Brattleboro Museum & Art Center: a little museum that has a lot to say

March 1, 2019

Round about mid-February, the point from which the beginning and end of winter lay equidistant, New Englanders begin to experience cabin fever. My own bout with it arrived on cue, but I discovered the perfect remedy.



On a bright and blustery February afternoon we visited the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center (BMAC) in Brattleboro, Vermont. Situated in the former Union Station, the BMAC sits perched upon a bluff above the banks of the Connecticut River. When the station closed in 1966 plans to raze the historic building were thwarted by concerned residents who suggested to the city they re-purpose it, and in 1972 it opened as a museum.


With an ever-changing exhibits model predicated on a non-collecting platform, the BMAC presents multiple exhibits throughout the year, showcasing the work of regional and international contemporary artists. Past exhibitors have included such notable artists as children's book author and Illustrator, Chris Van Allsburg, photorealist, Chuck Close, and pop artist, Andy Warhol, to name a few.


Image: front entrance 


Peering out beyond this window in the museum's center lobby, the western bank of the Connecticut River courses just below.


Looking east, toward New Hampshire, the Connecticut River, with ice flows, provides a postcard backdrop behind the museum.


The BMAC's main gallery is named for husband and wife color field painters (and longtime seasonal Brattleboro residents), Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason. Both have been  involved with the BMAC practically since its inception 47 years ago. In fact, Mr. Kahn participated in its inaugural exhibit, a group showing of local artists that included one of his works. He was a member of the museum's board of trustees in the 1980s; today, he and Ms. Mason serve as honorary trustees. Their artwork can be found in museums and galleries across the US, as well as in private collections.


Photo credit: Joyce Marcel


Wolf Kahn working in his studio.


Mr. Kahn's most recent solo show at the BMAC, "Wolf Kahn: Density and Transparency", was held in 2017 and featured works from this past decade. Although he is in his early 90s and struggles with macular degeneration (an eye disease that destroys center field vision), he paints more than ever now.


Born in Stuttgart, Germany, he emigrated to NYC in 1940 at the age of 13 to reunite with his family who had fled their homeland to avoid Nazi persecution on the eve of World War II (young Wolf had escaped on a Kindertransport to England due to the US's limited refugee quotas). In 1947, after serving in the Navy, he became the studio assistant to acclaimed abstract expressionist, Hans Hoffman, in Provincetown, MA. He and Emily Mason met at New York's National Arts Club in 1956 and married in Venice in 1957 while she was studying painting on a Fulbright Scholarship. Ten years later they purchased their Brattleboro home, and for the past 50+ years they've lived and painted there between summer and fall.


Photo credit: Diana Urbaska


Click on the gallery above to sample a few select images from the "Wolf Kahn: Density and Transparency" exhibit (photos courtesy of the BMAC).



Emily Mason working in her studio in 2018.


The daughter of American abstract painter, Alice Trumbull Mason ((1904–1971) and a descendant of renowned history painter, John Trumbull (1756–1843), Ms. Mason's artistic New England lineage is both long and esteemed. Her latest BMAC exhibit, "Emily Mason: To Another Place", featured a small retrospective of the artist's paintings. Throughout,

the interplay of color and form in her work creates an experience that is at first mysterious, and on second glance, revelatory—enigmatic and explicit, the paintings are also atmospheric in nature.


Photo credit: Joshua Farr



Click on the gallery above to view select images from the "Emily Mason: To Another Place" exhibit (photos courtesy of the BMAC).



Beyond the Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason Gallery there are several other galleries that showcase both solo and group exhibits. On average, the BMAC hosts ten art shows per year, which encompass various mediums including (but not limited to) painting, sculpture, and textile art. The following galleries provide a sampling of recent displays that were on view the day we visited: 


"Elizabeth Turk: Heaven, Earth, Home" allows the viewer to experience a masterful transformation of a solid piece of stone (marble). The art of sculpting is a reductive process that allows light and air to filter about, and here, breathtaking creations emerge in revealing and dimensional ways.


Click on the gallery below to view select images from the "Elizabeth Turk: Heaven, Earth, Home" exhibit.



"Orly Cogan: Don't Call Me Princess" examines the role of women in society by exploring and challenging traditional thinking while honoring the evolution of the past to the present. These large tableaux utilize embroidery and paint on fabric to convey the narrative.


Click on the gallery below to view select images from the "Orly Cogan: Don't Call Me Princess" exhibit.




"Open Call NXNE 2019: Paint" is the latest incarnation of an annual event that changes in date and selection but not in title. As the name suggests, a general invitation is extended to artists to submit their work for this ongoing tradition where the grouping is intended to be viewed both individually and collectively. The universal appeal presented within this gallery prompts an immediate response within the viewer (as does all great art!).


Click on the gallery below to view select images from the "Open Call NXNE 2019: Paint" exhibit.



The BMAC is a small venue packed with powerful ideas. We were able to cover the entire museum in a few hours, while the scope, variety, and quality of its offerings left us pondering the experience long after our visit.  


Oh, and that cabin fever I mentioned earlier in this post, well, by the time we were leaving the museum, it was gone with the winter wind!

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About the images: the photos herein are credited to Tankful Travels unless otherwise noted. Tankful Travels makes every effort to adhere to identification, citation and attribution best practices for the images that appear in our posts. If you find discrepancies or broader information than we have provided please contact us via email.



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