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Collection of Andrea Krantz and Harvey Sawikin, courtesy of Barbara Schwartz and Lianne Sheplar

“Woman with Fox” (2020), a linen paper pulp on cotton base sheet painting from Natalie Frank’s "Painting with Paper.”

The Arts

Six new exhibits to open at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center

Solo exhibits by Natalie Frank, William Ransom, B. Lynch, and Michael Abrams; group exhibits by Vermont glass artists and furniture makers

BRATTLEBORO—Six new exhibits will open at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) on Saturday, Oct. 23, including solo exhibitions by Natalie Frank, William Ransom, B. Lynch, and Michael Abrams and group shows featuring work by members of the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers and the Vermont Glass Guild.

An opening reception, free and open to all, will take place on Saturday, Oct. 23, at 11 a.m. Refreshments will be served outdoors, with many of the exhibiting artists and curators attending. Face coverings are required inside the museum.

“Natalie Frank: Painting with Paper” presents selections from a new body of work that Frank produced with a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant in 2019–20. Frank works with wet pigmented cotton and linen paper pulp to create abstract portraits of imagined female figures, each accompanied by an animal.

“Simultaneously attractive and unnerving, these portraits undermine traditional conceptions of beauty and address issues of female identity, sexuality, and empowerment,” curator Elissa Watters wrote in a statement accompanying the exhibit. “Moreover, the diversity of the figures portrayed across the series inspires discussions about the complexities of gender identity and performance.”

Frank has exhibited widely, and her work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others. She has illustrated five books of fairy tales, and she served as artistic director for Ballet Austin’s commissioned work “Grimm Tales,” which won seven Austin Critics Table awards.

“William Ransom: Keep Up/Hold Up” is a sculptural installation in which the literal tensions in the work — bent and charred strips of wood held fast by metal clamps — reflect the artist’s experiences as a Black man in America.

“If the sculpture were unclamped, the compressed energy would release with force,” BMAC Chief Curator Mara Williams wrote in her curatorial statement, “suggesting that Black spirit and experience are artificially restricted by dominant society.”

The sculpture is reflective of the artist’s larger body of work, which often expresses the balance between opposing forces in his life, including his identity as the child of a biracial union and a “farm kid living in the city.”

Ransom grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont, spent a decade in Los Angeles, and has now returned to Vermont with his family. He has shown his work extensively across the country in solo and group exhibitions.

“B. Lynch: Pull Back the Curtain” is a multimedia installation that examines the corrosive effect of income disparity on society. Lynch uses puppetry, drawing, painting, linoleum block prints, and digital animation to create precisely rendered, meticulously detailed characters and environments.

Viewers of Lynch’s installation are introduced to a science fiction universe in which “the Reds,” well-dressed, wealthy 18th-century characters, amuse themselves, while “the Greys,” ambiguous figures who might be refugees or post-apocalyptic survivors, are hard at work.

“Michael Abrams: Arcadia Rediscovered” is an immersive painting installation that revisits the 19th-century Arcadian tradition of landscape painting. Abrams brings to that tradition his profound respect for the natural world and his concern that we are on the verge of losing that world through our embrace of our dominance over nature.

Abrams is known for painting misty, layered vistas suffused with light. He created the installation “Arcadia Rediscovered” for BMAC as a way to allow viewers to experience his work in three dimensions.

Williams, the exhibit’s curator, described the piece as “glow[ing] from within, as though the light were gathering in real time as the viewer contemplates the scene.”

Two group exhibitions from Vermont

Also on view will be two group exhibitions: “Evolving Traditions,” featuring pieces by members of the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers, and “Inspired by the Past,” showcasing work by 20 Vermont Glass Guild members.

Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers members Timothy Clark, Greg Goodman, Tom Bodett, and Charles Shackleton led the creation of “Evolving Traditions.”The exhibit’s theme was inspired by changing concepts of “home” and “work” during the pandemic as well as by an increasing focus among Guild members on sustainable furniture-making practices. Each piece is accompanied by a statement tracing the furniture maker’s influences and how their work has changed over time.

Included in the exhibit: an octopus-shaped altar made from spalted maple and wood from a fallen apple tree; a cabinet inspired by handmade Patagonian furniture as well as Shaker and Japanese traditions; a coffee table made from part of a 7-foot-diameter yellow birch burl discovered in the Green Mountain National Forest; a set of mirrors whose designer draws on such diverse influences as Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi, Dr. Seuss, and The Jetsons; and many more.

“I think we live in an age of overconsumption in a world of shrinking resources,” writes one contributing artist, John Lomas. “It seems like a good discipline to make do with less. It might require a little more imagination, but that’s how we surprise ourselves.”

To create the glass art featured in “Inspired by the Past,” Vermont Glass Guild members drew inspiration from pieces in BMAC’s Study Collection of Ancient Objects, a collection of more than 300 objects spanning 4,000 years of history and dozens of cultures around the globe. Each work of glass art is shown next to the ancient object that sparked its creation.

Organized by Robert DuGrenier and Patricia Johnson, “Inspired by the Past” features the work of 12 Guild members. In addition to showcasing the many ways in which glass artists challenge and exploit their medium, the exhibit highlights the experimentation that glass affords.

Upcoming events

BMAC will present a series of events related to these new exhibits in the coming months, including talks by Lynch (Thursday, Oct. 28), Ransom (Thursday, Dec. 2), Abrams (Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022), and Frank (Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022).

For a complete schedule of in-person, virtual, and hybrid events, visit brattleboromuseum.org.

BMAC will be closed until Friday, Oct. 22 to install the new exhibits and host its annual Domino Toppling Extravaganza on Sunday, Oct. 17.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #634 (Wednesday, October 13, 2021). This story appeared on page B1.

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