Arts & Leisure

Jackson Gallery hosts paper creations #Skylights

Addison County paper construction artist Winslow Colwell presents #Skylights at the Jackson Gallery in Middlebury. An opening reception will be held on Friday, April 28, from 5-7 p.m.

Spring is coming and so is an unusual exhibit at the Jackson Gallery at Town Hall Theater in Middlebury. #Skylights is a collection of works on paper by Ripton artist Winslow Colwell, which take the simple kite to a new and whimsical spot in the virtual sky. There will be an opening reception on Friday, April 28, from 5-7 p.m., open to all.

Colwell begins by printing his photographs onto specially treated watercolor paper. He then splits lengths of black bamboo, planes them to a smooth finish, and begins to cut, paste, and glue until the ephemeral constructions take shape. When done they range up to six feet in diameter or become three-dimensional works with dizzying complexity.

The show will also include Win’s light boxes, where the kiteworks are perforated and then lit from behind with dozens of tiny LED lights. The effect is of a night sky with twinkling stars, another passion of Colwell. 

“I grew up loving the wind and sky,” Colwell said. “My father worked in aerospace and brought home photos of old planes as well as tons of stuff from the space program. And in the summer we would sit outside in the Adirondacks and watch for falling stars and try to pick out these new lights in the sky — the first satellites. Great memories for me!”

This is part of what led Colwell to become a professional kite maker for a decade, selling his work wholesale and at Vermont craft fairs. He then went back to school to study graphic design and for the last 25 years has been a book designer as well as freelancing from his Addison County home. 

“But I’ve always loved the kite, particularly the Japanese traditional designs with their delicate paper and bamboo construction and delightful graphics,” he said. “Bee kites that have wind-harps attached so they buzz as they fly! So fun! So I’ve gotten back into making kites after all these years, though now they are on the wall and fly in your imagination.”

A LIGHTBOX BY Winslow Colwell

Another endeavor for the artist has been making paper lanterns that borrow the same materials and much of the same design-sense. After printing on the same watercolor stock, Colwell patiently bends and folds the paper until they attain a remarkable rigidity with no bracing. He glues a heavy wooden base into them and they are illuminated with either a low wattage LED or a battery lamp. There are many designs, some in production and others one-of-a-kind, and many will be on display and for sale at the show.

The exhibit runs from April 21 until June 10 at the Jackson Gallery in the lower level of Town Hall Theater on Merchants Row in downtown Middlebury. Hours are Monday through Friday, noon-5 p.m., Saturday by appointment ([email protected]), or when a performance is taking place. 

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