte 7),” the color and patterns of the woven artwork are of plastic, yarn, and thread. Trevor Corp brings together acrylic and photo collage in his “Element,” with its geometric abstraction of a familiar household element.
The partnership of Vermont Art Guide and the Vermont Arts Council gives viewers and readers opportunities to see these artists’ work in person in the Spotlight Gallery and also to read commentaries about them in the magazine.
“Not just one type of art belongs in the Vermont artistic landscape — our artistic landscape is very diverse,” said Karen Mittelman, executive director of the Vermont Arts Council, noting the breadth of artwork in “2020 Vermont Artists to Watch.”
“The deeper purpose of ‘Vermont Artists to Watch’ goes beyond a magazine feature, an exhibition, and artist boosterism,” Kadour said. “The goal is to reframe how artists are seen by society and promote engagement with visual art. The more we reinforce the notion that legitimate, quality work is being made in the state — art that speaks for and to us — the more likely the general public will be enthusiastic and seek out art. For art to work its magic in our communities it needs to be seen and it needs to be engaged.”