The North Bennington Outdoor Sculpture Show opens 21st edition this weekend


NORTH BENNINGTON, Vt. — You see them rising up at you, almost like they do in movie thrillers: some rise tall as you go by, others look a bit gnarly but colorful, then still others, isolated yet contemplative, as if waiting to come to life, complete with patented sudden background music meant to make you quake in the dark theater.

But you're not in a movie house, and this isn't Hollywood's latest take. Rather, it's a quaint Vermont village, and you're right in the middle of the 21st Annual North Bennington Outdoor Sculpture Show (NBOSS).

The exhibition, on view on Main Street in North Bennington, opens this weekend and runs through Nov. 3. There will be an opening reception Saturday, July 7, from 4-8 p.m. at the Vermont Arts Exchange campus, at 48 Main St.

The organizer, curator, overall ringmaster, and a contributing artist himself, is Joe Chirchirillo.

"For many years, I put a piece in the show and then the opportunity arose to be the curator," Chirchirillo said. "I had a vision for the show that included expanding the reach of artists to be more regional and doing more outreach to put NBOSS on the map of outdoor sculpture in New England. I've been working towards that goal for the past six years."

The reach seems to be taking root, as the range of art on display might pit something created by a blacksmith complemented alongside work constructed by a textile artist.

"This year artists come from Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey," Chirchirillo said. "I call the show an invitational, which means that I put a call out to the entire New England region. I'm in many other outdoor sculpture shows and when I see work that is interesting I ask the person to participate in the NBOSS."

This year's exhibition has been recognized as a Vermont Arts 2018 Event, a project of the Vermont Arts Council highlighting the array of events — concerts, festivals, exhibits and openings — that take place all across the state.

It will include 40 artists from the surrounding region, many who have participated for multiple years. In addition, the NBOSS will be linked to an online platform, Otocast. This allows people with a smartphone or tablets to listen to brief artist statements about their work.

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Chirchirillo added that one of the things that makes NBOSS fun to organize is his constant search for new artists and new concepts to display. Without spoiling surprises, the curator said this tradition continues with 18 rookies in 2018's lineup, as well as unique configurations and structures not seen before at past editions.

"This year people will see a brightly colored piece by Peter Carrow that is kinetic and viewers can operate it themselves," Chirchirillo said. "It's fun and people will enjoy the experience of interacting with it. Also, Bob Keating's solar piece is beautiful and mysterious. Justin Kenney's piece is a very interesting concrete sculpture reminiscent of stacked boulders."

Kenney, a sculptor and painter, produces concrete and steel sculpture out of his studio in downtown Brattleboro. His entry is called "A Plotter Named Conduct," and came about with his growing fascination of the effects of architecture on people.

"The sculpture is poured, not carved," Kenney said. "I compare this process like growing a person or personality. As people, we fill a space. In the urban landscape our moods, temperaments and obsessions fill the emotional container allotted by the buildings around us. I think my sculpture is walking me down this curiosity I have. I wonder how I have been defined by the buildings that surround me."

Nancy Winship Milliken, an environmental artist from Charlotte, Vt. also has a piece in the show, "Stall."

Milliken said she draws inspiration from the farms around her studio, many times working in collaboration with the people, animals and land of the farm. She added that culture and nature are intrinsically connected in `Stall.'"

"Thousands of re-claimed cello bundles made of horse hair have been hand tied to the netting, loosening the material from its former task as cello bow, removing sound, and allowing the horse hair to play in the breeze, closer to the way it moved on the horse," Milliken said. "The netting has been arranged to expand and contract with the breeze, like taking in a breath, giving life to the flattened form we created. A contemporary, stationary herd of horses in a pasture."

Chirchirillo considered the descriptions from his artists, and concluded emphatically that this show is an all-in community endeavor.

"It's one of the reasons that it was started, has continued and is one of the most significant reasons that I am involved," Chirchirillo said. "People in our community show their work help with the set up and contribute important assets. We could not do it without their support."


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