Weber Strokes, Lasky Rips, and Fleming Clicks
LORI WEBER AT GALLERY IN THE WOODS
The downtown branch of Gallery in the Woods debuted painter Lori Weber during July, opening up her world of surrealist symbolism to local eyes. Each of the three organic, pod-like forms included in her triptych worked strongly as individual pieces. All were nearly identical in composition: a single bud, full to bursting, is pictured on its stalk. Delicate, petallike leaves envelop the centrally placed iconic subject, acting like protective fingers, sometimes reaching up to become an implied halo hovering over and around the plant, which might be a womb. Each of these pod-wombs has a barely noticeable thin line of red that snakes down into the foreground as if it were a trickle of blood seeping down through the stalk and into the dark earth. The images are strongly felt and deeply personal in meaning while being accessible and worldly as icons. The paintings in "Triptych" were presented as slices of imagery -- each has a strip of unpainted, gessoed, white canvas stretching from top to bottom on both left and right sides. These "blank" areas are transitioned nicely by a transparent strip of wash at the edge of the image, as if one were focusing on the subject, or as if the subject was embedded or emerging from the gessoed background. This original orientation to the image seems surrealistic, and the element of mystery is further developed in a somber and earthy color palette.
Another successful work of Lori Weber's was the painting "Fallen Angel." Here, a central orb is being embraced by a laconic, nude female figure whose gaze is directed at the viewer. The figure is lithe and relaxed and leans to the left, arms enveloping the orb. Growing up, leaflike, around her back is a protective manta of transparent feathers, delicately painted and weightless. Shafts of grass rise up from beneath her, without obscuring her thigh, rhyming with the mossy mane of her hair, which in turn is synonymous with a golden, seaweed-like mane growing around the orb. The orb's color is soft steel blue. The figure's eyes gaze hypnotically at the viewer; her contented calm seems almost soporific. In front of her, a foreground field of gray rock shapes are solid and ultimately protective. Once again, a thin red line leaks down from the orb, across the rocks and through a crevasse, which disappears off the base of the painting, into darkness. Behind the figure, a dark and undefined landscape is implied. The unresolved or "endless" horizon would seem to categorize this work as classically surrealist. Finally, one's eyes rest on the very small transparent orb held gently, almost unconsciously, in the fingers of one of her hands -- it could be the seed of the parent orb, or maybe just a bubble.
Weber's paintings are featured in Gallery in the Woods' new three-level downtown space, which has more than doubled the gallery's size; be sure to visit on Gallery Walk or as soon as you find it convenient. It's a great place for lingering and contemplation.
LANNY LASKY AT BROOKS MEMORIAL LIBRARY
Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Cornell and Joseph Bueys were all collectors. Not of art, silly, but of scraps of paper, bits of texture and ticket stubs; of postcards, odd tool parts and small toys; or of wax, lint and string. All three of these great artistic innovators could find their respective conceptual ideas and visual vocabularies at home in Lanny's work. A summer resident of Dummerston for thirty-five years, Lanny Lasky has been simultaneously involved in the New York art scene. As an artist, she has shown in various galleries, including the Alan Stone Gallery; as an art educator, she has been the Director of Education at the Museum of Modern Art and worked for the Lincoln Center Institute.
A large number of the artist's small-scale collages are displayed at the front of the Library, while in the display cases on the mezzanine, she has a wonderful collection of small sculptural pieces. Lasky creates both types of work in larger scale also, but small works were picked to fit the limited exhibition space at the Library. The show remains up through August.
Lasky began as a painter. After finding herself cutting into and physically altering the canvas, she realized she wanted not just the illusion of space in her work but actual physical space instead. She is an obvious lover of textures, and the effect of time on things and her collages are deeply rich with such. As a colorist, she practices a certain austerity, setting up deep and somber earth-tone, textural grounds that work as visual sounding-boards for small notes of brighter color. All her textures are collected materials; she finds them in any old place and likes to cruise the yard sales and flea markets in quest of cast-off oddities or parts of things she can use in her collages and sculpture. "Everyone's dump" is her treasure trove.
Deep blues, purples, maroons and burnt oranges ride on parallel strips or implied grids of torn or cut paper over earthy grounds of dark grays or browns. The more expressive color elements create an inner rectangle or square surrounded by the larger rectangle of the single hued background. This relationship is reminiscent of Mark Rothko's compositions, while the deep grounds might also remind one of Rothko's late paintings. In spite of this similarity, however, the mood is much different.
The small sculptures are more conceptually oriented. These precious conglomerations invoke the elements of ordered collections and kits or games, often arranged in small appropriated or constructed "boxes." Each tells a story largely to be filled in by the viewer. These are the pieces Cornell and Bueys would enjoy. Other wheeled conceptual "toys" are simultaneously dark and playful and reveal the collagist's deep-thinking humor.
BILL FLEMING AT THE RIVERVIEW CAFÉ
Images by Brattleboro-born-and-bred Bill Fleming were on view in June and July at the Riverview Café. Fleming, a highly visible local persona, is a former Eagle Scout and current Boy Scout leader. He is an avid collector of stamps and has the largest collection of Brattleboro postcards in existence. That collection was displayed in the Brattleboro Museum at one point during the '80s. William Fleming served his country in Europe and during the Vietnam War, and it was in the military that he first studied photography and took pictures in Vietnam. He continued his study in night school at Windham College after serving and returning to Vermont.
Fleming's photographs were displayed as a collection of nature studies. Stark snow scenes, remnants of long-gone trees, trees intertwined with vines, and tender personified ferns acted as themes. Twigs are like pencil marks, a bank of reeds is like strokes of charcoal, while long, folding leaves and stretching stalks alone in the snow are like abstract Japanese calligraphic painting. The snow scenes acted as a perfect metaphor, in photography, to use traditional elements of black and white drawing. Another reference to Japanese aesthetic was the use of what are likely lightning-struck trees, the hollows of ancient forest giants. These gnarled survivors hint at stories of struggle against hard odds, of strength in the face of adversity. Also metaphoric for the struggle for existence are writhing vines, like ropes, entwining a skybound trunk.
But stepping far from the starkness are intimate personified studies of fiddleheads in spring. One is a family group; another, two figures rubbing their bowed heads. A third shows an unfolding fiddlehead at such close range you feel like you've become a fiddlehead.
Fleming has the eye of a native, passing by the obvious clichés to discover true moments of deep character in the extant woods and hills. In one photo, looking down a snow-covered logging road, past tall gray trunks, one peers into the crisp silence of the snow and cold, and that intensely felt silence is well known.
Copyright 2004, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont