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The Arts

‘The Onyxed Goat,’ a new exhibit at 118 Elliot, explores a young couple’s life and art

BRATTLEBORO—Artists Laura Jane Walker and Justin A. Kenney, newcomers in search of a “rougher winter” in Brattleboro, will display their first collaborative, multimedia show at 118 Gallery, 118 Elliot St., through Oct. 1.

Gallery hours are Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m.

In a news release, the couple, who moved to Brattleboro from Oregon, spoke openly of the challenges of an art partnership and how they are at times like chefs in a small kitchen.

“We taste and play and try new things,” Walker says. “We challenge each other to discover new ways to make the basics, all while being in love with the simplicity of a single ingredient, like an apple in season, fresh from the tree.”

“We wanted to get locked in the studio all winter long,” Walker says. “Brattleboro offers us a quality of life that we are very grateful for, a thriving art community with a beautiful backdrop, and we are lucky to have made many great friends.”

Walker has mystical leanings, often starting her work by looking through the I-Ching for inspiration. She was born in Oregon and lived there and in New Mexico throughout her childhood. In 2010, she received her BFA, with a focus on sculpture, from the Pacific Northwest College of Art. She has had numerous exhibitions in Portland, Oregon, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Chester, Vermont.

For the past few years, she has carved elaborate forms in pine board. The perimeter of the frame is embedded with shining, silver headed brads, which read like braille or stars, catching light and communicating as if in secret code.

Threads are twined between the nail heads as if on a great loom, another linguistic component that brings cohesion to the composition and adds layers of meaning.

“I try to work carefully and with positive energy as I go” she says.

Both artists are drawn to materials with an implied history, be it an old, scratched up chair, or rusted metal. Kenney in particular revels in surfaces that convey “a mineral alchemy.” A sculptor by trade, he creates two-dimensional work that favors the angular and architectural.

Originally from Boston, Kenney studied and worked with Southern Vermont oil painter Eric Aho. In 2007, he moved to Portland, Oregon, to pursue a degree in printmaking from the Pacific Northwest College of Art. During this time he had numerous solo exhibitions. While attending college, Kenney also interned with Oregon sculpture Lee Kelly.

“This exhibition breaks away ideas of painting and sculpture to reveal the interwoven history of our lives together in the studio,” Kenney writes in the artists’ notes accompanying the exhibition.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #476 (Wednesday, September 12, 2018). This story appeared on page B3.

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