Belated: I almost didn't notice this faded-paint ghost bike in the dreary dull Burlington afternoon light. It's chained to a tree outside of Radio Bean, with a sprig of fake pink flowers stuck in the frame. According to Radio Bean barista, it's not a memorial to anyone in particular, but the leftovers from a past Day of the Dead bike ride.
I had the pleasure of meeting Burlington based artist Toni-Lee Sangastiano yesterday, who spoke with me about meeting with Canadian independent curator Ola Wlusek through her participation in Burlington City Art's Visiting Critics program. Toni-Lee's work (what I saw) ranges from pointed social-commentary installation to colorful, large-scale sideshow banners, but what caught particularly caught my eye (surprise) was her use of Italian street shrine niches in Florence.
Toni-Lee explained to me that she restricted herself to using only items purchased at the European 99-cent store, and made lanterns using Coca-Cola cans and glow sticks. For each altar she installed, she made a corresponding map of its location drawn on marbled paper she made while studying there.
She writes on her website: Misguided Adorations repurposes vacant Italian street shrine alcoves as slyly subversive altars to consumer culture and maps of their locations with Florentine marbling. Created during her sabbatical in Florence, Italy, this photographic series documents Sangastiano’s luminous art-installations created from low cost consumer goods, including soft drink cans transformed with pin-hole tracings and glow-sticks.
Presiding over the front entrance of the Seven Days offices in Burlington is a memorial to a one of the paper's former arts writers, Marc Awodey (pronounced like Audi). Awodey was not just a writer, but a painter, published poet, and, as Seven Days noted in his obituary, a "one-time creator of poetry vending machines that served up tiny verses for quarters" - which the base of this shrine-like construction is modeled after. Awodey wrote about the project in his book 95 Theses: Art and Machine, published in 2004.
The memorial itself was made by Poultney, VT, artist Ruth Hamilton, and is officially titled Marc Awodey Memorial Cabinet. It is at Seven Days by the generosity of collector Mark Waskow, whose "Waskowmium" purports over 12,000 works of contemporary art housed in multiple locations. Hamilton has made two other "cabinets," Peace Cabinet and Day of the Dead Cabinet, as well as the altar-like Goddess Figure - all can be viewed on her website.
In the main compartment of this memorial, Awodey stands reading against a miniature painted backdrop of Church Street, surrounded by his art supplies and easel. There is also an apple tree with an orchard ladder, a cello, and a circus elephant.
Awodey was born in 1960, and graduated with an MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1984. He died of a heart attack in October of 2012, at the age of 51.
The two-day exhibition An Order included five artists who each made installations responding to the space that used to be Saint Joseph's Providence Orphan Asylum. The show's organizer, Abbey Meaker, has been creating lens-based work that she calls "semi-archaeological" based on her investigations of the former orphanage for approximately three years, which includes an active Facebook group for adults who once lived or worked at St. Joseph's. The participating artists are Meaker, Wylie Garcia, Sarah O'Connell, Rebecca Weisman, and Mary Zompetti.
In the short amount of time I've been back in Vermont, this is the second time that a public arts event allowed me to visit the inside of an otherwise off-limits building - the first was the Moran Plant. An Order let visitors explore a portion of the former orphanage, which operated from 1885 to the early 1980s, and then became a part of Burlington College - before its impending transformation into private housing.
In the giant, high-ceilinged chapel, the five artists created a Last Supper-styled altar tableaux, which to my delight was arranged below a giant rolled screen hung from the ceiling, a presumably coincidental (?) comment on the proximity of different kinds of image-worship. I spoke briefly to Meaker, who said that the entire altar was created using items that the artists had found from around the property.