Drive along Vermont back roads at dusk, and the light of evening life inside homes and shops pours out of windows. The glow is not just of light bulbs, but of dinners, conversations, reflection – the activities of the end of the day.
Kathleen Kolb’s landscapes draw viewers to the uncluttered beauty of Vermont’s vernacular architecture, its harmony with sky and land, and a sense a sense of the people who built and occupy it.
“Night & Day, Now & Then,” a solo exhibition of Kolb’s watercolors, oil paintings and drawings, opened last week at the Gallery at the Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro. The show features Vermont landscapes, many during the interstitial hour between day and night. It also includes a few paintings and drawings from Kolb’s recent traveling exhibition, “Shedding Light on the Working Forest,” a show celebrating Vermont’s forests and the people who labor there.
“My work is about attachment to place. It’s about the power and beauty of weather, geography and light as well as the human hand on the landscape,” said Kolb in her artist’s statement for “Night & Day, Now & Then.”
“I am drawn to the geometry of vernacular rural architecture. These buildings link us to our human past in this landscape. Emotionally, they are about home, our own specific place where we are attached,” she noted.
When Kolb, who lives in Lincoln, moved to Vermont in the late 1970s, she first settled in Greensboro. Local landmarks and views are in the show: The Willeys Store, Caspian Lake, the front porch of the house at Cate Hill Farm.
“It’s a bit of a homecoming for me,” she noted, recalling that in Greensboro, “when I started exhibitions, people wanted the paintings and purchased them. It gave me confidence and started me on a good foot. I feel a lot of gratitude to this place.”
In “Early Evening Lake” a sliver of wooded land lies in shadow between deep blue evening sky and equally cerulean water. Golden lights from cottage windows glow along the shore.
In “Willeys, Summer Moon,” the upper floor windows dark on a moonlit night. A, bright white light, recalling fluorescent overheads, illuminate one narrow ground floor window, perhaps for the final tallying of inventory or day’s receipts.
“Winter Porch,” a 2019 watercolor, connects back to a painting she did in 1988 during her Greensboro time. Fond of the family who owned the house, a family with a toddler at the time, she painted quite an artwork of it. The former toddler is now the homeowner. For her new watercolor, she turned to the home’s generous porch, still providing a transition between inside and outside life. Towels dry on the line, a toy truck stands in the snow on the deck pails and boards that haven’t quite made it to their storage spots rest in a corner. It’s a welcoming and lived in home.
Many of the paintings in “Night & Day” capture the light and atmosphere of twilight and later. Kolb also has an astute eye for lines and proportions of classic Vermont architecture. These two aspects come together in many of her artworks.
The library in Starksboro features in a pair of paintings, one from the back, one from the front, one in summer, one in winter. The clean lined structure has an elegantly straightforward rectangular form, its side punctuated with green trimmed windows. In “Village, Evening,” the full moon brightens the sky, balanced by the porch lamp, bathing the entry and walkway in light. In “Star Light, Barn Light, Lamp Light, Headlight,” buildings and snow are bright, under an almost black winter night sky.
Human presence is felt in Kolb’s artwork, although people are rarely seen. Exceptions include, “Paddling Alone” of a solitary canoeist on a glassy lake, and paintings from her “Working Forest” series. In these, viewers see the big skidders and other equipment of today’s lumbering, and the hardworking loggers who get the work done.