Arts & Leisure

Sheldon exhibit explores mountain ‘sightlines’

TREES IN WINTER, Goshen, Vermont, Caleb Kenna, 2021


The Sheldon Museum presents the exhibit “Sightlines — Picturing the Battell Wilderness,” featuring oil and gouache paintings on linen by Jill Madden and photographs by Caleb Kenna capturing colorful “sightlines” within the Green Mountains of Vermont, particularly the Breadloaf and Battell Wilderness areas. The exhibit is on view at the Middlebury museum and will remain on view through Dec. 31.

Both artists visit the mountains year round and their work records varied seasonal views of the captivating peaks and valleys so central to the recreational and environmental challenges of Vermont. The exhibit highlights the importance of Middlebury philanthropist Joseph Battell (1839-1915) who donated 35,000 acres of the Green Mountains to Middlebury College, later becoming a core portion of the Green Mountain National Forest.

Inspired by the legacy of Joseph Battell, Madden and Kenna have an enthusiasm for the outdoors. Their energy, artistic passion, ability and devotion to Vermont are evident through their paintings and photographs.

Always adventuresome, Madden frequently heads to the wilderness areas and will pause, for example, while snowshoeing on Mount Horrid, to set up her easel and capture a winter scene. She is a 1987 graduate of Middlebury College and when not exploring and painting in the Green Mountains, she is refreshed by swimming in the Atlantic Ocean near her Rhode Island childhood home.

Kenna has recently undertaken and become an expert in drone photography. Standing on firm ground, holding his drone camera, he positions the camera in the sky, searching out a landscape of perfect light, contour, composition and color. Raised in Brandon, Caleb now resides in Middlebury. He studied at UVM and San Francisco State University. His drone landscape photographs were recently featured in the New York Times and the online edition of National Geographic.

The exhibit includes eight large photographs by Kenna and 20 paintings by Madden. In addition, for reference, three topographical maps help visitors pinpoint the locations of the areas featured in the works of art, i.e. the Breadloaf Quadrangle, the Lincoln Quadrangle, and a larger map siting the Joseph Battell Wilderness, Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, and the Bristol Cliff Wilderness.

JILL MADDEN PAINTING in the wilderness.

Throughout the exhibit, the Museum will offer the following Zoom presentations:

On Oct. 28 at noon, the museum will host a Zoom talk about “Joseph Battell: A Life and a Legacy,” led by David Bain, Middlebury College Senior Lecturer in English and American Literatures. Bain will offer a biographical talk on Joseph Battell. Following that lecture, on Nov. 4 at noon, Will Amidon, Middlebury Geology Professor will discuss a new technique to visualize landscapes using high-resolution topographic images of Earth’s surface — Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) — which collects data by firing a laser from an aircraft and uses the reflection to estimate land surface elevation. Talks are $5 pre-registration required. Visit or call 802-388-2117 to register and for more details.

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