Eight new exhibitions open inside and outside Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) on Saturday, June 24, at 10 a.m. An opening celebration with the exhibiting artists and curators, free and open to all, will take place at 5 p.m. featuring music by DJ Bux Wilder, live drag performances, a cash bar by Saxtons River Distillery, and free tacos courtesy of Tito’s Taqueria.
The new exhibits feature “an abundance of materials, textures, colors, and forms,” said BMAC Director Danny Lichtenfeld, “from repurposed plastic to handblown glass, photographs and audio recordings to ceramics inspired by braided straw, still-life paintings to patterned wallpaper, and more.”
Filling the museum’s large Wolf Kahn & Emily Mason Gallery and spilling out onto its entrance canopy will be “Human Nature Walk,” an immersive site-specific installation by artist Aurora Robson, inspired by the natural forms of the Connecticut River and fashioned entirely from plastic debris intercepted from the waste stream. Curated by Katherine Gass Stowe, the installation is Robson’s first solo exhibition in New England. Visitors are invited to contribute to it by collecting and cleaning plastic bottle caps and then placing them in specially designated sections of the installation.
“My practice is a form of serious play driven by the widespread perception that plastic is disposable when it is precisely the opposite,” said Robson. “Although plastic debris is an environmentally destructive material, it has vast potential in art applications. I turn plastic into art, taking it out of the waste stream and turning its longevity into an asset.”
At the annual BMAC Gala, to be held on Saturday, August 19, BMAC will honor Robson with its inaugural Award for Service to Art & Humanity, in recognition of the work she has done to increase awareness and develop creative solutions to the pernicious problem of plastic pollution.
Tucked into the museum’s South Gallery will be the latest iteration of “GLASSTASTIC,” BMAC’s popular bi-annual homage to youthful creativity and artistic ingenuity. This year’s menagerie of glass creatures dreamed up by children in grades K-6 and brought to three-dimensional life by professional glass artists will be situated in an enveloping habitat designed by Brattleboro artist Cynthia Parker-Houghton. In addition to the eleven featured creatures, every one of the more than 500 imaginary creatures submitted by children in grades K-6 will be on view in the gallery.
A production of the Pride Center of Vermont and Vermont Folklife, “Pride 1983” explores the origins and legacy of Burlington’s first Pride celebration through photographs, artifacts, and audio recordings. Curated by Meg Tamulonis of the Vermont Queer Archives, the exhibition draws on archival materials from the Pride Center of Vermont, UVM Special Collections, and the Out in the Open Andrews Inn Oral History Project, as well as the personal collections of individuals featured in the exhibition. It also includes interviews with twelve activists and organizers crucial to the establishment of Pride in Burlington. “Pride 1983” is supported in part by the Samara Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation and the Vermont Humanities Council.
Curated by Sadaf Padder, “I Land Therefore I Am” is a solo exhibition of artwork by Anina Major that explores the relationship between self and place, belonging and identity. “My work is motivated by my decision to voluntarily establish a home outside The Bahamas, where I was born and raised,” said Major. The ceramic sculptures and other objects that comprise the exhibition act as present-day manifestations of the traditional weaving technique known as plait, taught to Major by her grandmother. “I Land Therefore I Am” is supported in part by BMAC’s Wolf Kahn & Emily Mason Exhibition Fund.
Over the past ten years, artist Alec Egan has built an imaginary house through paintings. Each exhibition he does highlights a different room in the house, including bathrooms, dining rooms, living rooms, bedrooms, and now, at BMAC, the “Drawing Room.” With each manifestation of this project, Egan creates artwork that is in dialogue with the surrounding architecture. “As a former train station, BMAC is the perfect fit for a reprise of this multi-pronged approach,” said Egan. “My exhibition highlights a series of paintings that form a table-scape, which is more of a vignette of a room than a room, but works perfectly for the converted ticket office. The intimacy of the space allows the nuance, absurdity, and meaning of the objects displayed in the master painting and in subsequent detail paintings to take on a life of their own.”
Rounding out BMAC’s new indoor exhibitions is Roberley Bell’s “Where Things Set,” a collection of sculptures and drawings by the Massachusetts-based artist. According to BMAC Director of Exhibitions Sarah Freeman, who curated the exhibition, “Bell’s sculptures and drawings share space, allowing us to see the conversations that take place between these distinct yet related bodies of work. Drawing is integral to Bell’s practice. On paper, Bell works out ideas of form, color, and placement, working intuitively and searching for what feels right. The drawings appear spontaneous and, at times, edgy or awkward as Bell feels her way through the gestures and shapes she puts on the page. The drawings help Bell find her way to three-dimensional forms.”
The final two exhibitions being celebrated on June 24 opened to the public in early May and have been on view 24/7 since then.
Hannah Morris’s “Moveable Objects” fills the museum’s seven large window bays with reproductions of the Barre, Vermont-based artist’s narrative-rich multimedia paintings. “Using a visual language based on colors, tones, marks, and details, I create believable yet implausible scenes. The underlying restlessness and vulnerability of the people in these scenes is a reflection of a struggle to define ourselves,” said Morris.
On the lawn in front of the museum entrance, as well as in the adjacent sculpture garden, is a collection of abstract sculptures by Lela Jaacks of Brownsville, Vermont. “My work gives viewers a glimpse of how I observe my surroundings, both natural and constructed. I share these glimpses through tangible creations, made from both gathered natural artifacts and handmade forms,” said Jaacks.
The six new indoor exhibitions opening on June 24 will remain on view through October 9, 2023, with the exception of Aurora Robson’s “Human Nature Walk,” which will stay up through February 11, 2024. Lela Jaacks’s outdoor sculptures will remain on view through October 31, 2023, and Hannah Morris’s images will be in place through April 30, 2024.
While the new exhibitions are on view, BMAC will present a wide range of related events and activities enabling visitors and participants to learn more about the ideas, themes, and people associated with the exhibitions. These include artist talks with Roberley Bell (July 20), Anina Major (July 27), and Lela Jaacks (August 10); a River Walk and Cyanotype Workshop (July 15); River Cleanup and Found Materials Sculpture Workshop (September 23 & 30); Queer Dance Party (July 28); “Remembering Andrews Inn” (September 23); and more. Details are available at brattleboromuseum.org.
Founded in 1972, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center presents rotating exhibits of contemporary art, complemented by lectures, artist talks, film screenings, and other public programs. BMAC is open Wednesday–Sunday, 10–4. Admission is free. Located in historic Union Station in downtown Brattleboro, at the intersection of Main Street and Routes 119 and 142, the museum is wheelchair accessible. For more information, call 802-257-0124 or visit brattleboromuseum.org.
BMAC is supported in part by the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by Brattleboro Savings & Loan, C&S Wholesale Grocers, Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, and Whetstone Beer Co.