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Art at Play in Brattleboro

Art at Play in Brattleboro
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Making art is both a serious form of human inquiry and a form of imaginative play. The five exhibitions that open November 6 (and run through February 6, 2011) at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center in Vermont share a sense to playful fun that should delight visitors through the holiday season and into the bleak midwinter.

D.B. Johnson: Palazzo Inverso features the original artwork for the New Hampshire illustrator’s new children’s picture book of the same name. The drawings play with the optical illusions of M.C. Escher’s architectural images in ways that will make sense of children and adults alike.

“Those who have read my five books about a bear named Henry, beginning with Henry Hikes to Fitchburg (Houghton Mifflin 2000),” writes Johnson of his latest book, “will understand why I wrote Palazzo Inverso. The book meshes perfectly with my desire to bring the ideas of great writers and artists to young children. Just as my bear reenacts Henry David Thoreau’s quest to live a simple life, Mauk is the young M. C. Escher, imagining an impossible world full of surprising possibilities. I want kids to feel the power and exhilaration of running on the ceiling, of knowing that everything for them is still possible.”

Paper Trails: Visual Journaling features illustrated travel journals by Susan Bonthron, Carol Hendrickson, and Linda Rubinstein, which are “filled to their borders with drawings, sketches, watercolors, graphs, charts, lists, collages, portraits, and photographs.” Intimate, immediate and personal, the journals record their author?s responses to Puerto Rico, Vietnam, and Nova Scotia respectively.

Licked, Sucked, Stacked, Stuck is an exhibition in which New Yorkers Paul Shore and Nicole Root have made miniature reproductions of works of modern art out of candy. Imagine Tony Smith metal sculpture writ small in Hersey bars, a Richard Long stone circle out of Necco Wafers, Walter De Maria’s Earth Room (in which he filled a museum gallery with dirt) done with brownie mix, Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty fashioned from rock candy, Heath Bars, Jell-o and powdered sugar. Sweet!

Gerb’s Gadgetry: See, View Play displays a selection of Brooklyn artist Steve Gerberich’s mechanical sculptures, elaborate, zany, Gyro Gearloose-like tableau fashioned from old machine parts and recycled pop culture debris. “Glam-O-Matic,” for instance, is a pink machine made of kinetic cosmetics tools. Very moving.

Finally, Eric Sealine: Sleight of Hand presents the optical magic of this Massachusetts artist’s trompe l’oeil mixed media sculpture. Described as diorama-like and pop-up-book-like, Sealine’s works combine architectural model making with magic tricks. In “Ghost House,” for example, an apparition appears in a model of a New Orleans shotgun house. In “Blue Heron Window II,” a shiny heron flies by the window as the viewer moves past it.

Books, candy, gadgets, and gimmicks, all assembled in Brattleboro for your serious viewing pleasure.

[Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, 10 Vernon St., Brattleboro VT, 802-257-0124.]

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