Photography is inherently effective at telling a story of place. Not only of documenting its history, but also possibly of predicting its future – projecting how a place is or is in the process of becoming. For the group show, “Rutland: Real and Imagined,” which opens in January 31, 2019 at The Alley Gallery in Rutland, Vermont, artist and curator Stephen Schaub brings together eight internationally recognized artists who interpret through their use of photography what constructs a sense of place. Altogether, the resulting photographic imagery in this exhibition creates an engaging story about Rutland – not as a single place but rather many places that come together in the minds and lives of the people who live there.
Rutland’s narrative starts with a sequence of lucky coincidences. It goes back to 1761, when it was founded by a New Hampshire Grant from Governor Benning Wentworth; followed by a large deposit of marble discovered in the 1830s and the railroad’s arrival in 1851, at the same time as the quarries of Carrara in Tuscany, Italy became unworkable. American industrial growth helped make quarry operations a lucrative endeavor and wealth ensued.
The history of Rutland is evident to this day. Its downtown architecture, Victorian buildings and grand Merchants’ Row conjure its glorious past; while its inhabitants are a combination of old Vermont families and the descendants of Italian marble workers who immigrated to the area in the 1800s. Rutland is also the birthplace of notable figures like the tractor maker John Deere; Martin Henry Freeman, the first African-American president of a US college; and the 19th century Poet and writer Julia Caroline Dorr, who made Rutland a cultural hub.
The remnants of Rutland’s industrial past and urban history stand in stark contrast to the narratives that are typically associated with Vermont – characterized by bucolic, rural village imagery. Curator Stephen Schaub asked each of the artists to explore the city of Rutland as an idea, a place, or a history, and to tell a story from that foundation: “Real, imagined or someplace in the middle—as long as the narrative anchors itself in Rutland, everything is fair game,” he said.
Carol McGorry’s photographic and written documentary works refer to family, cultural traditions, and craft in diverse geographies – Rwanda, Guatemala, the Shetland Islands, and Romania. She tells stories of trauma and loss, memory and testimony from multiple perspectives. “Rutland at once returned me to my Queens, New York roots – the statues of Madonnas on lawns in front of churches and in cemeteries — raising for me questions about the spaces between womanhood, maternity, and autonomy,” she says.
For this exhibition Susan Weiss created and distributed a series of postcards throughout Rutland, asking inhabitants to mail them back to her with comments about what they liked or didn’t like about their town. These personal postcards are mounted on the wall next to a rack of generic postcards. She thinks of these two simultaneous realities, the personal and the public, as “defining a moment.”
Photographer and documentarian Bob Van Degna captures a sense of place through black and-white photography of people, land, and structures. For this exhibition he photographed people and places while riding the busses of the Marble Valley Regional Transit District, known as “The Bus”, for eight hours.
Don Ross’ reputable large-format photographs depict the landscape of the area, capturing the “variances hidden within overlooked crevices in Vermont’s rural industrial landscape,” as written by the Shelburne Museum, where Ross recently exhibited in the biennial “New England Now.”
Stephen M. Schaub’s works have been described as “art dreaming about itself.” The viewer encounters fragmentated emotional memories or dreams. Schuab’s process involves traditional film, cutting-edge technologies, and cameras that he has built or modified to his own specifications. In the creation of the negative, overlapping frames and multiple-exposures evoke an almost cinematic sense of time and motion, resulting in a hybrid medium of his own creation.
Arthur Gilman photographed three neighborhood grocery stores in Rutland using a camera where the lens pans from one side to the other in order to provide a 140-degree view, as if the viewer is standing on the street. Gilman says that the locally owned corner store has historically been at the heart of most small communities, offering residents not only necessary supplies but also a sense of place, history and continuity, a “landscape” of sorts. Serial memoirist Eve Ogden Schaub brings her wit and wordsmithery to the exhibition by collaborating with Arthur Gilman and Stephen Schaub to create texts that accompany their photographs.
In “The Rutland Kunstkammer,” Ric Kasini Kadour takes as entry points the history of the area and the people who live there. Kadour converts a room of the gallery into an immersive installation using collaged and historic photographs. His sculptural objects invite the viewer to imagine the greatness of Rutland, past and future. “We use our memories to imagine the potential of what may happen, but also what we can accomplish or achieve, to entertain what is possible,” the artist says. By entering this layered cabinet of curiosities, the viewer enters what Ric Kasini Kadour calls a “theater of memory,” an environment which stimulates reflections on future possibilities – for the individual and for the community.
The Alley Gallery is part of Art Is Vital, an umbrella entity with six galleries in Downtown Rutland, with a mission to revitalize central western Vermont through the arts, showcasing local and international art exhibitions.
Rutland: Real and Imagined
At Alley Gallery Center Street Alley, Rutland, Vermont
curator by Stephen Schaub
Featuring: Carol McGorry, Bob Van Degna, Arthur Gilman, Ric Kasini Kadour, Susan Weiss, Stephen Schaub, Eve Ogden Schaub, Don Ross
RECEPTION: Saturday, February 9, 2019, 6-8 PM