Ric Kasini Kadour’s editorial in Vermont Art Guide #1 is an essay about why Vermont art is important and what it offers us as a community. The essay is also a raison d’etre for the magazine.
This magazine is a love letter.
Art used to play a greater role in society than it does today. A few years ago, I became interested in the question, Why does art matter less today? I was inspired by the story of Alejandro Otero whose exhibition at Museo de Bellas Artes in Caracas in 1949 caused a social uproar and almost single handedly brought Modernism to Venezuela. I was interested to know what prompted Tony Shafrazi to spray paint “KILL LIES ALL” on Picasso’s Guernica at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art in 1974. Or why people viewing Mark Rothko paintings are moved to tears. And in a similar way, I am curious why once a year, a story about a janitor accidentally throwing out a work of contemporary art makes the rounds; how contemporary art became an ongoing gag used in television sitcoms. Why is our society so disconnected from art?
Art is the mycelium of humanity, those sprawling fungal roots that bind the soil and keep us connected to one another.
And those times when I believe our society’s relationship to contemporary art is irrevocably broken, I return my thinking to Vermont. I think about the gallery in the Northeast Kingdom where you can peek through the old grist mill and look at the river underneath. I think about Carol MacDonald’s studio, perched above the Winooski River, and her monoprints exploring her role as a woman, daughter, mother, and artist. I think about Janet Van Fleet in her studio in Barre toiling away on wonky wood sculptures that parade humanity around the gallery floor. I think of Alex Costantino and Blake Larsen collaborating on paintings at S.P.A.C.E. in Burlington. I think of the Northern Vermont Artist Association, the Vermont Pastel Society, the Paletteers in Barre, and dozens of other groups and collectives that come together to push their art out in the world. I think of standing underneath a Karen Petersen horse sculpture at West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park in Stowe. I remember seeing a painting of Farr Cross Road by Tad Spurgeon and getting the same feelings of awe and wonder I get when I drive down Route 22a on a foggy, misty morning. And I think how Vermont art can make me angry and sad and excited and full of joy. Vermont has given us so much over the years, this magazine is our way of giving back.
This magazine is a document.
Hundreds of artists have come before us. A few years ago, the father of a friend of mine passed away. I had never known that for years, in his younger days, he worked as a sign painter as well as a fine artist. His house was full of half done paintings, drawings for signs, and records of how much he paid or was paid for this or that. A well-worn newspaper clipping mentioned his name in a list of artists participating in an exhibition, but there is no record of him. His paintings weren’t collected by institutions. He work was not documented in a catalog. He lives on in the fading memory of aging family members and on the walls of neighbors who bought a painting from him. His art is lost to history, and with it, a story of how he lived, what he made, and what people thought and felt about it.
Artists may toil alone in their studios, but art isn’t finished until another human being looks at it.
In contemporary society, we often confuse fame with history. We assume that history belongs only to those who achieve notoriety and financial success; that those are the only stories worth remembering. Art is the mycelium of humanity, those sprawling fungal roots that bind the soil and keep us connected to one another. Artists may toil alone in their studios, but art isn’t finished until another human being looks at it. It is, by its very nature social, communal, and human. And because of that, like every birth, marriage, and death, art is worth noting. We hope this magazine will be a document that a historian can use to tell the story of what was made here and the people who made it.
This magazine is a tool.
Vermont’s openness, politeness, and willingness to accept anyone who declares themselves an artist, an art venue, or an art critic sometimes results in the need to slog through some mediocrity to find a gem. But many times, I have written off an artist only to see them years later redeem themselves by producing a moving, beautiful body of work. Communities are organic. Artists are always works in progress. The older I get, the more I’ve come to appreciate that sometimes it takes time for things to come together, to manifest, to bloom. Not all seeds sprout. But all seeds have the potential to bear fruit one day. And years of watching Vermont art has taught me the values of patience and humility. It’s not hard to find great art in Vermont, but it’s not effortless, particularly when it involves trekking to an artist’s studio up a dirt road on a snow stormy January morning.
Art is, by its very nature social, communal, and human.
Here is what we are going to do: We are going to publish a quarterly, printed magazine about contemporary art in Vermont. Each issue is going to present a curated list of places to visit. We are going to spotlight exhibitions we think are important and tell you why we think so. We are going to publish articles about places that show art and answer the question, “Why does this art matter?” And we are going to publish profiles of artists and critical writing about art work, and talk about why we think you should take note of it. We hope this magazine serves as tool for navigating the state and finding great art.
We hope you will join us.
I have worked and followed Vermont art for over fifteen years now. In preparing to launch the Vermont Art Guide, we organized various files we’ve amassed working in with Vermont art venues and artists. We found over 500 places to see art in the state and we have files on over 1200 Vermont artists. We wish we could put them all in the first issue, but we can’t. This magazine is going to be an adventure. We hope you share it with us. We invite you to share with us your experience of Vermont art, your life as an artist, or your drive to show art in your space. We encourage you to visit the other side of the mountain, to drive to the other end of the state, to seek out a place you’ve never been before. And we hope you will subscribe to this magazine. It’s success and longevity depends on you joining a community of people interested and enthusiastic about Vermont art.