By VICTORIA CRAIN
“From Farm and Field” is a delightful surprise of an exhibit at Castleton Bank Gallery. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Rural and restful. That’s what you might think, until you see it. Because, actually, it’s rural, it’s urban, it’s quiet, it’s raucous. This show is all over the place, but the title is accurate. Everything here comes from farm and field.
Hannah Sessions paints what she sees around her on Blue Ledge Farm in Salisbury. Her paintings are utterly fresh images of oft-painted hens, goats and cattle. Her eye for the Vermont land in her locale is loving, but not sentimental. Sessions uses her paint to plainly depict reality in her rural life, and in the creatures that surround her.
Her paint is laid on thick, which gives her paintings a sensuous texture. She sees the blue shadow along white snow, and lays that blue paint right down. She sees bright sun on the back of a white hen, and captures it in her shiny oils. The light is so pure that the painting’s surface might lead one to reach a figure out to touch it — just a little.
In this exhibit, she paints Holsteins who have a nobility often unnoticed; and there’s a milk goat, udder full, seen from behind — not at all undignified — just real and honored by paint. If you love Vermont, you’ll find Sessions’ landscapes hopeful, because it’s the light of a different season we see in this show. Here is grass of unbelievable green, but you know we’ll see it again in a few weeks. And we’ll see Sessions’ Holstein girlfriends out in the pasture again.
There’s more here, though: wood and bronze sculptures by Joe Lupiani of Grafton. Here’s your new word for the day: chimera. A chimera is alternately defined as a monster of mixed species, or as a fanciful take on a combination of beasts. Joe Lupiani sculpts chimeras, straight off the farm.
Lupiani imagines and makes chimeras that present themselves as creatures acting like humans. Or is it the other way around? Humans who remind him of certain animals? For example, they are wearing such things as suits, bathrobes, high top sneakers, and oxfords. One carries a satchel. Here is a human figure with the elegance of a stag: one hoof emerging from his swanky suit sleeve. He is arrogant, but oh-so-beautiful, with his drapey jacket carved in wood, his bronze head displaying a handsome rack. He is some urban deer, this guy.
All Lupiani’s chimeras are standing upright like we usually do. Well, except for the one fox who rides a beautifully carved motorcycle. He’s so cool. It makes you smile, but doesn’t diminish the beauty of Lupiani’s carving and humor.
Look at that crabby crow in her business suit and oxfords; she’s carrying a big purse, with one leg slightly bent — capturing the competent quality of her big black bird self. And the hen in her bathrobe? She looks appropriately matronly, and a little dignified — the way a bird will often look when she is a pure bird, and not a human-bird hybrid. She’s about to put the coffee on. Her spindly bronze avian legs and feet stick out of her buxom housecoat. She’s perfect.
March is a time of year when one might wish to flee Vermont. Some of us think our mud season is a celestial mistake. Yet, it endures, year in, year out. The cure for mud season cabin fever is to take a turn around the Castleton Bank Gallery and to let the green serenity encourage you while the anthropomorphism make you wonder and grin.
Castleton Bank Gallery
Castleton Bank Gallery presents “From Farm and Field,” works of local artists Hannah Sessions and Joe Lupiani, through April 21, at 104 Merchants Row, Rutland. Hours are: noon to 6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; call 802-282-2396, or go online to www.castleton.edu/arts/art-galleries/.