By Cynthia Melendy
The world feels a lot more prosperous than just making ends meet when you go to the WREN gallery in Bethlehem. Everything is so beautiful and the world is friendly; on First Fridays most of the community comes out to gather for the opening and support the artists of the month's exhibit and to visit one another. It's a great occasion!
The June opening was a great occasion, too. The combination of abstract oil paintings and wood turning seems a stretch at first thought, but the thoughtfully displayed paintings and turnings fall together perfectly.
My first thought about making ends meet wasn't about economics, but more about the idea of nests and trees. The beginning of one life, if one is a bird, is in a tree, and the end of that host's life takes the form of the tree itself as a bowl. The bowl, on the other hand, is so nest-like that nests and bowls create a visual synchronicity.
The bird begins in the cradle of the nest in a tree; the tree begins a new life as a bowl in the material world.
When I talked with both Loretta and Diane I could see why their work felt so closely aligned.
Loretta Stride is an abstract artist whose paintings have been exhibited in and around the Boston, Mass., area on and off for the past 25 years. She began her artistic career working as a muralist and furniture painter in and around the North Shore of Boston before moving to Littleton, where she set up her studio in her home nestled in the heart of the White Mountains. Loretta received her bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Massachusetts/Dartmouth. She has also studied at the New England School of Art and Design where she was trained in the art of faux bois and trompe l'oeil painting.
But the story is larger than just that: Loretta explains that she and her husband felt they had reached a plateau in their lives. Loretta explains that she was painting "regular art" — representational landscapes — and when she moved up north she began to experiment. This is where her light blue bird and nest paintings emerged. Rather than question this direction, with the support of the WREN community, she followed them, and realized that they expressed aspects of herself previously covered.
The pale blue, expressive of the sky in which a fledgling takes flight, suggests a new stage of artistic freedom.
It is exciting to watch the growth and development of an artist. Loretta said that WREN provides a safe and supportive place for experimentation where the community is involved and excited about every turn in an artist's career. These "meet the artist" receptions are a great way for the community to connect with artists, and for artists to network with each other as well as with potential buyers.
The community of nature also boosts artistic creativity. Diane Vinyard was born and raised in Berlin, and began developing her woodturning skills in 2005. Much of her wood supply is inherited from her father-in-law who made logging rules (as in measuring) for the paper industry. Diane is a devotee of Marshall McLuhan, it appears: You'll also find Diane in the forest with her chainsaw and a "dead and down" permit from the White Mountain National Forest. "Dead and down" means that she is permitted to cut a dead and downed tree).
Her bowls are exquisite, and when I mentioned that the last of my wooden bowls had broken, she told me that she is in the process of perfecting an inexpensive, quality turning method so that everyday people like me could afford to enjoy their 'salad days' in her beautiful bowls. Her array of wooden objects is impressive: She specializes in natural edge bowls while also endeavoring to master other forms of wood turning such as utility bowls, boxes, ornaments, and her newest pieces: salt and pepper grinders.
Before the roads clog up, I strongly urge you enjoy a trip through the Notch to acquaint yourself with Local Works, the gallery by WREN. It is an inspiring place, with amazing new art work every month.
The Gallery at WREN is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, please call Local Works Marketplace, WREN's retail market, at (603) 869-3100. WREN also has a gallery shop at the Omni Mount Washington. It's exquisite.
This exhibit is generously sponsored by Sugar Hill Inn.