Miller’s Thumb Gallery • Greensboro, VT • millersthumbgallery.com • Through October 13, 2016

By: Sheryl Trainor

Hashtag Ghostdance
Chuck Trotsky, Hashtag Ghostdance, 2016, acrylic on
panel, 44 x 48″. Photo: Benjamin Barnes.

Miller’s Thumb, a gallery on the shores of Caspian Lake in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, is housed in an old mill, affording a view of the stream below through a viewing station in the floor. The gallery closes its sixth season with East Meets West, a group show of 15 artists.

Vanessa Compton, gallery curator and collage artist, completed a National Parks Service residency in Arizona at the Hubbell Trading Post, a 19th-century historical site where the Navajo traded with white settlers. The body of work Compton completed there, and the occasion of this year’s national park centennial, sparked the concept for East Meets West—artists exploring “the epic landscapes and numerous myths of the American East and West.”

Responses range from an exquisitely crafted wooden kayak by Phil Pike, to collage, to pleinair paintings. Ben Barnes’ acrylic painting, Subaru, depicts a Bondo-patched red car in front of a rundown house. Beyond the house, a hillside fades from the brilliant foliage that drives Vermont’s tourism engine to the grey of stick season, inferring that the tourists and their money will disappear with the leaves. Carolyn Enz Hack’s powerful mixed media paintings also document a Vermont whose fortunes have ebbed and flowed through time.

In W. David Powell’s digital collage Variety of Vision, east literally meets west. The image is divided in half: an imposing figure of a Native American man dominates an immense canyon scene to the left; to the right, white men tunnel underground, destabilizing the ground under his feet.

Barnes, also contributing work as his alter ego Chuck Trotsky, directly addresses the historical relationship of west to east with his large acrylic portrait of Sitting Bull. Hashtag Ghostdance refers to the unsuccessful 19th-century religious movement created to drive the white man back east. Not long after its creation, Sitting Bull was dead and the movement was crushed. The relentless drive westward continued.

The show’s concept challenges viewers. What realities lie behind the myth of place? What are the truths behind the stories? East Meets West addresses these questions, and visitors to Miller’s Thumb will find themselves asking even more.

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