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Lawn art: Mary Cooke’s Katharsis.

Thinking Outside the Gallery

By Jacqueline Keren

North Bennington Art Park

North Bennington, Vt., through Oct. 14

The ninth annual North Benning-ton Art Park, an outdoor sculpture show curated by artists Anthony Cafritz, John Umphlett and Maria Siskind, is a serene marriage of art and landscape. Even with more than 20 artists represented, the pieces fit comfortably together, drawing one forward, yet also allowing time to pause and reflect on the variety of the work.

The sculptures are sited on the lawns surrounding the post office and adjacent buildings in North Bennington in southern Vermont. At first it seems an unlikely place for an art exhibit, and the show begins fitfully, as if the pieces, though interesting in their own right, haven’t settled into each other. Works by Peter Lundberg, who is best known for his monumental works in concrete and steel, and Natalie Pelham, whose work can also be seen at the Lapham Gallery in Glens Falls, are glimpsed like interesting faces at a crowded party, competing for attention.

But rounding the corner from the entrance, the show seems to settle into itself as it moves through a series of clipped lawns and wilder borders. The pieces build upon each other, an accumulation of personality, approach and style. Joe Chirchirillo’s Renovation is a daunting tower of household detritus—ducts, bikes, a saw blade, building materials—peppered with tree limbs, as if in the madness of keeping a home together, some wilder elements have made their way in and become a part of the routine chaos.

Mary Cooke’s Kartharsis is a quiet contrast, a fractured globe knit together with metal dowels and stabbed by a rough cone. Wrapped in an upholstered red collar, the cone, which is accented with bits of jewelry, has a disarmingly feminine air. Nearby, Gary Humphrey’s Conjoined is more joyful and exuberant in a clanky, mechanical way. Two steel structures, one topped with an asymmetrical star, reach up, joined by connecting platforms that unite them like an aged couple in push-and-pull partnership.

Across the street, Liza Stevens’ Matches, fabricated of angled steel and red papier mâché, is both an animated look at a simple household item, or as you approach it from the bottom of the hill on which it sits, more defiant, an army of something more powerful and daunting punching at the sky.

A bright-blue rain poncho hides a figure by Fred X. Brownstein, whose figurative work has been displayed locally and in New York City, and points the way to a third area, where Nora Simon’s elegant piece falls over the lawn like a silver prayer flag. A wavy arrow shoots off from a curved base, from which hang thin filaments, like chimes. Set off against a willow tree, the piece is both uplifting and mournful.

In another seamless transition, Michelle Vara’s Life squats in the center of the lawn, a looping series of loose metal turns. The piece, happily chaotic, is juxtaposed to Chris Duncan’s tight medley of scrap metal, squatting darkly at the border. As in the show as a whole, the pieces swing from mood to mood, yet do so easily, setting each other off with a variety of materials and emotions.


-no peripheral vision this week-


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