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Lake Champlain art exhibition ready for regional tour

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By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — An Addison County-driven traveling art show celebrating Lake Champlain’s quadricentennial is now set and ready to open at its first venue, Shelburne Farms, where it will be on display from May 5 to 25.

The exhibit is called “Champlain’s Lake Rediscovered” and features 39 pieces produced by artists from throughout the state. Almost one-third of the represented artists hail from Addison County. Douglas Lazarus of Middlebury and Jean Cherouny of Ripton spearheaded the exhibit.

Champlain’s Lake Rediscovered was launched last year, with a lot of energy but few resources, recalled Lazarus, curator of the exhibit and one of the featured artists.

“This has been a hand-to-mouth project,” Lazarus said.

“We didn’t always have even a ‘shoestring,’” he chuckled, referring to resources that at times didn’t even add up to a “shoestring budget.”

But through in-kind contributions, grants and a series of fund-raisers, Lazarus and Cherouny have been able to assemble and market the exhibit for around $100,000 — about one-third of the cost that Lazarus said could reasonably have been expected for the endeavor.

“It has been really interesting, fun and exciting,” Cherouny, an artist in her own right, said of her experience helping to put together the exhibit.

Champlain’s Lake Rediscovered got off to its start last year, when organizers made a statewide call to artists seeking submissions of paintings, sculptures and other creative pieces evoking the lake’s special qualities.

A juried panel ultimately judged 100 submissions and winnowed them down to the final 39 that will travel with the show. Some of the Addison County artists who made the cut included Shoreham resident Joe Bolger, with his oil painting titled “When the Cows Come Home,” depicting heifers congregating on a shoreline; Susanne Peck o Bristol, with a pencil/watercolor titled “The Causeway,” featuring an expansive world of water and sky divided by a narrow strip of land; and Lincoln’s Kathleen Kolb, with an oil painting titled “Rain In The Islands,” showing a view from Mt. Mansfield looking west across foothills and farms to Lake Champlain.

Some of the paintings are almost photographically precise; others are in a 19th-century impressionistic mode; still others are abstract.

Not all of the entries are paintings, however.

The exhibit includes a mask crafted by Abenaki artist Gerard Rancourt. The mask, titled “Odzibozo,” is made of wood, fur, shell, glass and pigments and represents the “supernatural created being that created Lake Champlain.”

A fiber art piece in the show by Brenda Lea Brown, a native of Lincoln, is titled “Moon Glow.” It faithfully replicates, using intricately woven wool, the reflection of moonlight on a body of water.

The show also features spellbinding photos of the lake taken by Gary Hall.

“There is just about every style (of art technique) represented here,” Lazarus said.

“We’ve got a real range of styles, with a contemporary awareness of what it means to be committed to place, which I think is a shift in art paradigms,” Lazarus said. “Instead of thinking that everything comes out of purely cerebral experimentation, to feel inspired by being in a specific place I think is refreshing.”

All of the artwork — which is for sale, owners will take possession after the show ends next fall — is captured in a catalogue designed for free by Jory Raphael of Vergennes. International Paper of Ticonderoga, N.Y., donated 1,300 sheets of paper for the publication. Marie Gordon expertly photographed the artwork. Willowell Foundation served as publisher of the catalogue, which features a foreword by Bill McKibben of Ripton and Middlebury College.

People from throughout the region will be able to see the exhibit up-close at a series of showings. After leaving Shelburne Farms, the exhibit will travel to the National Arts Club in New York City, June 1-15; The Boston Public Library, June 29 to Aug. 3; the Southern Vermont Art Center in Manchester, Aug. 19 to Sept. 20; and the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier, Sept. 23 to Oct. 31.

For more details on Champlain’s Lake rediscovered, along with pictures of the featured artwork, log on to www.champlainslakerediscovered.org. Articles about the exhibit can also be found in recent issues of Yankee Magazine and Vermont Life.

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