Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Think and Re-Think

I was delighted to be invited to make work for an exhibit in Indiana, and thought it would be a perfect time to use some of the antique 4 x 3.25" glass slides I got in two metal boxes at a yard sale many years ago. I believe these slides must have been the property of a physician who used them for professional lectures on the topics of his specialization. They mostly consisted of x-rays and histological slides. I have used some of the x-rays in several projects, including the piece at left that is an homage to my late friend, Margaret Trautz. It is a box with layers of bones and gauze, through which light shines from below.

There were five slides I found in the metal boxes that were more disturbing than the others, as they contained images not of body parts, but of whole persons -- photographs of naked young men in wheelchairs. They seemed to have some kind of foot deformity. But there was something about the vulnerable bodies photographed frontally (with uncovered genitals, which didn't seem  to be related to the foot problems...) that made me want to do a piece about "wheeled" chairs. But the images were so disrespectful, so insensitive about the human dignity of the subject, so problematic with respect to disability issues, that I have not known whether it was acceptable to use them. And I have still not come to terms with that. Does one need to have a thing one is trying to "say" in using such images, or does the potency, mystery, and transgressivity of the content just hang out there and let all the possibilities and responses interact?

I have been interested in questions of medical ethics (for example, the piece at right, Homage to Henrietta Lacks) and have been doing work for many years using bones, so I plunged in with the idea of Wheeled Chairs.

The first piece is 21 3/8 x 18 1/8 x 14 3/4". It used a child's white wicker chair, and has a pile of bones on the seat, a backbone on the reverse, and a bandage over a "wound" (dye, not blood on the gauze...).

The "wound" was actually a break in the fabric of the chair, stitched with steel wire. Somebody (I don't know who it was) left a box of bones in my studio about a year ago. This vertebral column was among those, but I had to boil and scrape it to get rid of the connective tissue. It is now held together with a piece of steel wire in place of the spinal cord. All the bones in this piece are sealed with a clear sealant that also acts as a glue that keeps them in place. You can turn the piece upside down and nothing moves...

The second piece I made is 22 x 13 3/4 x 17". It uses a modified doll carriage, and contains one of the antique slides I wrote about above, affixed to the top of a wooden box that acts as a sort of light table. A piece of white paper at the bottom of the box reflects light up through the image.

I covered the young man's face and genitals with black tape. I needed to do at least that to respect his body...

OK, so here's the kicker: Now that I have completed two pieces in this series, I realize that neither of them really stands alone successfully. I think they would work if combined with 2-3 other similarly-sized pieces, configured together as an installation, and perhaps I will move in that direction at some point.

But for now, I think it's important to "sell no wine before its time".

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Time Flies

This piece was commissioned by someone who inherited a grandfather clock from his grandmother. He wanted the clock to run and operate as before, but asked me to change the case in my fashion...

I had only done a few commissions before, so this was a challenge, and it went through many different concepts and materials before it came to its current and final form.  It's called Time Flies, after the small winged creatures flying up through the case and out the top. I carved the wooden bodies, and the wings are made of mica. These photographs show the case without all the interior clockworks -- the pendulum, weights, and chimes. I hope I will get photographs of the clock after it is installed in its owner's home, and the clock is actually working!

Each side has a small door on the top that I covered with a quote stamped into brass foil sheets. This is the left side, with a quote from Albert Einstein: The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.

The photographs here of the right and left sides show the clock without the Time Flies coming out the top. Sorry about that! I had just had an accident with the clock face, and I was a bit freaked out.

There are three groupings of the numbers 1 - 12 on each side, made from found objects, old and new building numbers, and stick-on vinyl digits. Here is a high resolution image of the first sequence on the left side.

And here are the next two sequences:

And on to the right side!

The quote on this side is from Bil Keane (the cartoonist who created the Family Circus): Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Long Haul at Local 64

Five of my Long Haul pieces are on exhibit at Local 64, a co-working space in Montpelier, VT, through November, 2017. Local 64 is located at 43 State Street, Second Floor West. Go in the door for the North Branch Cafe, then up the stairs and turn left. It's open 9-5 weekdays. 

The newest work is Baggage, seen above left and below:

The figures are encased in a vinyl tunnel, so it's hard to photograph, but it's one of my favorite pieces.

Another new piece is Stromatolites for the Next Age:

It's made with buttons, beads, and small impaled plastic figures.

Homage to Margaret (antique glass x-rays, gauze, and bones) has a new, plug-in lighting system and polycarbonate sheet encasing the x-rays for better stability:

Going Down and Brown's Burden are the final two pieces on exhibit:

Friday, October 13, 2017

Juror's Award at Alliance for the Visual Arts

I've just heard that I won the $200 Juror's Award for the Doors and Windows exhibit at the Alliance for the Visual Arts (AVA) in Lebanon, NH, which opened tonight. Hurrah! Here are some images:

Mary Admasian, who was at the opening, sent me the following images. Thank you, Mary!

Friday, September 22, 2017

One to Four at The Front

I was surprised that this was such a big hit at The Front at the last reception on September 1. It will be up through Saturday, September 30 (the gallery is open Fridays 5-8 and Saturdays 11-8), after which a new show will be installed, opening during the Montpelier Art Walk on Friday, October 6, 4-8 PM.

The shelves on the left are made of black leather, with small porcelain figures of animals on them.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Team Bridges Presenting at UVM

Team Bridges, on which I served as the Arts person, was an interdisciplinary collaboration of eleven professionals from throughout Vermont as well as Boston, Brooklyn, and Pittsburgh. 
 On September 27, Jay Ancel and I (and we hope Mike Rushman as well) will present our vision for a Capital Corridor linking five towns - Montpelier, Waterbury, Middlesex, Berlin and Barre City. Our design envisions greater public transportation and green infrastructure, more people, and improved quality of life.

The Capital Corridor, a larger natural, economic, political and social system, would be connected via a 20-mile rail line, potentially linking 1.5 million square feet of State Facilities, people and jobs within walking distance of the rail line. The design would reduce reliance on private cars and parking spaces, while expanding access to rivers, new parks, and a bike/pedestrian path along the river with public art strung along its entire length.

The discussion, hosted by the Gund Institute for Environment at UVM and Net Zero Vermont, will explore sustainable urban planning, design, energy and public engagement to advance Montpelier's efforts to go "Net Zero" by 2030, and to forge closer ties between regional stakeholders.

The event is free and open to the public.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

"Chaos" at The Front

The new exhibits at The Front include my piece, The Long Haul: Chaos, which I put into a new case that I made at The Foundry in Lyndonville.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Two New Exhibits at Goddard College

I've set up two new exhibits at Goddard this week. Here's the evite, and then some images of each of the exhibits.

Upstairs is the SOCIAL JUSTICE exhibit, with one wall devoted to each issue area. There is really wonderful work in this show. I hope you'll put it on your itinerary when you make summer plans to be in the Plainfield area on a weekday. The entrance:





The exhibit is up through October 9, 2017, which is a long run. We will certainly schedule some kind of reception during the summer. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, here's part of my curator's statement:

Social Justice is much on our minds at the moment, with inequities and associated suffering in healthcare, employment, education, and religion, as well as the four categories I've chosen to focus on in this exhibit -- race, gender, immigration, and the environment.

Injustice occurs when one group takes the goodies for itself, and leaves the dregs for others it deems less deserving, less valuable, or even less human. This unwillingness to share resources fairly is at the root of social injustice, whether it is redlining, immigration restrictions, gender discrimination, or environmental degradation that destroys habitat for plants, animals, and impoverished or indigenous humans. Being OK with, denying, or justifying the affliction of others is what allows injustice to occur.

This refusal to acknowledge the needs of others as legitimate and equal to our own is an emotion-based problem, and one that is incredibly difficult to address. Social scientists have demonstrated that verifiable facts do not change people's minds if their perspectives and beliefs are not aligned with that information. In fact, it often makes their beliefs even more intransigent, as they may feel they are under siege, and thus entitled to lash out.

So if we look at injustice as an emotional (rather than an intellectual) problem, we can see the value of art in helping to create change. Because visual art is non-verbal, non-polemical, and is open to a variety of interpretations, it may be able to open people's hearts with an emotional key. In the best case, it may facilitate encountering the other, seeing his or her pain, grieving, and even passing through the door to remorse and a desire to redress wrongs.

I have devoted one wall of the gallery to each of the exhibit's four issue areas, and in my choice of work have tried to avoid propaganda or preaching. I want viewers to encounter these works on their own terms and in their own ways. But I also want to share my perspective about what I chose, by mounting  short texts beneath the label information for each piece.  I hope viewers will spend time with each work and its associated commentary, and bring their own musings, associations, and responses to the experience.

Downstairs, the exhibit, TAKING IT TO THE STREET,  features almost 50 of Terry J. Allen's photographs of demonstrations, marches, and actions in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Vermont. They are interspersed with signs, banners and posters from actions old and new.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Manipulating "Railroaded"

Art for all ages at SPA!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Art Works Review in SEVEN DAYS

There's a nice review of the show by Meg Brazill in this week's SEVEN DAYS, including this about two of my pieces:
In Janet Van Fleet's "The Long Haul: Railroaded" (74 by 12 inches), two pulleys move a wooden wagon back and forth on a track leading nowhere. While Sisyphus probably found little joy in rolling a rock uphill only to have it roll back down, it is tempting to waste an afternoon moving the Cabot-based artist's haul of wooden sticks along the track. Despite the inherent futility, it's fun.
 Van Fleet's three sculptures in the show combine words, images, dolls and toys into well-executed environments that beg to be touched — and, in this exhibit, they can be. In "Dialogue I," which offers a glimpse into history's underbelly, visitors open drawers to view pictures of a slave market, victims of a Nazi gas chamber, trash on a beach in Norway, and more. Two figures hover above the drawers wearing signs that read "We Are Dying and Going Away Forever" and "We Want Your House and Ours Too."

Monday, June 12, 2017

Art Works at Studio Place Arts

The current show at SPA is Art Works, filled with work you can touch, crank, and move in various ways, running June 6 - July 8. I have three pieces in the show, and it's definitely a blast.

You can see one of my Long Haul pieces, called Railroaded, at the right that lets you crank a logging cart back and forth along the tracks. You can also see my piece, Dialogue, in the far left corner.

The third piece is called Pride Goeth Before a Fall, seen at left, below. In the foreground is a 4-person PinBox 3000 from the Cardboard Teck Instantute. (There are LOTS more of those on the second floor.) Bring enough people with you to the show to operate all four stations!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Art and Social Justice

In 2016 I co-curated an exhibit at Studio Place Arts called Them, Us, and You, and now I'm curating a dual exhibit at the Goddard College Art Gallery in Plainfield, VT called Social Justice in Race, Gender, Immigration, and the Environment, with a second space downstairs showing TAKING IT TO THE STREET, with photographs by Terry J. Allen of demonstrations in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Vermont, along with posters, banners and signs from protests old and new. The exhibits will run from June 12 - October 9, 2017. The spaces are open M-F, 9:00AM - 4:00PM.

I'll post images when the exhibit is up and open. Stay tuned!

The Alphabet Book is Published!

I've published the ABC book. It's 8.5 x 8.5" square. Available from me for $15. Several of the originals are at The Front this exhibit cycle, and there are books available there too!

Some interior pages:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Latest Wine Foils

It's been awhile since I've posted about the wine foils I've been working on, but I'm really committed to getting 26 of them together and creating an ABC book. I have no idea how I'll go about trying to publish it, or what the format will be... Should there be a rhyme, maybe even a limerick, associated with each? Is this for grownups or children or both?

For awhile I was particularly drawn to the (fairly rare) green foils, and made a number with a botanical flavor:

Then I worked on trying to make pieces that could represent the more challenging letters at the end of the alphabet -- U for underwear (above), V for valise, X for Xray, and Z for zipper:

Even though the originals are on white paper, I wondered if it would be fun to make the backgrounds different colors:

What do YOU think?