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Artistry spans generations in local family

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Posted on August 11, 2011 |
By Ian Trombulak



lisacoal0199.jpg
VERMONT ARTISTS LISA Coale, left, and her grandfather Richard Niebuhr will have their work displayed side-by-side during the Middlebury Arts Walk this Friday at Otter Creek Custom Framing. Coale will display her acrylic paintings, while Niebuhr will show his photography. Independent photo/Ian Trombulak

MIDDLEBURY — Some say that artistry runs in the family. If that’s true, then it may be that Weybridge resident Lisa Coale has inherited a keen artistic eye from her grandfather Richard Niebuhr of Middlebury.

Connoisseurs of art can decide for themselves — the two will have their art featured side-by-side at Otter Creek Custom Framing on Friday as part of this month’s Middlebury Arts Walk. Coale’s acrylic paintings and Niebuhr’s photography will be on display from 5-7 p.m.

Coale, a 2009 Middlebury Union High School graduate and rising junior at Middlebury College, has been interested in art since before she can remember, and has been painting since the summer before her first year at MUHS. She counts her family — particularly grandparents Nancy and Richard Niebuhr — as major influences in her art.

“Both of my grandparents have an artistic eye for things — my grandmother with sewing and my grandfather with photography,” said Coale, 20. “So, growing up there have always been beautiful pictures and portraits around the house.”

Niebuhr, a retired professor who taught at Harvard Divinity School for more than 40 years, has been an avid photographer since a 1958 sabbatical in Germany. For him, photography has long served as “another way of seeing.”

“There is something special (about photography) that can’t be expressed in words,” said Niebuhr, 85. “It can to a certain extent, but not completely.”

His photography often captures overlooked and impermanent parts of life in the American Midwest and West, from abandoned barns to old gasoline tankers. Many of his photographs, he said, “capture a fleeting moment of something that’s not permanent” but still has importance — or, in its own way, beauty.

“(I like to capture) something that I find beauty in — in objects and pieces of buildings, things like that — that I think people might normally just drive by, thinking, ‘That’s old, that’s in the past, it doesn’t matter,’” said Niebuhr.

At the show, Niebuhr will display photographs taken mainly on sabbaticals and family trips to the Rocky Mountains and the southwestern United States.

Coale, who finds her grandfather’s work “beautiful and inspirational,” has also been influenced artistically by her various art instructors in school, especially former MUHS art teacher Joe Bolger.

“(Joe taught me) to capture the emotion and the personality behind whatever it was that we were painting,” said Coale, who developed a fondness for painting portraits under Bolger’s tutelage. “He told me that everyone is beautiful through the lens of a painter … because you can bring parts of their personality into it.”

For Coale, art is a means of expression that goes beyond words.

“I have a hard time expressing the way I feel about something with words,” she said. “It’s very fulfilling when you’re able to put it on a piece of paper, and it’s so much more than what you could have said.”

Coale has painted many portraits since she picked up a paintbrush, but they have mostly been of friends and family, and were ultimately given away. Her show will therefore feature only one portrait, along with paintings of Bristol landmarks Holley Hall and the First Baptist Church, and several other still life paintings. Additionally, there will be a landscape of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, which used to be in Coale’s backyard before her family traded the towering Tetons for the Green Mountains when Coale was in sixth grade.

Otter Creek Custom Framing on Park Street near Cannon Park, where both Niebuhr and Coale have had pieces framed. Brian Ladeau, who owns the small shop, raised the idea of a generational show to Coale’s mother, Sarah — the Niebuhrs’ daughter — about six months ago.

“I just thought it would be pretty cool to do a grandfather-granddaughter show for the Arts Walk,” said Ladeau. “They (both) definitely have an eye for what they do … I think it’ll be a great show.”

MORE AT THE ARTS WALK

There will be plenty more local art on display this Friday in the fourth Arts Walk of the season, from pottery to musical performances, between 5 and 7 p.m.

Patty Doyle, a young musician currently competing in the “Are You the Next Teen Superstar?” contest, will be performing her original acoustic music at the Stone Leaf Teahouse in the Marble Works.

Sixth-generation Vermonter Mahlon Teachout, who has been painting oil landscapes for 50 years, will be showing his paintings of rural Vermont scenes at Belladonna on Main Street. Another oil painter, Middlebury resident Mike Mayone, will be showing his paintings of Vermont scenes and landscapes at Kumon Math and Reading Center at 4 Frog Hollow Alley.

Other venues at this month’s Arts Walk and their featured artists are:

•  51 Main: Dorothea Langevin (photography).

•  Jackson’s on the River: Wayne Michaud (pet portraits).

•  Falling Water School of Tai Chi Chuan: Yanglei Zhang (paintings and calligraphy).

•  Skihaus: Susanne Peck (charcoal and colored pencil portraits).

•  Sarah Wesson Studio: Sarah Wesson (oil and watercolor paintings).

•  Carol’s Hungry Mind Café: Tyler Paquette (abstract oil paintings).

•  Moonlit Alpacas: Deb Tier and Nelson Sears (textiles).

•  Town Hall Theater, Jackson Gallery: Caleb Kenna (photography).

•  Middlebury Community House: Nancy Merolle (photography).

•  Barbara Ekedahl Studio: Barbara Ekedahl (woodcuts and watercolors).

•  Round Robin: Carla Berno (quiltings).

•  Noonie Deli: Kathleen Walls and Ark Lemal (photography).

•  Hide Away Leather and Wood Works: Eli Smith (wooden bowls and leather products).

•  Edgewater Gallery: “Locomotion: Reflections from the American Road Trip.”

•  Middlebury Studio School: Lena Sandler (pottery).

•  PhotoPlace Gallery: “Wonderland: Photographic Fantasies.”

•  Henry Sheldon Museum: “Vermont Landscapes Lost and Found.”

•  Two Brothers Tavern: Happy Hour with Sara Pieplow.

•  Vermont Folklife Center: multiple artists (photography).

•  Ilsley Public Library: Emma Powell (photography).

•  Vermont’s Own Products: Christa Cheney.

•  Clay’s: Barbara Unger (paintings).

•  Clementine: Sara Kaeck (vintage-style handmade homewares).

•  Sweet Cecily: Gary Starr, Deb Holmes, Julia Emilo, Mike Mayone, Ken Martin and more.

•  Vermont Book Shop: Linda Durkee (mixed media).

•  National Museum of the Morgan Horse: Lippitt Morgan (photography).

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