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The Arts

Two roads diverged

Brattleboro show celebrates painting and sculpture by women who have started, or returned to, making art in later life

The Catherine Dianich Gallery is at 139 Main St., down the alley and through the glass doors leading to the Hooker-Dunham Gallery.

This exhibit is made possible in part by a grant from the Crosby Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation.

Arlene Distler is a freelance writer on the arts for local and regional publications.

BRATTLEBORO—Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could...

Thus begins a Robert Frost poem that I love, “The Road Not Taken.” The next-to-last stanza goes:

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

This is more than a bit melancholy. But as it happens, in living longer lives of more fluidity and leisure, we can indeed “travel both.” What a gift to give ourselves: a second chance to take that road less traveled.

The idea for “Two Roads Diverged: Painting and Sculpture by Women Who Have Started — or Returned to — Making Art in Later Life” came to me as I shared a friend’s invigorating reclamation of her artist-self: a self she had ignored for some 40 years as she supported her family as a single mother. On the brink of retirement she had found some time to “do art” once again, even showing her work at Gallery at the the VAULT in Springfield.

I realized I knew a host of people discovering art-making and were thrilled to roam that territory for the first time in their lives, or to wake that long-dormant part of themselves — still vital.

“Two Roads” is up in March at the Catherine Dianich Gallery, with the opening reception on Gallery Walk, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Those of us in the show have taken paths as diverse as the paintings and sculpture on exhibit. In many cases, we’ve known a connection and involvement with some form of artistic endeavor for years. For Kathie Gatto-Gurney it has been dancing; Marcia Hammond has been a weaver for decades; for Lynn Martin, Muriel Wolf, and myself, writing became the dominant artistic discipline.

And among us there are those who sublimated the “art spirit,” as Robert Henri called it, into other areas of our lives: Marya Koskoris said she loved to teach art to her schoolchildren; I drew with my children, illustrating stories we came up with (ending up with all four children involved in the visual arts one way or the other); Ann Stokes was a generous supporter of the arts before taking the plunge herself.

The paintings, sculpture, and prints on exhibit at Dianich Gallery are as different as our paths through life, and speak to our many years of wisdom, heartache, explorations, losses, and victories.

From Kathie Gatto-Gurney’s dancing forms and Ann Stokes’ explosions of energy and color, to the more “realistic” and subtle landscapes of Marya Koskoris and portraits by Marcia Hammond, “Two Roads Diverged” is about as diverse as you can get.

Lynn Martin straddles various genres of painting, producing both figurative paintings and lovely mystical abstractions. Meris Morrison’s paintings in mixed media are rich in texture and color and vibrate with suggested worlds. Barbara Baribeau’s sculpture is gorgeously sensuous, betraying the subtlest reference to the seen world. Muriel Wolf’s monotypes are in a genre by themselves: original and very personal works that use fabric and drawing in a process known as Chine-collé.

However different our paths and our work, almost each of us owes a debt of gratitude to The River Gallery School, and/or the Senior Center’s Stone Soup class led by Marilyn Allen, whose programs roused our latent, or long-sleeping, urge to create. They celebrated our attempts at expression and encouraged us to risk further, deeper explorations.

We hope you will visit the Catherine Dianich Gallery to see for yourself.

A portion of proceeds of sales of work displayed will go to one of the following organizations, to be chosen by the artist:

• The Warrior Connection, an organization helping female veterans deal with PTSD through expressive art therapies;

• The Women’s Freedom Center, helping women suffering from physical or emotional domestic abuse;

• AIDS Project of Southern Vermont’s women’s program; and

• Stone Soup, an arts program of the Senior Center.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #192 (Wednesday, February 27, 2013).

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