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Wardrobe Chronicles

05/29/02 12:00AM By Lois Eby
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In December 1999 Carolyn Shattuck and Joan Curtis decided to meet monthly for conversations which ranged from technique to a deeper exchange of ideas, feelings, and spatial, visual imagination. The work that they created during these two years of meetings will be at the Helen Day Art Center in Stowe through June 7. Titled, "Wardrobe Chronicles," the show will be featured at the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center's gallery at 259 Marble Street, in West Rutland, in the Fall.

When I first walked into the East Gallery at the Helen Day to see this show, I felt a slight letdown. Having admired the work of these two artists over the last twenty years, I had imagined a collaboration between them taking on momentous, even explosive proportions. But after I studied the works in the show for awhile, my mind floated back to the show┐s subtitle: Two Artists Notate Intimate Space. This is indeed a show of intimate spaces. Its strengths become apparent when one enters those spaces as open to the products of their creative journey as these two artists were.

Joan Curtis works with papier-mache often painted with acrylic paints. She creates wall reliefs and three-dimensional sculptures on pedestals. She also works in colored pencil on paper, but her papier-mache sculptures create the most intimate space for me. While painted in bright, loud colors: yellows, oranges, blues, and violets, not colors I associate with intimacy, the viewer must examine each space closely to appreciate its inviting gardens, castles, and slightly scary but appealing creatures of the imagination.

Carolyn Shattuck┐s work in this show explores the dark side of her experience, the stresses and losses she hopes to heal through making art. In doing so, she effectively creates spaces in which viewers can find common ground. Shattuck presents artist-made books, paper sculptures, and monotypes. Like Curtis, many of the works Shattuck presents in this show are three dimensional, but their colors are more muted and subtle. These two artists have managed to maintain, even deepen, their individual personalities and concerns while sharing the process of creation.

Pages from the two artists┐ journals fill one wall, from near ceiling to floor. In the journals both artists record events from their lives, jot down thoughts, and sketch out the development of these works. They paste in reproductions of artwork they admire, and quotes from influential sources. The journals reveal the relationship between individual life, collaboration, artistic process, and finished work.

When I left, I felt I had participated in an intimate conversation, one which explored the nooks and crannies of visual and imaginative space and touched the struggles and sacred riches of the human soul.

Lois Eby is a painter who comments on the arts, women's issues and civil rights.
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