Day Away

March 6, 2010

Fleming Museum features Warhol, Egyptian mummy, 'Barn Ball'

Warhol, Egyptian mummy, 'Barn Ball' among showings


The European and American Gallery can provide the casual observer a solid introduction into artistic disciplines. In the first half of this permanent installation, sequential paintings and sculptures delineate evolution from Gothic and Renaissance through Baroque and Rococo to Neoclassicism.

The second half of the display, "Thematic Traditions in Western Art," changes the focus to that of artists' subjects. Portraiture and landscape speak for themselves. Among the latter, I especially enjoyed Charles Louis Heyde's view of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks as seen from Burlington Bay. Additional categories include still life and scenes of everyday life, generally called genre paintings.


One new addition to the "genre" sampling is a Norman Rockwell painting entitled "The Babysitter." Its backstory makes it captivating.

When a sixth-grade girl at Burlington's Taft School died of leukemia, classmates wanted to memorialize her with a print from Rockwell's Arlington, Vt., gallery, which the class had visited the previous year.

They collected a modest fund and sent it to Rockwell with their request. The artist returned the money, along with this original painting for a 1947 Saturday Evening Post magazine cover. Later, when Taft School closed, members of the class arranged to restore the canvas and have it moved to the Fleming on long-term loan.

Around the perimeter of the second-floor mezzanine hangs work of New England artists.

Most are landscapes and scenes of village life.

A few works make social and political statements, such as Ronald Slayton's 1935 creation "Unemployed."

The James B. Petersen Gallery of Native American Cultures introduces a range of artifacts from local Abenaki ash and sweetgrass basketry to a Kwakiutl raven headdress from the Pacific Northwest. Painted hides, beadwork and leathercraft (including a wonderful pair of grizzly paw mocassins) represent Plains tribes. Navajo rugs, laboriously woven on hanging looms, such as the Two Grey Hills example on display, have long captivated us.

On our way out, we stopped to study "Barn Ball" by Lars-Erik Fisk. It's a spherical representation of a classic New England landscape structure, with layers of red clapboard and stone foundation plus white windows and an interior filled with hay.

One can't imagine it being exhibited anywhere but Vermont.

E-mail Richard Frost at:

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