Sprouting the Seeds of Imagination:
Although Mollie S. Burke has been a practicing artist for almost four decades, her current exhibit at the Catherine Dianich Gallery in Brattleboro's Hooker-Dunham Building is her first solo gallery show. In her artist's statement she shares:
"The seeds of the works presented here have sprouted, grown, and matured within me, entangled in the procession of my life and the flow of time. They have been nurtured in the dusky magic of a childhood orchard home beside a river, and inspired by the Vermont landscape of my adult life. They have grown side by side with my children, and encouraged by the love of a spouse who is a creative partner. They have been scattered in garden beds beside a house set high above a rocky, singing brook. They have mingled with the fragrant lilac outside the door."
Mollie grew up in Buffalo, New York, and on the Niagara River in Canada, the oldest in a family of eleven children. She trained as a competitive figure skater in childhood and later studied political science at the London School of Economics. A trip to her ancestral Ireland during student days awakened artistic desires, and she abandoned graduate school to follow a different path.
She arrived in Vermont in the early days of the back-to-the land movement. The climate of the times fostered creative expression, and she pursued studies in painting and dance. She also married, settled in Brattleboro, and started a family.
"These works are, for the most part, hard-wrought," she tells viewers, "extracted during late-night hours in an attic studio around the edges of a busy outer life. They represent collaged bits of the life of a woman in love with our garden home and fearful for its future, coming to terms with the rushing flow of life and time passing."
Burke considers the artistic style of Magical Realism "a useful categorization" for her work and goes on to explain: "It is a search for the marvelously real, an encounter with the mysteries of life and nature, and their expression in some adequate artistic form." Her version of this form of expression includes many influences, among them "the interlace designs of my Irish ancestry, the compositional structure of illuminated manuscripts, the weavings of the Zapotecs in Mexico. I embrace magical realism as a non-linear way of seeing -- contrary to the constraints of literalism and narrowly defined political ideologies -- celebrating the imagination as a value and force that can save us."
Mollie continued to paint while teaching art and raising children. Four years ago she realized a long-standing desire to return to graduate school. She received an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College in 2007, in a program that encouraged connections between artists and social issues. As a part of her graduate study, she organized community poster exhibitions offering solutions to the global climate crisis.
Not long after receiving her degree, and inspired by the Goddard experience, Burke decided to run for the Vermont Legislature. On November 4th she was elected to the post, and in January she will head to Montpelier to represent Brattleboro's District Two. She plans to bring the voice and perspective of an artist to Vermont's citizen legislature.
Copyright 2009, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont