Leaping for love at Featherstone’s exhibit


“We are very near to greatness: one step and we are safe; can we not take the leap?” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s February, and love is in the air. But this year, Featherstone Center for the Arts has expanded its love-related theme to “Love, Laugh, Leap, Live!” Executive director Ann Smith says, “We just felt like joy has been a word we’ve been using a lot over the past few years, and then we went with the alliteration of L: We like to laugh, this is a leap year, and then living your best life. It is a community art show, and we want as many people as possible to participate, so we gave them a broad theme — people or things they love, things that make them laugh, or leaping in terms of trying a new artistic medium. It’s a great way to open the season.”

Given the cold and dreary weather of late, it was fun to start by looking at some of the art that tickles your fancy, which includes Nancy Slonim Aronie’s absolutely spot-on whimsical mixed-media miniatures with Buddhas and their red-beaded wire halos or auras. In “Heart Smart,” a Buddha sits atop a small translucent pedestal festooned with a blue, red-dotted heart, exuding tranquility. Nancy Cabot makes us laugh with her adorable, spare pen and ink and watercolor of raccoons feasting on what looks like garden delights that she titles “Midnight Bandits.” Fan Ogilvie shows us marital bliss in her sizable, boldly painted “58 Years and Counting.” Here, we look down as though from above at a side-by-side couple lying under a boldly patterned blanket, their red and yellow heads peeking out, respectively, and the bright blue muzzle of a black-eared and -nosed dog warmly snuggled between them.

Leaps feel like the jumps my mind makes when connecting the many mixed-media works with each piece’s title. The substantially larger-than-real-life sculpture of a juicy red apple, sporting a carved-out heart and scanning label, by Avery R. Miner, is animated by its title, “Eden.” Lauren Evans interweaves printed paper strips between the colorful lines of fiber in her rustic-looking wall hanging, amusingly titled “Somebody’s Blasting the Tunes.” Leslie Wright Wibel combines fiber, glitter, paper, buttons, and more to fashion a mesmerizingly intricate idyllic wintertime village on fabric, complete with playing children, a horse-drawn sleigh, skaters, sledders, tiny deer, and romping dogs in a fantasy scene that includes a nativity manger and even a towering castle in the far distance. Sam Cameron has two elegant necklaces bearing dangling hearts, one of which he fashions with repurposed mixed metals. The small, delicate egg sitting atop a tiny nest on a long strip of discolored metal makes all kinds of sense when reading Susan Pratt’s title, “Let’s Nest Together, You & Me.”

Some of the artworks are like visual metaphors for love in all different forms. Nisa Mars’ arresting floral work, “The Rose Garden,” envelops the gorgeous blossoms painted on glass, barely contained by the ornately carved, pink-toned frame, is a perfect Valentine. Cindy Kane evokes enduring love in her large painting of a couple warmly embracing in “A Long Marriage.” The striking composition shows off her masterful use of pattern and color to convey an emotion with a single glance. In “Contained by Lace,” Ann Meleney’s black-and-white “flowers” of vintage bridal photos peek out through “stalks” of white lace, creating a romantic, multilayered collage.

Love of place comes through in Doug Allen’s two powerful color photographs, “Loss ‘Love’” and “Love ‘Loss,’” of the nearly obliterated boulders at Lucy Vincent Beach with skies that are at once beautiful and full of the unstoppable power of nature. Another location of love is “Summer Circuit” by Lisa Augstave (Lisoul). There is a whole lot of living going on in this sizable, impressive painting. At first, the figures boogying down and around Circuit Avenue with the band playing in the street catch our attention. But as your eyes linger over the composition, you notice the hands on a piano keyboard that runs along the entire length of the bottom of the canvas, evoking the sounds from the scene above, which morphs into the visual “score.”

These works barely touch the plethora of ways the talented artists love, laugh, leap, and live. But it is not just adults who get in on the February-themed action. The exhibition is accompanied by Garden Gate’s children’s art show, “Red: The Color of Love,” in the Schule Chapel Gallery on the grassy knoll outside the Art Barn. The show focuses on some of the curricular work the children have been exploring. There is a towering red robot sculpture, and accompanying story that is the culmination of a monthlong study of robots and how they might or might not experience the emotions the 2- and 3-year-olds are learning about. “The Wall of Hearts,” spanning both sides of one of the building’s corners, celebrates the love in the children’s hearts, and highlights the joy the 4-year-olds have found in mastering their cutting skills. Also on view are the prints the kindergarten students made with visiting artist Tarra Corcoran, which deepened their exploration of dragons when learning about Chinese New Year. The children’s explosive creativity makes one hope that each will continue to be inspired artists as an adult, who will participate in the community shows of the future.

“Love, Laugh, Leap, Live!” and “Red: The Color of Love” are on view at Featherstone through March 3, from 12 to 4 pm every day.