Under The Influence
Nancy Burroughs, one of the five artist partners who operates the Artisan’s Gallery in Waitsfield, surmises what it is about the Mad River Valley that attracts artists of all kinds. “There’s inspiration everywhere, no matter what kind of artist you might be,” she says, pointing to the mountains and the old barns and schoolhouses that still dot the landscape here.
To test her theory, meet a few local artists who pull from the Valley’s setting to influence their pieces, whether pastel landscape paintings, ceramic birdhouses, or watercolor paintings.
Pastel Landscape Paintings
If you were to peel back two layers of pastel from one of Marilyn Ruseckas’ paintings, you would see only two colors: black and white. “It’s sort of a hidden technique,” say Ruseckas. “For something to feel complete to me, I need to establish a good contrast of light and dark. It’s kind of like yin and yang.” Once the first layer of pastel is put down, the Warren local ‘buries it”, by adding two more layers of color pastel. Her finished products are dreamy Vermont landscapes, where trees and mountains are depicted in rich colors like chocolate browns, velvety purples, and dark greens. Marilynruseckas.com, 802.496.9975
With a background in woodworking and metalsmithing, Abby Dreyer says she never had any interest in working with clay – until she took a wheel-throwing pottery class in 2006. “I was just mesmerized by the feel of it, the shapes I could form so easily,” says Dreyer, who today, is most famous for her hand-built ceramic birdhouses, severl of which draw inspiration form area architecture. Her process involves researching local birds to build to their appropriate sizes, assembling slabs of high-fire stoneware clay according to those dimensions, then adding texture to the houses with elaborate carvings. Vtartisansgallery.com, 802.496.6256
Fortunately, as a college student, Gary Eckhart had access to a good library. “A lot of colleges didn’t teach watercolor courses, just oil and acrylic, so I began teaching myself through books and research,” says the Warren-based artist, who has made a 30-year career out of the medium. His subjects are typically disappearing parts of American history, like old Vermont sugarhouses and barns. But the longtime Sugarbush ski instructor won’t paint things exactly the way he saw them; instead, he’ll combine elements from four or five different scenes. If you’re staying in Sugarhush’s Clay Brook hotel, you’ll find his original artwork displayed on the walls. Moosewalkstudios.com, 802.583.2224
Like many of Vermont’s communities, the Mad River Valley is filled with an eclectic mix of artisans, where you will find works of art ranging from blown glass, pottery, paintings, jewelry, and metal sculpture to photographers, woodworkers, and quilters. For more information on these artisans, check out the all new Sugarbush Magazine (www.sugarbush.com link) or visit www.madrivervalley.comSee All Arts and Culture Articles