Two people viewing a piece from the Big Red barn Art Show. Photo: Roarke Sharlow

The 24th annual Big Red Barn Art Show, currently occupying the Galleries of the Red Barn, Lareau Farm, Waitsfield, excels on every level. The show features the creative endeavors of the artists and artisans of the Mad River Valley, this year expanding its offerings to include more sculpture, glass and ceramics -- a wise decision. There is an abundance of serious fine art but there is also a fair amount of fantasy.


This is evident the moment one enters the exhibition and is greeted by a giraffe -- yes, a giraffe. The 6-foot whimsical wooden sculpture by Jonathan Draudt peeking around the corner of a panel displaying Julia Purinton’s stunning impressionist painting “Wilderness Retreat” sets the tone for the entire show. One can venture through the exhibition not knowing what can be found around the next corner.

While there is certainly an abundance of light-hearted work in the gallery, there is plenty for the more discerning art aficionado with paintings covering the gamut of artistic styles. Joan Lane’s masterful watercolor painting “Christmas Lambs” harkens to the severe lighting qualities found in so many paintings by the Old Masters while Eric Nelson’s colorful paintings of trees in overlaying patterns and shapes speak of a more contemporary approach to painting.

In between, one can find work in nearly every genre of painting styles. Brooke Cunningham’s acrylic ink paintings are pure abstraction while Candy Barr’s “Warren Covered Bridge” is totally expressionistic with its free brush work. The POP art movement is quite evident in Rita Ioannidis’ massive painting “Holy Cow,” with the Colorist movement found in the moody but brilliant pastels by Marilyn Ruseckas -- “Lunar Landscape” of note. Representational landscapes and still life subjects, far too many to mention, can be found throughout the gallery.

Two welded metal constructionist sculptures by John Matusz create a strong interplay of light patterns and textures while his cardboard sculpture “Edifice 2” has strong overtones of the Deconstructive Art movement of the 1980s. Andrew O’Brien’s stained-glass panel “Eclipse” deserves close observation as he explores new territories in the medium with the extensive use of black, gray and clear glass. Spencer Kirk-Jackson’s free-form blown glass bowl is sensual in form and line and its inviting pink coloration. Bette Anne Libby’s shard mosaic “Happiness of Pursuit” is beautifully composed and visually tactile.

Encaustic/cold wax paintings, too rarely seen these days, have a strong showing in the exhibition. The very limited linear structure within the paintings by AnnMarie DeFreest support the subtle play of earth tones against the complementary colors of blush pink and moss green generating an energy that is both relaxing and visually soothing. Conversely, the encaustic paintings by Beth Kendrick vibrate with color. Of note is her beautifully designed, rich in color, piece “Tears For Ukraine,”

The Big Red Barn Art Show is strikingly pleasing, very eclectic in its structure and easy to experience. The show’s lighter side makes it accessible to children and is a great introduction to the enjoyment and appreciation of art.

The 2022 iteration of the Big Red Barn Art Show is the first presentation by the new Valley Artists’ Guild. The Big Red Barn Art Show is open Thursday/Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. and Saturday/Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. through September 4. Red Barn Galleries at Lareau Farm, Route 100, Waitsfield, free, children welcome.