ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 5 * * All Arts News On the Web * * September 13, 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 second and fourth Wednesday 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.

      A Personal Note: I wrote today's column one day before the evil assault on America. Our hearts and prayers and condolences go to those lost in the attack.
      As we plunge into a war with an unknown and cowardly enemy, the ordinary business of living goes on, even as our emergency workers, soldiers, and volunteers help us recover from the terror; this report is part of our everyday life.


      Sculptor Peter Hawksworth of Enosburg and Senator George Costes think it is time to tie our art, heritage, and agriculture together. Peter has created a series of sculptures he calls Agri-Art.
      "'Agri Art' all started when we put a wooden 1890s manure spreader on our bonfire becuase we couldn't save it," Peter said. "The next day I saw all the bits and pieces lying in the embers and without hesitation I thought, I can do something with that."
      Modern sculpture began with the emergence of cubism and abstract art as a counter to the ideal form and realistic detail of classic Greek and Roman statuary. Artists like Pablo Gargallo of Spain used iron as a sculptural medium for cubist figures that included realistic rendering Marcel Duchamp worked with found objects. Most sculptors today expect modern pieces to work on many levels, to fuse lyrical and humanist elements with industrial structure.
      Peter uses the found objects of antique agricultural machinery: seeders, harrows, gear boxes, and manure spreaders. He disassembles them, spreads out his components and works and reworks the layout, sleeping on it, changing it, dreaming about it, until he finds the placement and shapes that match his vision. Enosburg welder Larry Chalifoux cuts and welds the pieces when the layout is complete.
      "I got enthusiastic after I saw [the finished] Agri-Art," Peter said. He created Steel Magnolia, built from a corn seeder, next. That piece now shades the goldfish in his pond.
      He first exhibited Agri-Art in the Enosburg parade. "Someone saw it there and wanted me to put it in the Sheldon parade," he said, so Sheldon saw Agri-Art, Steel Magnolia, the 'Pale Face Totem,' and the Three Wheeler. The exhibit received a mixed reaction. "Some people ignored it, some looked and nudged a neighbor. Quite a few of the bystanders cheered."
      Art should work on may levels. Peter crafted a Roman Chariot, the emblem of strength of greatest civilization of its time, from a manure spreader. Slavery, his current work in progress, is inspired by photographs of a ball and chain used in the slave trade and the healed welts on the back of a slave. This sculpture will use the discarded pieces of the farming society--a society bonded to the land--in a way that shows the shackles of slavery.
      Born in Yorkshire, England, Peter Hawksworth joined the Merchant Marine and went to sea at age 16. He sailed to India, stayed four years, and returned when World War II started. He made captain quite young, at the age of 26.
      "Most of the Merchant Marine officers went to sea to fight the war. When the war finished, they retired and I happened to be in the right place at the right time," he said. He has run the blockade of China, salvaged merchant ships, skippered a pleasure boat out of Bristol, and run goods from Yorkshire up the Baltic to Helsinki, Finland.
      He bought a house in Hove, near Brighton, England, and spent a winter there."I sold that house for a very good profit and decided that would be my work." He converted about 200 buildings into apartments. That was, he said, his first artistic challenge, "creating space out of nothing."
      "I like the idea of a park as a way of showing these off," George Costes said. George will introduce a resolution when the Senate reconvenes "to get Agri-Art some more recognition."
      Art in government buildings has been an American tradition since 1855 when Congress commissioned frescoes for the committee rooms in the House of Representatives. Every new federal and many new state buildings in Vermont continue this heritage.
      Vermont also takes great pride in its dairy heritage. Franklin County leads the state in dairy and in maple syrup production and hosts Vermont's largest agricultural exposition. But we have very little public art.
      George, Peter, and the AAC are thinking about two ways to increase the public art here: a sculptural park in Franklin County dedicated to agricultural art or a bigger statewide project to move sculptures by Vermont artists from park to park around the state.
      "Somebody might be interested in contributing some money to buy a piece of land, or use an existing park or piece of public land," George said. "This could be an exciting new thing for Franklin County. It could be developed as an interesting tourist attraction, too. Visitors want to see what farmers in the early days used and now modern sculptors are preserving it for future generations."
      The project needs more volunteers. If you are interested E-mail the All Arts Council .
      Peter himself has no training in art or engineering, so he has picked up his knowledge of sculpture as he went along.. "I literally picked the remains up out of the fire," he said. "Agri Art is one of a kind and so am I."

      Outdoor art in Franklin County also includes a series of murals in Fairfield, St Albans, and Swanton commissioned by the Caring Community committees, several murals on downtown St Albans buildings, and Sunfix for Judy, a Kate Pond sculpture at the Border Station at Highgate Springs.


      The All Arts Council and more than a dozen other Franklin County organizations will have booths with adventures around the county, things that are free, and activities that will give you that warm and fuzzy feeling of helping our neighbors at the Volunteer Recruitment Fair next Wednesday in the Franklin County Senior Center.
      "The Fair is an opportunity to learn about volunteer opportunities in Franklin County," said NMC volunteer coordinator Dollie MacNeil. "We encourage all ages to join us."
      The Volunteer Fair is sponsored by the Volunteer Coordinators Network, next Wednesday from 1-6 p.m. Other agencies seeking volunteers incklude Abuse and Rape Crisis, Citizen Advocacy, Franklin County Hospice, the Foster Grandparents Program, Northwestern Medical Center, and the Franklin Grand Isle United Way. There will be plenty of free fun, food, and parking. Call Lori Wright (802.527.7531) or click here for more info.


      The Forbidden City, the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties in Beijing, has 999 buildings and 9,999 rooms. (The number nine is important for longevity in the Chinese tradition.) A huge show called Secret World of the Forbidden City: Splendors From China's Imperial Palace is now open at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. The show, a tiny sampling of million treaures in the Forbidden City chambers and storerooms, packs the Peabody Essex galleries with a dazzling profusion of paintings, furnishings, decorative objects, clothes, uniforms, weapons, jewelry, sacred items, clocks and instruments, a throne room and even Puyi's (the last emperor) bicycle.
      The Peabody Essex itself is the largest museum north of Boston.


      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).
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