‘Family Traits’ exhibit shows the art and humor in everyday life

MIDDLEBURY — The Vermont Folklife Center welcomes the exhibit “Family Traits: Art, Humor and Everyday Life” — celebrating familial culture through the artwork of Stanley Lyndes. The exhibit opened at the end of January and will be on display through May 15 at the Vermont Folklife Center’s Vision and Voice Gallery in Middlebury.
As a child growing up in a multi-generational farm family in the early 1900s, Lyndes observed the quirks and foibles of the people with whom he interacted every day. He remembered each peculiar turn of phrase and was struck by the absurd qualities of everyday life that usually go unnoticed as “normal.” Like an anthropologist or a folklorist, he was able to reflect on his life at a distance, and he saw terrific humor everywhere.
All of this became source material for  Lyndes’ creative energy, such as the “Family Traits” book, which he illustrated as an exercise while a student at the Pratt Institute. Presumably this project was for his own delight, but it has also become a touchstone for the generations of his family that have followed him, revered as both a treasured artifact and the creative humorous expression of a common past.
But Lyndes also made things for making’s sake. His grandchildren reference bows and arrows, finely-crafted boxes, miniature furniture, beautifully illustrated cards, and much, much more. At the root of all of this was “Gramp Honeycake” — loving, fun and full of surprises — who bound his family together by creating a cast of characters that were their common property. Forty-two years after Lyndes’ death the things he made still resonate for his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
We all celebrate these kinds of family connections when we bake that special birthday cake that our mothers made for us as children or tell stories about those special ornaments on the holiday tree. This is how family folklore works. The only difference is that Lyndes did this in spades.
The Vision and Voice Gallery is free and open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The Gallery is ADA accessible on the first floor of the Vermont Folklife Center headquarters building at 88 Main Street in Middlebury.

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