BRATTLEBORO — When the call came out last fall from the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center to create an “Artful Ice Shanty,” a group of nine Brattleboro-West Arts members got inspired. Their shanty would be a part of the village that would be on view at the Retreat Farm across Route 30 from the Retreat Meadows, a popular spot for ice fishing and actual functioning ice shanties.
“A full-on winter festival celebrating art, culture, and the great outdoors, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Harris Hill Ski Jump, added to the enticement to offer up their creativity to the festivities,” they state in a news release.
After the nine-day run at the Retreat Farm, the BWA shanty titled “Something's Fishy” got lifted onto a truck and made its journey into downtown Brattleboro, where Petria Mitchell and Jim Giddings, BWA members and co-owners of the Mitchell-Giddings Fine Arts gallery on Main Street, “arranged for it to bring cheer to the gallery's Annex in the Brooks House Atrium until April 5,” they say.
“When thinking about how the group could encompass works made from a variety of materials such as cloth, yarn, clay, wire, glass and even painted styrofoam,” continues the news release, “we came up with the idea of an aquarium that a figure on top of it would be fishing in. Stephen Lloyd, retired architect, put our visions into a sketch, and our imaginations took off.”
Sharon Myers, fiber artist and quilter, knitted seaweed and grasses and moved on to sew sea worms, or what she called “creepy crawlers,” and colorful fish.
Kris McDermet gathered her best sparkly fabrics that became fins for a large fish. Karen Kamenetzky made a sea turtle with her signature stitched designs and hand-dyed cloth.
Naomi Lindenfeld used her colored porcelain to sculpt marbleized mythical bottom-dwelling creatures as well as fish bones and a suspended fish.
Marta Bernbaum used gold foil from Hanukkah gelt to form into a mobile school of fish, and intricately patterned, fluid, wormlike pieces of Josh Bernbaum's glass scraps grace the sandy bottom.
The giant painted styrofoam fish with the teeth of nails and fins of wood shingles was dreamed up and executed by Walter Slowinski, who also contributed painted fish made of clay pressed into a gelatin mold. Cyndi Ferrante added painted shells and glass “eggs” into a clamshell.
In the upper ice world sits a precarious shelter, constructed by Slowinski, with a nod to the creations of beloved BWA member Jackie Abrams, who recently passed away. More elements include a bundled-up fishing bear seated on a chair, the collaboration of several BWA artists using found materials purchased at Experienced Goods.
For more information about Brattleboro-West Arts and the work of its members, visit brattleboro-west-arts.com.