Plastics, Quilts and Fossils:

In Conversation at the River Arts Galleries

Nan Carle Beauregard July 2017

Remember the time when …

One of my fondest childhood memories is of my brother Mark and me combing the hills around our family farm in Ohio searching for fossils. One day Mark found a huge rock full of imprints that looked like fully formed sea shells. It must have weighed 30 pounds and got heavier with each step for a skinny 12-year- old boy who had to push, pull and drag it a very long way back to the farm house. As his 7-year- old sister – I just danced around and watched him struggle on our way back up hills and down again. It was fun to think about – Where did those sea shells come from in the middle of Ohio? How did they get inside the rock? How old is that rock? What are fossils anyway? All kind of questions added to the mystique and beauty of The Big Rock.

All of this is to add background about how these memories resurfaced last week at the Artist Talk at the River Arts Gallery Reception. We were in conversation with Katie Loesel as she described how her art was molded by her interest in geological history. Through her printing process Loesel imagined what our 21 st century fossils would look like to children in centuries to come. Rather than life forms like shells, ferns, birds or bones, she envisioned that today’s imprints would include plastic straws, bags, and bottles. Many of Loesel’s prints in the gallery express her ideas about the features of such fossils. Her print collection and the Artist Talk at the River Arts Gallery brought to life our everyday use of plastics and what happens to them – our legacy to tomorrow’s children.

Elise Whittemore is the other artist on show at the Downstairs Gallery at River Arts. Her woodblock prints were inspired by her study of algae and other specimens from the Pringle Herbarium at the University of Vermont. Much to my surprise, I found myself getting goosebumps as she talked about her story of discovery into her artistic style and her joy of printmaking. She made us laugh when she described the time when her children were at the stage when they kept touching her with their hands covered with paint or chocolate or substances she did not even want to think about. Her experiences as a young mother motivated
her to develop a whole series of prints about little hands. Whittemore went on to tell us how her grandmother’s quilts influenced the color combinations for in her current wood print exhibition. Hearing her tell the story of her art and what it meant to her became a thought provoking experience for the assembled audience. The conversation was full of warmth, laughter and understanding. It was a most enjoyable evening!

By listening to the stories of these two artists, I gained new ways of seeing the world around
me. As a photographer, these artists have encouraged me to expand my own creative practices and to see a fresh story in the images I capture. All of our stories are very different but they also complement each other and together weave a much richer tapestry of life in Northern Vermont. Our conversations connect us and show us how we are the same yet different. Creativity expands our talents and our ability to strengthen our community. Art matters.

I joined the Board of River Arts two years ago and have especially enjoyed being on the Gallery Committee. I laugh at my sense of certainty about what I like and do not like in the art world only to be challenged to change. Every day at River Arts there is something new and interesting happening with people of all ages, interests and talents. It is a place where we can come together and express our likes and dislikes and learn and laugh at what we say and see. The
conversations about art bring us together in unseen ways and offers us a place to think, play and do at all ages and stages of life. Come join in!

The art of Katie Loesel and Elise Whittemore remain in the River Arts Galleries until August 18.

The next Art Opening and Artists’ Talk at the River Arts Galleries will on September 15 from 5:00 to 7:00. The reception will be for a group of artists selected for River Work III.

Join us! Be part of the conversation!

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