Mindscapes derived from memory

Artist Renee Bouchard opens new exhibition at SVC gallery

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BENNINGTON — It's safe to say that Renee Bouchard is an artist who lives her art, and whose art lives in her.

Bouchard, who lives in Bennington with husband Jamie and son Ensor, has opened an exhibition of new paintings and sculptures titled "WE THE PEOPLE," now on display at Southern Vermont College's Burgdorff Gallery through April 7.

A free public reception honoring Bouchard, who is currently Artist-in-Residence at the College, will take place on Thursday, Feb. 16, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Bouchard is spending the semester at SVC teaching a class called "Art, Making and Meaning." Students in this class are pooling resources with children involved in the PAVE (Project Against Violent Encounters) program and Bennington Early Childhood Center on large-scale canvas paintings and a repurposed sculptural installation.

Dr. Jennifer Burg, who chairs the college's Hunter Division of Humanities, said that Bouchard's presence at SVC is an educational and creative enabler.

"Southern Vermont College and the Hunter Division of Humanities are thrilled to have Ren e Bouchard as our Artist-in-Residence this semester," Burg said. "Her work is timely and thought-provoking, and her willingness to share her energy and talents with our students and with the greater Bennington community is inspirational. "

This inspiration had also led Bouchard to continue a creative streak which has seen her work shown at the Governor's Gallery in Montpelier in 2016. So with new works in the offing, an exhibition seemed timely to show that new media were also in play.

Bouchard said that these works have various twists not seen in her previous collections.

"The new work involves nailing into panels and attaching yarn, aluminum cans and other found and sentimental objects," Bouchard said. "Also, I have been writing words into the work, thinking about how poetry and painting relate."

For example, Bouchard explained, the piece titled "Planned Parenthood (I miss you)" is made up of baby food jars used to mix paint and wire clothes hangers inside of a wooden cage like structure.

As in the past, Bouchard has also kept to methods which led to creative success, such as involving her son Ensor, as well as other children, in close proximity to the production of new work.

"All of the work in the show, while completed recently, began as a series of 20 or so pieces created domestically and involved Ensor and other children," Bouchard said. "I like the element of chance being involved when I work. Allowing children to either initiate a canvas or come into it when I am stuck can be really freeing."

Bouchard enjoys discussing the mechanics as well as spirituality inherent in her art. As such, one of the works in the show drew her attention and fondness, a complex creation entitled "Lifeboat (Not Square), which consists of oil, watercolor, acrylic, metal spoon, plastic lid, pencil shavings, glitter, ink and burlap.

"My paintings are simultaneously invented landscapes and mindscapes derived from memory and experience," Bouchard said. "`Lifeboat (Not Square)' is evocative of a mysterious labyrinth or complex cave. I was inspired to use glitter, as [Grandma] Moses did, to capture the magical quality of make believe."

Playing the role of the archetypical child, Bouchard explained, she starts out by doodling. Then color becomes an organizer as she works toward integrating to her art and life into one.

"It's my ethical responsibility to be resourceful with materials, and media used for my recent works are often gifts, found, or sentimental," Bouchard said. "The stretched canvas for `Lifeboat (Not Square)' was given to me because it wasn't perfectly square."

In the mold of Grandma Moses, Bouchard used jar lids and spoons to mix paint rather than a traditional palette. Also, there is a lid, spoon, and other studio detritus in play.

"My creative process is similar to the old New England saying that I grew up with: `Use up, wear out, do with, or do without,'" Bouchard said.

Bouchard is also having a "NOT my President Day Sale" on her paintings and offering a 20 percent discount on sales Saturday, Feb. 18 and Sunday, Feb. 19. She will be in the gallery on both those days from 11:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m. working and available to discuss work with anyone who is interested.

In all, Bouchard's hopes for the new exhibition are simple.

"I would like for people to experience the work and receive a perspective of creative cooperation versus a focus on the individual in our community," she said.

"WE THE PEOPLE" will run through April 7 at SVC's Burgdorff Gallery. For more information on the art of Renee Bouchard, visit: renee-bouchard.com

Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias @TellyHalkias


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