Abstract meets grounded art at SVAC

MANCHESTER -- For more than a century, artists have traveled to Southern Vermont to explore their craft, inspired by its landscape. Sometimes that movement goes both ways: Those who have lived here pick up a brush and lay down paint, compelled to articulate the beauty around them. Southern Vermont brims with artistic energy.

And a wide representation of it appears at the Southern Vermont Arts Center (SVAC) in the 22nd Annual Members Exhibition, a collection of works by more than 60 SVAC artists.

"The Members Exhibition is special, because it gives artists an opportunity to show their work when they may not otherwise have one," said Helen Young, SVAC gallery assistant. "Galleries can be exclusive or stuffy at times, but here we're a welcoming environment. It is much more about community."

"You can see experience and craftsmanship in all the paintings," said the SVAC's gallery director, Chester Kasnowski. "It's a talented group."

It is also an eclectic one. The galleries on the main floor display landscapes, with works of sculpture, collage and printmaking in the mix.

Many of the landscape artists like to paint en plein air.

"[Outdoors] you are on your own. You have to capture the moment and as a result, the work is fresh," said member artist Robert Sydorowich, who paints colorful Impressionist landscapes.

The exhibition's landscapes, though classic in subject, show a versatile range of interpretations.

"I'm not trying to make a portrait of the scene -- I'm just trying to capture the moment," Sydorowich said. "I'm not worried about facts. Facts are boring."

Unlike more common scenes of rolling hills and streams, Bob Lafond's "Bergen and Grand, Brooklyn" shows parked cars, sidewalks and lackluster buildings.

"In my Brooklyn paintings, I do a lot of streets, which we usually never see even though we walk on them. They are full of geometric shapes and colors," Lafond said. "There is always something new to see in our environment. When one's eyes are open, the world is an awesome place."

The second floor holds a more diverse gathering of pieces, as well as three solo shows, which run alongside the exhibition, displaying the work of three juried member artists: Gyula Varosy's human-size surreal sculptures, Robert Moylan's luminescent, expansive landscapes of the eastern New York countryside, and Elizabeth Nagle's abstract scenes dance in bright color.

The contemporary feel of the solo shows creates a balance for the exhibition as a whole.

Nagle's ambiguous pieces contrast the representational work in the show.

"When I paint, I intuitively apply colors to my palette and go from there. I don't have a plan ever," Nagle said.

She knows a painting is done "when it can stand on its own," she said. "There comes a point when it (the painting) doesn't need me anymore."

Nagle finds fascinating the phenomenon Pareidolia, which is the human tendency to visually make sense of arbitrary patterns in nature, such as seeing the man in the moon. As she works, images appear in the paint, which at times she makes clear, and at others she lets linger mysteriously, encouraging both the viewer's conscious and subconscious mind.

The SVAC campus itself on the slopes of Mount Equinox catches the eye. A winding drive heads up the base of Mount Equinox, past a field of contemporary sculpture installations including the contemporary "4 the Fifth of Beethoven" by Charles Ginnever, and on into thick woods, where more sculpture shows between the trees. A three-headed hound, "Leader of the Pack" by Wendy Klemperer, waits around a bend in the road.

The arts center, a campus of tree-lined pathways and white colonial-style buildings, lies at the former estate of Gertrude Divine Webster, an estate of tree-lined pathways and white colonial-style buildings. The members show hangs in Yester House, a 28-room Georgian Revival Mansion.

"Nothing in Vermont holds a candle to SVAC. Everything takes your breath away: the long driveway, the Yester House, the museum, the auditorium," said Sydorowich, who has been a member for more than 10 years.

Every member echoed appreciation and respect for the SVAC's grounds, staff, and directors, as well as its visitors.

"It would not be possible to keep this institution alive without participation from the community," said Seline Skoug, executive director. "We are so grateful for the support we receive, and are looking forward to expanding the arts even further in the future."

If you go ...

What: 22nd annual Winter Members Exhibition, solo shows

Where: Southern Vermont Arts Center on West Road in Manchester, Vermont, one mile north of the Equinox Resort.

When: Through Feb. 23

Admission: Free

Information: (802) 362-1405, svac.org


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