Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Video of Artist Talk at AVA


Here's the video of my talk at AVA last week (text and still images in the previous post).



Those mirrors behind me are wonderfully reflecting the people in the audience (and cars going by outside)!


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Artist Talk at AVA


Last Thursday, September 27, I gave an artist talk at AVA that I called "Why Do They Do It?". Here are a few photos and the text of the talk. The exhibit ends today.


Thank you all for coming! It has been such a treat exhibiting here at AVA, which is so similar, in many ways, to Studio Place Arts in Barre, where I have my studio. Mila has been wonderful. She did a great job of hanging the show (meaning, literally, hanging eleven pieces from the ceiling, a challenging thing to do! Thank you, Mila and Gen!

My intention is to talk for about 10 minutes, and then open it up for questions and comments, after which I'd love to take anyone who's interested through the exhibit and talk about individual pieces, if we can all wend our way through the thicket of sculpture in there! There's a lot going on in each of the sculptures, and I have things to say about the materials, the construction, and what I was thinking about in each piece.

The working title for my talk today is "Why Do They Do it?", the "It" being Art. This is, interestingly, a two-pronged question. OK,  Question number one is why do artists make art -- is there a common experience for artists with respect to their impulse to make this thing we call art, and, specifically for me, what in me or in my background might have led me to this place.
 

The second question about why artists do it is a cultural question -- what is the function of art in the world? Does the world want or need art and, if so, why do we do it for public consumption?
 

I have talked about the Artist Why  with lots of artists, and the consensus seems to be that artists feel they have to make art, it's something they are somehow compelled to do, it's something they can't not do. For myself, I have always made things, fiddled with things, put stuff  together with other stuff.  Who knows whether this is influenced by nature or nurture or both, though I've thought about it.
 

My mother, When she was a girl, floated down the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida in a boat she made out of a bent Coca-Cola sign,  two-by-fours and stolen tar. Later as a young mother, when my Naval officer father was gone for extended periods, she built a Heathkit amplifier and phonograph, and block-printed her own drapes. After my father died testing a plane, she remarried an artist in Santa Fe named John McKinney who was an adobe builder. He made doors and furniture out of weathered and salvaged wood. In one of his more outrageous projects, he took all the doors off the kitchen cabinets in a house they had just bought, and completely changed them by using a scroll saw to create lines, and cut shapes backed by different colors of burlap.

I describe these things because I think it's important to point out that Making -- actually using your hands and tools to make an object (whether it's a two-dimensional or a three-dimensional object) -- is the most basic reality and requirement in the production of art. As I was growing up, I was surrounded by people in Santa Fe who made things -- houses, sculptures, poems, theater, music, and food. And many, many people now seem to live in a virtual world, where there's an electronic interface between them and the physical world. Many people don't make anything at all, even dinner.
 

And now, the cultural question about what the function of art might be in the world. When I was growing up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, there were three ethnic / SLASH /cultural groups in the community, Native American/Indian, Hispanic/Mexicans, and Anglo/Gringo, each with a strong visual arts presence -- the Native Americans made turquoise and silver jewelry, clay vessels, and did weaving and some traditional leather crafts. The Hispanic community's primary artworks were santos, cristos, and other religious carvings. And the Anglos, mostly imported from other parts of the United States, were those artists on Canyon Road. What was the social value for the artwork in each of these arenas? Of course commerce, the exchange of money for art goods, is the most obvious, and easiest measure to quantify, and each of these three groups had pride in their own work and found it valued in the marketplace as well.
 

But is it just about money and about the desire to possess objects, or is there something about this category of goods we call art that is as necessary and compelling for the observer as it is for the artist?
 

Yes. I believe art speaks to viewers in symbolic, allusive, non-verbal ways that bring artist and viewer together in a kind of embrace in a shared space between them. Which brings us back to the importance of Making -- the artist forming, painting, pressing a print. So, just as the physical body of the beloved is enrapturing, it is the hand of the artist, the physical hand of another human being, present in the art object, that calalyzes that embrace. This is what makes an original artwork, seen in its original form, different from a reproduction, whether a digital or 3D print or online image. It's as though there's still some kind of art pheromones attached to the object.
 

I have sometimes thought that the fact that so many of us live through the intermediary of digital technology and have experiences that are pretty exclusively in our heads, may explain the ascendancy of conceptual art, in which the object is of no importance in itself, and both the artist and viewer are sealed in private bubbles of deconstruction.
 

For my own part, I love stuff, I love picking it up, attaching it to other stuff, feeling its resistance, and then watching it rust or fray or crumble into dust, which is the common fate of all stuff, even the stuff of us. Art for me is not about eternity; it is a way of being present right now in the world. Artists make art to try to be awake and alive, and the function of art is to offer the same opportunity to others.


 


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Bought at the Kent-o-Matic


Thanks to Jeanne Cariati for sending this photo of the Nail Person she bought in the Kent-o-Matic vending machine at this year's exhibit, Backstory, at the Kent Museum. I put in ten of them (they're ten bucks apiece for any of the goodies in the machine), each in a box the size of a cigarette pack (re-purposing the machine...), but I don't know how many of mine are left.


The exhibit is up through October 7, Friday-Sunday, 10 - 5. The Kent exhibits are always wonderful, and this year's is no exception!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

On to the Next


I'm so pleased with the exhibit at AVA, and will be giving an artist talk at 5:30 on Thursday, September 27. I look forward to talking to (and with) folks at that time.

But now another deadline looms -- an exhibit at the Vermont Supreme Court Gallery in April-June, 2019. I'm planning to show work related to the impact of humans on the life of the planet. As it's developing, I'm finding a color grouping of red, black, and gold running through the work.

I have re-purposed a 2' tall x 13' wide triptych from 2004 (at that time called Rivers of Blood) to incorporate figures made with wine foils that are collaged onto the surface of the paintng. I've also added text from the Old Testament Book of Amos. The (red) humans are flowing downstream, along with bones, and the fish (representing other lifeforms on the planet) are swimming upstream, moving into the future. Here are some not-very-good images of the first two panels. This work would go in the far part of the gallery, not sure where (there are 3 possible locations...).


 

I am planning to do eight square panels (probably3x3' each) for the front section of the gallery. These would be like the Stations of the Cross, intended as opportunities for reflection and contemplation. The series would have eight parts related to the series of events in a legal proceeding -- from The Scene, Mitigating Circumstances (at the beginning, rather than the end...), The Accusation, The Evidence... to The Judgment and The Penalty. I am excited to move forward with this work, and am accumulating wine foil figures for the purpose.

Additionally, I'm thinking of bringing back some materials from a piece I did called Pandora's Box (or Nature Spills Her Guts). I would re-purpose it in a piece called Digesting the Planet. The "guts" will spill across the wall (I need to find a better way or arranging them), and the boxes will be filled with plastic animals. We'll see...



It's good to be starting on a new project, though I'm sure things will change substantially over the coming months!


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Artist Profile in Seven Days


What a wonderful profile Rachel Jones did of me in Seven Days today! I feel really  honored, and also that she really grok-ed me. Here it is, with nice photos by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur, including the one below:


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Long Haul Photos by Jack Rowell



Jack just sent me the photos he took just before the opening on Sept. 7. I am so pleased with this show, and thrilled to have high-quality images of the installation.


Thank you, Jack Rowell. Jack's special gift is portraits of people, I think, so here's one he took of me!



Saturday, September 8, 2018

Great Reception at AVA, Fabulous Installation


My Opening Reception at AVA was last night and it was great! Most Central Vermont folks were at Art Hop in Burlington and Art Walk in Montpelier, but there were lots of people I'd not met before who came and were super enthusiastic about the work, which was most gratifying!

Here are some images taken by me and my husband, R.D. Eno:


The gallery in which Long Haul was installed is wonderfully wonky, with walls at many angles. Mila Pinigen did a great job of installing the work. It felt to me as though the pieces were floating around in the space, bouncing off the walls and moving in a new direction, like bubbles in a screen saver. Very cool.


This is the view from the main entrance to the space (It has signage on the wall straight ahead now that wasn't there when we took this shot...). Baggage, which is hard to photograph because of the plastic cover and two different kinds of light (natural from a window behind and tungsten cans overhead) is on the left. It's one of my favorite pieces, so I tried to create a tiled image, below, that shows all the passengers with their baggage. I put it in as a large file, so you'll have to click on it to see the whole thing...


Here's one more overview shot. Jack Rowell, a wonderful photographer and kind friend, came and took some photos too, which I hope he will let me put up here once he's finished processing them.



Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Alliance for the Visual Arts (AVA) Exhibit


I'll be having an exhibit of my Long Haul work in the in the Elizabeth Rowland Mayor Gallery at AVA Gallery and Art Center from September 7 – October 2018. The opening reception will take place on Friday, September 7th, from 5pm-7pm. I'll also be giving an artist talk on Thursday, September 27th at 5:30pm. I hope you can come!


The exhibit will feature eleven of the long, shallow boxes from this series, suspended from the ceiling at various heights and angles. The above image shows one of the works, Seventeen, exhibited in 2017 at The Front gallery in Montpelier.

In my statement about this body of work, I wrote:


We’re all in it for the Long Haul, all Earth’s living organisms together, as the planet trucks its way through time and space. Each of us scans the road ahead, anxiously wondering: Will I succeed? Will I have children? Can I pay my mortgage? We look around and worry: Will Western Civilization survive? Is the Republic over? Is Fascism ascendant?

But what about the lives that do not look into the future, as we do, but flourish only in their present moments? The planet lost 58% of its animal population between 1970 and 2012, while human numbers grew from 4 billion in 1975 to over 7 billion today. Will the elephant survive the Anthropocene? How many species will disappear? Will there be any wild places left?

All these questions, all these players, and all of their stories are interconnected. Everything is bumping into everything else. The Long Haul series suggests that these diverse trajectories are braided and packed together for our voyage. Each of these sculptures has its own range of possible narratives, and you are encouraged to speculate about the stories of these components, how they interconnect, how, like side roads joining a great highway, they all converge.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Art the Vote!



 Have you been wanting to help turn Congress Blue in November 2018? Here's your chance to donate to that goal AND receive an artwork by me, or another Vermont artist!

 Make a donation to the Lean Left Vermont Victory Fund PAC, which supports candidates in critical swing districts in Maine, New Hampshire, and New York, and get a work of art. It's a win-win!

 For more details on Art the Vote, go to https://www.leanleftvt.org/art-the-vote

https://www.leanleftvt.org/art-the-vote



This is the piece I've donated, which you can have for a donation of $315.



Saturday, July 14, 2018

Painting Class at GIA


The theme of this class was Layers, and our major project was a large 4x3 foot canvas that each student painted in acrylics. They started on Day One with a 2" wide brush, and filled the canvas. On Day Two they got a 1" brush, and had to cover the canvas again, leaving no part of the Day One painting larger than my hand. On Day Three they got regular flat and round 1/4" and 1/8" brushes, and had to make modifications to each 12" square section. On the final day, they could also use china markers.

Here is an overview of the wall on which the final paintings were displayed, as well as gifs of each student's work (and, third one down, one by the class's assistant, Asa Waterworth, who also kindly photographed the work from which the gifs were created):














We also tried a number of different  ways of painting on transparent layers. And at the end, we spray-painted disks for mobiles using stencils students cut from mylar, or sprayed over natural materials.



Thursday, July 12, 2018

Governor's Institute on the Arts Sculpture Class


I'm back from the Governor's Institute on the Arts (GIA), held at Castleton University from June 24 - July 8. It was exhausting, exhilarating, and very wonderful. There were about 80 students participating in many different classes at the GIA this year, and I taught a sculpture class and a painting class.

The main project for the sculpture class was making an assemblage in a suitcase related to the theme of migration. I had gathered old-fashioned suitcases (the kind without wheels), which I brought with me, along with several boxes of "stuff" I thought might be useful in creating the assemblages. The students were very resourceful about finding other materials too (like dirt, wood, grapevines, and stones). One of the students suggested a title for our installation: Case Studies.



Here are the individual works. Two students made pieces related to their own families' immigration stories -- an ancestor who came from Italy and opened a farmstand, and a great grandfather who came from Eastern Europe after a terrible massacre, hoping for a better life, but wound up working in a coal mine at the age of 12.




Two of the suitcases made work directly addressing the current global migration crisis, the first one , showing two sides of the southern border.





The one below presents the cases of children removed from their families, with their "files" and possessions mounted in the case (which was a government-issued briefcase).


The last suitcase sculpture was a conceptual piece, in which the "borders" represent artificial barriers separating sections of soil and stones that are essentially the same.



The sculpture class also made mobiles and altered books. All the work was extremely impressive, and I felt privileged to participate in this wonderful program. Thanks also to Haleigh West, a wonderful class assistant!

In a future posting I will show work from the Painting class.




Sunday, June 10, 2018

Tell Me


You have until June 30 to see Tell Me and the other exhibits at SPA!

Here are some more images from the show.


Dana Walrath's two cut-book pieces are fabulous.






And there's a section of scroll, or vertical, pieces that is very appropriate for contemplation.

I love this hanging piece by Matthew Monk, with wacky discontinuous (but very funny) directions. To the left, Walter Kopek's Screamer seems to shoot down the gallery, through Julia Pavone's painting, past James Teuscher's Tower, and out the front window!
!




Saturday, May 26, 2018

More at Studio Place Arts


One more day of Open Studios! I'll be in my studio tomorrow, Sunday, from noon - 5PM. I'd love to see you there.

I've curated the current exhibit, Tell Me, at SPA. The opening was last Thursday, but you can see it through June 30.

Here I am installing Diane Sophrin's work:


Axel Stohlberg's Tower of Babel, one of two in the show (the other is by James Teuscher):



Monday, April 2, 2018

Exhibit and BASH at Studio Place Arts


I've got a piece in the Pleased to Meet You show at SPA. The opening reception is folded in with SPA's annual Big Arty SPA Happening (BASH), Friday, April 20, from 7-9 PM. Tickets are $15 in advance, and $25 on the day of the event. This is a great party. Come join us!


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Seven Days Review


This week's Seven Days has a review by Amy Lilly of the Artists to Watch show at the Vermont Arts Council, with closeup images of two of my pieces.

https://media2.fdncms.com/sevendaysvt/imager/u/blog/14099181/art1-1-dcc10312becbf044.jpg?cb=1522197259

She says, among other things,
The show demonstrates the benefits of relinquishing a single curatorial vision. It includes well-known artists, such as found-wood sculptor Janet Van Fleet (Cabot) and landscape painter Bonnie Baird (Chittenden). 
and
Van Fleet's wall-hung "Puppets" demonstrates the experienced artist's ability to turn every natural curve of driftwood, bone, shell or scrap metal to account. She derived the relaxed stance of the central skirted figure — a long-armed puppeteer, or perhaps mother figure — using literal stick legs. Each arm supports three dangling puppets, all made from deftly connected found materials. 
You can have a look at the whole review here.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Artists to Watch


Vermont Art Guide, a quarterly magazine about the contemporary visual art scene in Vermont, published by Kasini House, has launched a cool new project. They asked five guest curators to nominate five artists they thought were worth watching in the coming year. They are profiling the nominees in this and an upcoming issue of the publication. I was one of the artists, nominated by Mary Admasian. Here's the spread about my work. Click the image for a larger view.

Some text from the editors: "Hardworking and productive, Van Fleet is one of the state's premier contemporary artists." And, from Mary Admasian, "With roots steeped in political activism and arts education, Janet is a stalwart and everbearing producer of endless collections of curiosities, assemblages, photographs, painting, and sculpture."



Half the profiled artists are exhibiting work at the Spotlight Gallery of the Vermont Arts Council in each of two exhibits. Here's the work I am showing, up through April, 2018 -- a puppetmaster from whose arms hang six of my new puppets.



I encourage you to learn about and subscribe to this publication, which is supporting the visual arts in Vermont and working to make the richness of Vermont's visual arts scene known within and outside the state's borders.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Show 24 at The Front


Another really fine show at The Front. I have one of the front windows of The Front, showing the four completed Wheeled Chairs.



I wrote about the first two chairs in this series here. The last two chairs (below) continue the two elements all the works have in common: wheels and bones.