Fusing Art and History
Avon (Google Maps location)
May 19, 2019
When I wrote about Avon’s nearby Climax Road, it reminded me about the Farmington Valley Arts Center. I had poked my head in a few times over the years for various reasons, one being my friend Eina Rieger had an exhibition there for her work with ceramics.
Eina’s an awesome person, by the way. She’s also a West Hartford public school art teacher, and I look forward to my younger son having her guide him someday.
I have stopped in at FVAC once before solely to take pictures for this page you’re reading. That visit, I didn’t really walk the grounds too much, so I returned a couple years later in the spring of 2019 to do just that.
And yet, as I sit here in the summer of 2019, I can’t for the life of me find any of my pictures from my first two visits. (Sorry Eina! Here’s a picture of you from The Hartford Courant):
Their pictures are way better anyway. So let’s steal a couple more from their piece on you and your work.
I know I’ll come across my pictures as soon as I hit publish on this page, but… whatever. This never happens to me, by the way. I have an uncanny knack of remembering when I went everywhere. I honestly think I deleted all of them because they were of such poor quality. The FVAC is only a few minutes from my house and I knew I’d be returning to check out the rest of the grounds some day.
The “rest of the grounds” are quite interesting here. It’s an odd little enclave, just off of busy route 44, which you’d hardly realize once you’re walking around.
Incorporated in 1974 as a not-for-profit organization, the Farmington Valley Arts Center is housed in the historic red sandstone buildings of the former Climax Fuse Factory in Avon CT. FVAC has been connecting the community to the creative process for over 40 years. We offer unique educational programming, gallery exhibits, special events and the opportunity to engage with a with a community of professional working artists.
FVAC is not your typical collection of artists’ studios. There are three official galleries here: The Drezner, Fisher Front Space, and Fisher Gift Gallery – the latter two are simply different parts of the same room though. In addition, there are the many little studios from which all the resident artists work and teach. To reach them, visitors or students my navigate the old staircases, warped landings, and centuries-old architecture of a fuse factory.
Like I’ve said, FVAC is certainly unique.
During my spring 2019 visit, I walked the entire place. My main goal was to hit the Drezner Gallery, as I’d never been in it before and it’s what my brain needed to “complete” FVAC. I found the gallery and… it was locked. Grrrrr.
As I turned in dismay, a woman appeared – an angel of art – and promised to get me in! All she had to do was find the right skeleton key and jiggle the ancient lock and doorknob juuuuust the right way with juuuuust the right amount of wiggle, annnnnd it didn’t work.
An uncomfortable eight minutes of trying later… it did! Welcome to the Esther B. Drezner Visitors’ Gallery! Now it was me and my new best friend, The Woman Who Opened the Door! So, why was I so intent on seeing the exhibit, “EMERGENCE” featuring two artists from Massachusetts I had never heard of? The Woman Who Opened the Door will just never know.
One is a sculptor and one is a painter/drawer/collager. The sculptor, Sara Fine-Wilson, had some pretty cool stuff. And yeah, I liked Suanne Peterson’s stuff too.
This is where I often cut and paste bits of their artist’s statements. As I mature, perhaps I’ll do that less and less. It’s just that they are often so goofy and overwrought, making them impossible to ignore.
Fine-Wilson’s last bit is pretty good:
My work has both mechanical and organic qualities that reference the body, archeology, and architectural structures such as arches or bridges. Cracks, rupture, ooze and the way that material splits visually articulate the idea of shifting history. Embedded objects and the use of atmospheric firing speak literally and metaphorically about the passing of time.
Word. Let’s check a bit of what Ms. Peterson has to say:
There are two bodies of work represented in this show: abstract collages and drawings from observation. The collaged compositions start as as explorations between color, shape, texture and line. Careful thought is given to how edges and lines meet and the passages and spaces between elements in the piece. Although the collages start as purely formal pieces, as I work they often begin to feel like landscapes. Shapes used often represent leaves, petals or boats.
My drawings almost always begin with a specific subject. For me, it is important to accurately record what is observed. Once I have done this, I feel free to make gestural marks in response to the forms, edges and details I discover as I work…
That may be the most straightforward artist statement I’ve ever read. Hats off to Suanne Peterson! Let’s walk around.
As I’ve said, there are a bunch of little studios in the sprawling building. 21 of them in fact. They are called “The Studios at FVAC” if you can believe it. All types of artists working with all types of media rent spaces here. Depending on when you walk around, some may or may not be present.
They do house open studio weekends when they’re all there, in their little studios, imploring you to come in and perhaps purchase a piece or sign up for a class. When I walked around, only a couple were there. It’s pretty enjoyable to walk around here and peer in on everyone and everything.
(And not feel like a weirdo for doing so.)
Okay, so here we are, writing this page in August 2019. I’ve given the overview, some history, walked the grounds, checked the Drezner Gallery… and I still can’t find my pictures from the Fisher Galleries. Goshdarnit.
What to do, what to do… Hold on. I’m off to Avon for a minute.
You still here? I’m back. I’ve now re-visited FVAC’s Fisher Galleries just for you. (This is more or less true, by the way. I did literally just visit this gallery just because I couldn’t find my older pictures, but I had other stuff to do as well. I’m not totally insane.
The Fisher Gallery and gift shop are very nice. It’s almost weird how clean and fresh and bright the space is, situated in this somewhat dank brownstone nearly windowless building. The woman who works there is the perfect art gallery gift shop worker.
Cheerful, European accent, wearing those flowing clothes they always wear… Perfect. I was especially excited about popping over to the gallery just now because of the current exhibit: The Art of Paper Manipulation.
It may sound weird, but I really like this kind of art. Partly because my wife is pretty good at it and partly because I’m awful with it. There’s a class coming up on how do “paper engineering.”
This workshop will cover various paper engineering techniques. Students will learn to translate pop-up models into cards or books. Templates will be provided so that everyone can explore various levels of complexity. There are lots of interesting movement and dimension that you can achieve with pop-up structures. At the end of the workshop, students will be given the option to bind all pop-up models into a book to take home.
Yeah. Hoang should go.
The above pieces were created by Peter O. Zierlein. Poz, as he calls himself, has done paper art work for AUDI and the New York Times and a bunch of other impressive clients. He cuts the shapes and … well, you see. I really like his work.
The white one above is by New Haven’s Yoojin Kim, a “Paper Engineer and Artist.” I dig her work but more than that, I wanted to mention that she’s an avid sloth enthusiast and a dreams of meeting all the sloths in the rainforest of Costa Rica. I guess when you’re a paper engineer, you learn to appreciate slow movement.
I’m running out of gas here. FVAC is cool. Go check it out. The gift shop has tons of unique and interesting items for sale. Go buy something from a local artist. You’ll feel good about yourself.