Drawing a crowd
“Church Fair” by Donald Saaf.

Drawing a crowd

Work from more than 20 artists from around New England featured in group exhibit at Mitchell-Giddings Fine Arts

BRATTLEBORO — Visual artist Jim Giddings is in an exuberant mood over Group Exhibit 2016, the new show at his gallery, Mitchell-Giddings Fine Arts (MGFA).

“Frankly, every time I turn around in our gallery I see something new and exciting,” says Giddings. “The space never looked better, and people are coming from all over to see this show.”

On Saturday, Feb. 27, at 5 p.m., the gallery presents an artist forum for its Group Exhibit 2016. This event, which is free and open to the public, will include a discussion of work by more than 20 artists, including Will Finkel and K. William LeQuier, who are new exhibitors at MGFA.

Group Exhibit 2016 demonstrates how much MGFA has grown since Giddings and Petria Mitchell opened it 18 months ago. More than 20 artists from Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York are included. Planned as the first of an annual event, it brings together a diverse selection of work created in a variety of media by current and new gallery artists. This show will continue through April 17.

“This exhibit is different from the kind we usually present,” says Giddings. “All our other shows have focused on one or two artists, and have stayed up only one month. This one, however, features all the artists who now work with us, and will run two months.”

The group exhibit was an opportunity for MGFA to gather new work from everybody, and at the same time introduce to the public the new artists it is now representing.

“With only one or two exceptions, everything in the exhibit will be new work from all our artists,” says Giddings. Consequently, Giddings finds a fresh quality to everything in this show.

“And, of course, the work from our recently-added artists is entirely new to the public at our gallery,” he says. “We have been slowly building up the artists we represent, which was always our intention. All in all, things at Mitchell-Giddings are going well. The gallery looks brand new with all the works on display. I must say that I myself am amazed at the quality of the work in this show.”

At least one piece of every artist's work will be on display.

“Putting the show together was a joy, although it can be a little difficult, since working with artists can often be like dealing with a herd of cats,” Giddings confesses. “But the end result is that I was blown away by what we now have here, and I am very optimistic about the success of this exhibit.”

What Giddings is most struck by, he says, is the diversity of the art.

“Take for instance the art of Bill LeQuier,” says Giddings. “He layers, carves, and sandblasts glass into intricate, flowing shapes. Bill literally sculpts glass from salvaged glass shelving. He uses no heat at all, and the effect is other worldly.”

As LeQuier explains on his website, after years of blowing art glass vessels, he began to experiment with sandblasted surface designs. “I was intrigued with the sandblasting process. I found that I could carve the glass to generate a myriad of textures similar to results of accelerated natural erosion,” LeQuier says. Over time, his sandblasted geometric patterned vessels evolved to organic sculptures carved in relief from blown glass forms.

While observing stacks of salvaged glass shelving, he began to think of a different way to work with glass. LeQuier saw the raw material for a series of sculptures that were multi-layered constructions. Free flowing strands of carved glass are laminated with other layers to create depth and a complexity of intersecting lines.

“Bill also makes objects of art out of glass, such as a handsaw entirely of glass, detailed right down to its serrated edge,” adds Giddings with amazement.

Another artist in the show is Michele Ratté, who has patented a process with master dyer Joan Morris in which she can fix gold to fabric in print making.

“Precious metals, mineral pigments, printing, collage, stitching, and drawing - all unpredictable elements in Michele Ratté's extraordinary work,” notes the MGFA website describing her work. “A combination of handwork, assemblage, and natural objects merge in Ratté's personal vision of the physical world.”

Giddings adds, “Although, technically, what she creates would be called a mono print, this print that contains gold, hand loomed silk and even fishing lines. It is unlike anything you'll ever see. Her work takes a printing process to sculpture, moving from two dimensions to three.”

The Artist Forum for its Group Exhibit 2016 is something new for MGFA.

“For each of our shows, we usually have an artist's talk, often with a facilitator,” explains Giddings.

But this show is too big for such an approach.

“Since there are so many artists on display, we are presenting an artist forum instead,” says Giddings. “Most of the artists will be at the event. The crowd can move around, pausing in front of one work where one artist will talk for five minutes or so, then on to another work, where another artist will do the same.”

In this way, the public will get a sense of the scope of the artistic achievement now on display at MGFA.