Anyone who harbors the opinion that one has to travel to a large city to view a major art exhibition has not experienced the Green Mountain Watercolor Exhibition currently occupying the Red Barn Galleries at Lareau Farm. More than 200 watercolor paintings from across the United States have been gathered through an extensive jurying process and brought into the exhibition.
The exhibition can be easily branded through a single word, “diversity.” Whether it be through size, color or subject, the paintings are as varied as the personalities of the artists themselves.
Upon entering the gallery, one is immediately confronted with Sandra Hildreth’s massive painting “Lament For The Lost” depicting a mother crane caring for her family of chicks. Hildreth’s painting sets up a contrast of the various sizes and shapes exhibited throughout the show and is in stark contrast with the 125 miniature watercolors (20 square inches max) found in the Whiskey Painters of America portion of the exhibition. One could easily consider these exquisite miniature paintings a complete show in and by themselves. The paintings are cleverly arranged and hung artist-by-artist allowing for easy comparison of styles and subject.
The myth of watercolors being typically pale and washy is quickly dispelled when one is confronted with the vibrancy of color throughout the show. Caroline McKinney’s “Stonemasons Break” and Monique Dewyea’s “Fragile Peony” are beautifully executed and require the soft delicate touch often associated with the medium of watercolor; however, “Rolling Out” by Joanne Bodnar explodes with expressive, almost in-your-face color. Her rendition of vibrant oranges playing against lush blueberries is both exciting and refreshing. Landscapes have also rated treatment with the new, vibrant watercolor pigments. Janet Palmer’s “Along The Granite Cliff” has colors extremely clean, crisp and clear in their depiction of a cool Adirondack lake. Kathy Berry-Bergeron’s “Birches and Sumac” adds a colorful twist to the typical landscape painting with its splashes of hot pink, turquoise, yellow and green.
Diversity of style and technique is probably the most obvious of all the variants in the exhibition. Paintings vary in style from near photo-realism to pure abstract. Two paintings by Cindy Brabeck-King, “Happily Ever Laughter” and “Unravelled,” along with Michael Ridge’s “Chile” take realism to a new degree of perfection and each requires careful attention to the rendering and depiction of detail. The traditional, more free brush work usually associated with watercolor painting is most easily seen in Ron Beahn’s painting “Barney.” The almost haphazard approach to painting is perfect for depicting the soft, almost touchable, fur of his dog. The more traditional approaches to the watercolor medium can be found in the landscapes and still life paintings scattered throughout the exhibition.
Abstraction is also represented, but to a lesser degree, in the exhibition. Carole Hennessy’s colorful and geometric landscapes are abstracted both in color and design while free-form, expressive abstraction is found in Harriet King’s “Blue Inspiration” and Gary Johnson’s “Star Gazing.” While King’s painting is free with flowing patterns, Johnson’s painting is carefully contrived with clear, clean lines, controlled application of pigment and a thoughtfully planned play of shapes.
This reviewer also has to mention the outstanding job the corps of volunteers did in presenting the exhibition. The show maintains a beautiful flow throughout with variety around every turn in the galleries of this historic barn. The Green Mountain Watercolor Exhibition continues through July 24 at the Red Barn Galleries at Lareau Farm, Waitsfield, VT. Viewing hours are Thursday and Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. The exhibition is free and children are welcome. A reception is scheduled for July 18 from 5 to 7 p.m. Info at madrivervalleyarts.org.