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Religious Art Enjoys A Comeback In Whitehall, NY
Vermont Today - Vermont Sunday Magazine - Rutland Herald
Published July 30, 2006
By Richard L. Brown

For three-quarters of its history, virtually all post-Classical Western art was religious. That changed with the Renaissance, when subjects from myth and history were introduced. As society became less church-centered, so did art. Today it is uncommon to find exhibitions of religiously-themed work. "Religious and Spiritual Art" at the Barbara Tarantino Gallery in Whitehall, N.Y., is a pleasant exception.

The show includes work by five area artists and pieces from the collection of Roman Catholic priest David LeForte. His collection is pardon the pun catholic, including reproductions, some original works, architectural prints and devotional photographs.

The collection surrounds the only contribution by Sandra Archbald of Granville, N.Y., a textile Madonna and Child. Although in a non-traditional medium, the work is the most classical in the room, based on the Hodegetria icon type: Mary holds the Christ child in one arm, his head resting on her breast. Rich coloration and plentiful touches of gold are in keeping with the orthodox tradition of infusing such images with brightness and brilliance.

Gallery owner Barbara Tarantino, a watercolorist, has included some of her "Mary" series. Tarantino's passion is flowers, and the most successful works, from a spiritual point of view, are "My Mary Garden" and "Mary's Winter Roses," in which the figure of Mary is barely seen amidst a profusion of flowers, a monochrome spirit nearly hidden among blossoms, tending to the world's beauty from backstage.

One expects angels in a religious art show, and in this case they're provided by Charlene Wakefield, from Westminster. A mosaicist, Wakefield creates her raw material from china found at yard sales and other places. She smashes it, then reassembles the pieces to create mosaics, which she places in classic carved frames. Most of her angels are typical effeminate beings with high arching wings. Unique, and therefore most striking, is "Messenger." The angel wears a kimono and stands in front of a Chinese landscape. The artistry is exceptional, and the creamy ecru ground could make an interior designer weep for joy.

Whitehall sculptor Serena Kovalosky takes the role of jeweler for this show, creating rosaries and prayer bracelets. She uses olive wood for the crosses and small beads in her rosaries, and generally for her prayer beads, although in some she uses gaspite, a relatively rare, turquoise-like green mineral found in eastern Canada. She lends an additional sensory dimension to the pieces by inserting scented beads made from rose petals and fine clay.

Westminster artist Cindy Bowler offers five drawings that she calls "spiritual," but which are not so to the objective viewer. The works address children's issues: shelter, hunger, literacy. Although they are excellent, and raise real-world issues that artists should address, they don't fit the theme of the exhibit.

"Religious and Spiritual Art" will be on view until Aug. 9. The gallery is at 2 William St., at the east end of the Saunders Street bridge. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. The phone number is (518) 499-0036; the Web address is www.barbaratarantino.com.

Richard L. Brown is an art historian and former gallery director.

2006 Herald Association
Rutland Herald and Times Argus Newspapers

Original Article: http://vermonttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060730/FEATURES/607310304/1002/FEATURES02

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