Art’s Alive, in its 23rd year and the area’s oldest visual arts festival, has again installed numerous artworks in Church Street Marketplace windows for the month of June. That signifies the organization’s egalitarian approach to presenting artwork, and looking for the displays is rather like going on a cultural Easter-egg hunt. There’s an indoor juried exhibit as well, in the two-floor Art’s Alive Gallery at Union Station. Works by the 40 accepted artists are included, as are those of a few artists who declined to show in shop windows. The group show is a fascinating focal point for the annual event.
Sculpture isn’t quite as prominent in the all-media exhibition as it’s been in the past — the days of Art’s Alive placing serious, large-scale works at the former S.T. Griswold’s Sculpture Park in Williston are over. But there are several lighthearted pieces in the current group show. Kevyn Cundiff’s “Safe Rex” presents a stained-glass dog that looks like a bluetick coonhound in the window of a detached red car door. The window is rolled halfway up, so there’s no risk of “Rex” jumping out and shattering.
The most colorful photograph in the group show is a rich 18-by-24-inch Lake Champlain sunset captured by Jerome Milks. “Button Bay Reflections” is a fine composition with dark mountains in silhouette at the center, cradled by the bands of an orange and yellow dusk above and below the rippling horizon. A dark layer of sky runs along the top of the image, and its reflection is along the lower edge.
As is common in group exhibitions, painting is the most prominent medium. “Crimson Foliage II” by Lorraine C. Manley is a 30-by-30-inch landscape focused on a blazing stand of autumnal maples. Manley’s brushwork is as vibrant as are the turning leaves.
The festival’s first-place award went to Jenna Kelly for her 36-by-36-inch mixed-media work “Fa.” It’s an enigmatic picture of a faceless, dark, bare-breasted woman carrying a bucket on her head, Third World style. The word fragment “fa” replaces her face. Kelly’s piece is a worthy winner. Its haunting visage obliquely references the obscured countenances of Belgian surrealist René Magritte.
Second place went to photographer Wendy James for her oil cityscape “Two Cabs,” and third place was garnered by Marie Davis’ pointillist polymer-clay rendition of a girl’s face, “Sunpower.” It’s composed entirely of little flower tiles in various hues. If Davis’ work seems familiar to some viewers, it may be because another of her intricate ceramic pieces won first prize for indoor works in last year’s South End Art Hop. The Art’s Alive Board of Directors Award went to “Buzzz” by Cathy McCarthy.
The Moulton Steele Emerging Artist Award, given annually to a self-described “emerging artist” and named for Main Street Landing owners Melinda Moulton and Lisa Steele, went to Lindsay Blanton for a 48-by-60-inch oil entitled “Blue Crush.” The frothy blue wave is sort of a cross between Hokusai’s iconic “The Great Wave” and the opening credits of “Hawaii Five-O.” Blanton earned a BFA from Alfred University in 2007.
2009 is a transitional year for Art’s Alive. In recent years the festival was produced by Kasini House, formerly of Burlington; since that relationship ended, the Art’s Alive board has had to revisit many logistical issues. But the show goes on, and, judging by community enthusiasm and the caliber of its selected artists, the fest may be deemed a success.