Stepping into the South Burlington Public Art Gallery feels like stepping into a grassy field on a drizzling fall day, cast in soft yet fiery colors. Chickens gossip in a corner, familiar faces peer from under wiry hair and irises bend in the breeze.
“Hometown Watercolorists,” the second show to grace the gallery’s walls, kicks off at a public reception this evening, showcasing the landscapes, portraits and gardens from five artists around the state, three from South Burlington.
The heart of the show focuses on local artists, explained Trice Stratmann, chair of the South Burlington public art committee.
“We have three different personalities,” she said, referring to local artists Martin Lalonde, Lauren Wooden and Lynn Cummings. Hanging all of the art together, which committee members and new volunteer curator, Daniel Zeese, did on Monday, can be challenging but fun.
“It’s a little like a dance,” she said. “It’s about making it all zing!”
In August, the committee exhibited its inaugural show, “One Degree of Separation” featuring photographic portraits by South Burlington artist Todd R. Lockwood. Since the new building opened this summer, housing the library, city hall, senior center and public art gallery, Stratmann said it’s been exciting to create a place for the community to experience art together.
“This is just the beginning,” she said.
Familiar figures pop up in Lalonde’s paintings, which he often bases on historic or personal photographs.
His favorite piece on display in the gallery is a large close-up of some of his chickens. One brick-red hen peers a suspicious round eye at the viewer, while her cohorts look on distractedly. Another in the show depicts Lalonde’s father and some friends at a hunting camp back home in Michigan, but the jovial storytelling depicted feels nostalgic for Vermont winters.
In addition to being the head of the Vermont Watercolor Society, Lalonde also serves as a South Burlington representative.
Many of Wooden’s landscapes are recognizable from around the state: one features the round barn at Shelburne Farms while another gazes at Camel’s Hump from Lake Iroquois. But her favorite painting in the show plops the viewer in the middle of a vibrant pumpkin patch in Richmond, where she and her family have ventured annually for years.
She was first inspired to try painting after her mother died, and found her stride when she painted a snapshot of the women’s march in 2018 — which now hangs in the Statehouse — but lately she’s found inspiration in familiar landscapes.
Cummings, who specializes in floral watercolors, is also from South Burlington. Much of her inspiration draws from her own garden, where she grows swaths of vibrant flowers, and some from her husband’s vegetable patch. Some would consider her a “colorist,” she said.
“Landscapes are particularly interesting for me to paint because you get to use all these wonderful, rich, vibrant, bright colors,” she said.
The show also features Joey Bibeau of Essex and Alice Eckles of Middlebury.
“It’s great to have representation from local artists,” said Penne Tompkins, a member of the public art committee. She attended a city council meeting Monday night for approval to change the name and scope of the committee, formerly the public art selection committee. She hopes the committee’s new name and purpose helps to promote public art on a broader scale throughout the community, not just through selection.
The art show runs through Jan. 7.