ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 5 * * All Arts News On the Web * * April 5 , 2001


      ArtBits always features a calendar of the goings on of Franklin County artists. Check out these events around Franklin County. Each issue includes the entire text of our weekly newspaper column.

      Stop in for the AAC CoffeeHouses at 7 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of every month. These gatherings bring new opportunities, gossip, "show-and-tell" and workshops. We come together on the second Wednesday for a booked musical performance and an art exhibit at Simple Pleasures in St Albans. On the fourth Wednesday come to the Kept Writer in St Albans for acoustic Open Mike Night featuring music, readings, and more from the best new artists in Vermont.


      Artist and teacher Meta Strick is in the middle of Painting from the Spiritual Self at CCV this semester. "I see my role in a class like this to help people become more comfortable with paint," she said. "One student told me it is 'like learning a new language, a different way of expressing himself.'"
      The class learns to put ideas into a form that works for them. That form is deliberately not photo realistic.
      Abstract art is, as James McNeill Whistler wrote, "art for art's sake." Students painting the spiritual side use personal knowledge to work toward a universal idea. The end result can be deeply emotional human content in abstract form. Working in the abstract also allows students to learn to express emotion without worrying about making the painting look like a perfect reproduction.
      When they are comfortable with the material they learn technique. They discovered color early in the semester. "We cover the color wheel, what colors complement one another, how easy it is to mix colors, and how easy it is to make mud." They also examine form, balance, and how to use geometric or natural shapes.
      She quoted the Dalai Lama. "It's important to know the rules so you can break them properly."
      "I don't encourage them to do realistic things," Meta said. In fact she actively discourages it. "I harp about what I call 'thingness.'"
      People who are starting out "get bogged down too easily with wanting it to look like a specific thing" Because they have not yet developed technical ability, they get crushed.
      Many casual painters have a keen appreciation of photo realism and want to capture the look of a Blakely, a Swan, or a Wyeth. Meta has found a one-semester class does not have time for the level of technical training to become a competent drafter and to learn to use the paint and form. "Instead, by week two people feel successful with what they do because we get away from that thingness."
      Meta gave this class a recent lesson on painting faces and showed the students to see the face in a painting as more than a symbol of a particular person. "It's a symbol of a person in general or of a group of people such as children. They are trying to symbolize a type or a feeling." She encourages students to represent emotion because "painting a feeling gives a lot more latitude." In these exercises, "the eyes don't have to be even or the nose 'just so' as long as the basic elements of the face are there."
      "By the end of the semester there is no way to tell the difference between a person who says he or she has no creativity and one with lots of experience," she said.
      Meta makes her living by teaching, creating artwork, and making crafts. "I used to have a day job but when they offered early retirement, I took it." She earned a Bachelors of Fine Art from Carnegie Mellon. "It didn't support me for years." she said. "That's why I worked in human services."
      Her academic offerings also include Introduction to Human Services and the Assessment of Prior Learning. Non-traditional courses like this one are particularly useful for adult learners in an area like Franklin County that does not have easy access to . "It's really exciting to see someone turn what they know into college credit."
      Although Meta sometimes paints landscapes herself, she likes figures and faces best, often working on very large faces or parts of faces. "I see the face as a symbol of a feeling or an idea." She creates folk art wood carvings for sale in craft shows through the summer and fall and loves everything connected with book arts, especially calligraphy and printing and wood cuts.
      Most of her basement is a wood shop. She also likes to take on new materials and media.
      "A couple of years ago, I promised myself I wouldn't do it again. I always want to have the tool and the equipment and I don't have room for it."
      She took a class at the Shelburne Museum print shop because "I wanted to learn about letter press printing." She subsequently spent two years as a volunteer there. Ultimately, she decided she simply "had to have a 1912 proof press" but the only place she could put was in her living room. Now, when she isn't printing she has a "big piece of black sculpture in the living room."
      She lives at Fairfield Pond where she "can't ever move. I have too much stuff." In addition to the workshop, the art supplies, and unusual sculpture, Meta is the family archive.
      "My pet peeve is that I don't think there should be a distinction between fine art and craft."


      The All Arts Council will exhibit two and three-dimensional work by Franklin County artists at Maple Festival this year. We will also host the best of Vermont's specialty food producers in an exciting exhibit for all the senses.
      Space is limited, so e-mail us early.


ST ALBANS-- Kevin Leary performs classical/acoustic guitar at the regular AAC CoffeeHouse at Simple Pleasures next Wednesday, April 11, at 7 p.m. The landscape photos of Bob Brodeur will be on exhibit. The artwork will remain at Simple Pleasures through May 9.
      The All Arts Council sponsors the CoffeeHouse with music, networking time, and "show-and-tell" at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. Admission is always free, but donations are appreciated.
      The watercolor paintings of AAC member Mary Harper are featured this month at the Highgate Springs Welcome Center, immediately south of the U.S.-Canadian border crossing.


      The Second Annual Franklin Central Supervisory Union Art Show will be open Tuesday through Thursday, April 10-12, in St Albans City Hall. The show includes two and three dimensional pieces with mobiles, sculpture, paintings, collages, and more from students at BFA-St Albans, Fairfield School, St Albans Town Education Center, St Albans City School.
      "There will be literally hundreds of excellent pieces," said Melissa Haberman.
      An opening reception in City Hall on Tuesday, 6-7:30 p.m. Many of the artists will attend the reception.
      The hours are Tuesday 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Wednesday, 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. and 3-5:30 p.m., and Thursday, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 3-5:30 p.m. in St Albans City Hall. Admission is free.


      We continue to wander around the virtual state of Vermont to look at the online homes of arts organizations, galleries and artists, film and theater sites, and musicians. We have started with the Local Arts Service Organizations:
      The Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester is Vermont's oldest cultural organization. The Arts Center houses ten galleries of classic and contemporary art in a National Historic Trust mansion on a 407-acre estate on the slope of Mount Equinox. Their newest gallery, the Elizabeth deC. Wilson Museum, opened in July to exhibit the Arts Center's 800-piece Permanent Collection.


      Assistant Town Clerk Kathy Barbour of Berkshire likes any kind of book. "I'm not real choosy about what I read," she said. "I tend more toward mysteries because they make you think. Can I figure out who done it?" She also loves to garden but can't even see her garden yet.
CURRENTLY READING: A Gathering Lies a novel of mystery and suspense by Meg O'Brien. "It kind of holds you. You really want to finish and the sooner the better to find who did what to whom," Kathy said. Gathering Lies is a fast-paced, romantic, suspense novel with rape, murder, bad cops, and an earthquake. "There's a lot of truth in it, too"
RE-READ: "Anything by Andrew Greeley."
FAVORITE KIDS' BOOK: Although her kids are grown, she picked Grimm's Fairy Tales.


      ArtBits features a quick weekly peek at the bookshelf or night stand of the folks you know in and around Franklin County. That popular feature has a page of its own at the Franklin County Bookshelf here on the AAC site.


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      This article was originally published in the St Albans Messenger and other traditional print media. It is Copyright © 2001 by Richard B. Harper. All rights reserved. Archival material is provided as-is. Links are not necessarily maintained (if a link in this article fails, try or your favorite search engine).
      Thanks to recent misuse of copyright material on the Internet by individuals and archival firms alike, we emphasize that your rights to this article are limited to viewing it and printing it for personal use only. You must receive explicit permission from the All Arts Council and the author before reprinting or redistributing this article in any medium.