Working artists to offer their insights in a Q&A on Friday

MIDDLEBURY — The Vermont Folklife Center will moderate a panel discussion, “Three Artists in the Working Forest: Conversation on Art, Documentary, and Representation with Kathleen Kolb, Verandah Porche, and George Bellerose,” on Friday, Feb. 5, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Vision & Voice Gallery in Middlebury.
The panel conversation and Q&A session will seek to illuminate how these three working artists approach the representation of their subjects from the vantage point of artistic creators, storytellers and ethnographers.
The conversation comes on the heels of Bellerose’s exhibition, “Portraits of the Forest: Men and Machine,” on display at the Vermont Folklife Center through January 2016, and will take place against the backdrop of Kolb and Porche’s exhibit, “Shedding Light on the Working Forest,” which is currently on display at the Vermont Folklife Center through April. Both exhibitions explore and celebrate Vermont’s working forest through the eyes of the people who have honed their skills and made a living there — loggers, foresters and others.
The panelists bring with them extensive experience and personal practice as artists working in diverse mediums: painting (Kolb), poetry (Porche), and photography (Bellerose). Kathleen Kolb evokes what is solid, luminous, yet ephemeral in the scenes she gathers and painstakingly paints. She talks about a moment of “emotional ignition” kindling a work of art.
As a writing partner, Verandah Porche befriends, questions and listens to unearth and preserve the poetry embedded in lived experience. She calls this process “finding the verse in conversation.”
George Bellerose’s photography is in many ways an extension of his persona — gentle and direct: “I show (my subjects) my past work and explain my working process, both photography and text. I stress that this can be a long process, but that I strive to make it mutually enjoyable.”
The work of the Vermont Folklife Center is founded in the academic discipline of ethnography — which can best be understood in practical terms as attempting to understand an experience from the perspective of the person to whom that experience belongs. In other words, “stepping into someone else’s shoes.”
The three participating artists are not only fine practitioners of their respective art forms — they are also out in the world attempting to “step into the shoes of others.”
The evening promises to be an exciting journey for panelists and audience alike as the three artists pull back the veil on their philosophies for exploring, learning, and creating — how their discoveries are shared with us through their art forms.
The exhibition “Shedding Light on the Working Forest” is on display in Middlebury Jan. 15 through April 30. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Vision & Voice Documentary Workspace is ADA accessible on the first floor of the Vermont Folklife Center headquarters building at 88 Main St. in Middlebury.

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