Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Vignettes from Vermont: Of Poets, Painters & Presidents

Olympia Hostler of Rumsom via Sacramento (Art Gallery Dude photo)

Buy Olympia's work HERE

BENNINGTON -- It's not like we spun a globe of the world, stopped the spinning with an index finger, squinted to see where our finger stuck then proclaimed:

Come hither
to Fiddlehead

ye artists
from Whittier!

That is not what we did at all.

What we did do is say "Email us your work and let's see what happens."

So it's just a coincidence that another artist who attended Whittier College -- home of poets, painters and presidents -- has been tabbed to showcase her wares at Fiddlehead at Four Corners art gallery in downtown Bennington.

Two week ago, Will Kefauver brought 8 of his plein air oils to Fiddlehead. They hang on the walls and are for sale here. Read about Kefauver's ties to Whittier College and his family's connection to future President of the United States Richard Nixon here.

Yesterday, Fiddlehead welcomed Whittier College grad Olympia Hostler of Rumson, New Jersey by way of Sacramento, California. The 50-year-old brought with her 40 canvases covered with bold colors and bolder expressions born of acrylic, liquid polymer and motion.

It took about 2 hours to whittle those 40 pieces down to a manageable lot of 15.

Artists often ask Art Gallery Dude how they can sell their work at Fiddlehead and he always answers "Email us your work and let's see what happens."

Yesterday, AGD interviewed Fiddlehead at Four Corners owner Joel Lentzner, a 1991 Bennington College grad with a Master's (Iowa) in Educational Administration. Nina Lentzner, Joel's wife, also graduated Bennington in '91 then received her MFA from Iowa.

Art Gallery Dude: There is a process canvas artists (oils, acrylics, liquids, inks, pastels) follow before their work hangs at Fiddlehead. Once you have agreed to a meeting with the artist, what are you looking for while selecting pieces to hang in the gallery?

Joel Lentzner: I think it's really important to listen to the artist. Getting to know the person who made the art gives insight into the art itself, and in many ways, that helps me to understand our customers better. The process has definitely evolved over the years ... when we first opened 13 years ago, I used to buy primarily what I liked ... like I was some sort of self-appointed style guru. These days, I tend to listen more to our customers' insights and interests, and try to bring in new work that matches those predilections.

Joel looks at "Breath"
winner Beatrice Jackson Award
68th Audubon Artists Oils Awards (2010)

AGD: In a case like today, Olympia Hostler brought in 40 pieces. What was the most difficult part of whittling 40 to the 15 you chose?

Joel: There's often such a strong emotional connection between artist and work, that it's sometimes difficult to make selections. It's not unlike the feeling of choosing a puppy: You're not necessarily saying that there's anything wrong with the other puppies not chosen. It's more about making a connection. So, that's sort of my job, to try to be that connection between artist and customer.

Joel looks over Will Kefauver's selection of oils on canvas on February 18

AGD: Your wife is co-owner of Fiddlehead, and she has an MFA from Iowa. How does it work when one of you likes an artist and one of you thinks you want to pass? Does either of you have the final word in these matters? What were some of the things you and Nina discussed while choosing from Olympia's collection?

Joel: Nina and I have two different skill-sets that are complementary in a variety of ways. There's always an interplay of opinions that happens when we're discussing new work ... we both have veto power. It's a little like our college days of art shows and crits, except our livelihoods are involved this time.

Nina Lentzner (right) has an MFA from the University of Iowa

Joel looks at another Olympia Hostler piece,
which he included in the series of 15

AGD: Fiddlehead became a gallery 13 years ago and has featured renowned canvas artists from all walks of life. Which ones moved you the most?

Joel: I really like Stella Ehrich's work (here); there's a sensualness to her paintings that I find captivating. I also think Michelopoulos is one of the great living masters. I love selling his work. There is also one particular piece by John Leavey, who's no longer at the gallery, that I wish I would have purchased for myself.

Joel Lentzner and Will Kefauver discuss Kefauver's work

AGD: How would you characterize your art background?

Joel: My background is mostly in education. I have an M.A. in Educational Administration and used to teach preschool and kindergarten. In college I took a few art classes, but then married an artist. As fate would have it we started a career in the arts together. First in the handmade craft business, selling hand-painted fine furniture at craft shows around the country. Then we expanded our studio to include a gallery with work from artists all around the U.S. So, I guess my art background has been more experiential than scholarly.

Kira Guidon (fore) of Williamstown walked into Fiddlehead
and fell in love with Olympia's work even before she finished
unpacking the 40 pieces. Made for a crowded section

AGD: How would you characterize Bennington's art scene right now?

Joel: Passionate and disjointed.

Joel displays AGD's favorite Olympia piece called "Bliss"

Whittier, Los Angeles, California, took root in 1784 thanks to the King of Spain, who gave Capt. Manuel Nieto 300,000 acres of land as a reward for his service during the Portola Expedition. Read a short history and everything else about Whittier here.

Whittier, Los Angeles, California, famous for its walnuts, is named for a New England Quaker poet from Haverhill, Massachusetts -- John Greenleaf Whittier -- who never stepped foot on the land named after him but thanked those who honored his character with this:

Dear Town, for whom the flowers are born,
Stars shine, and happy songbirds sing,
What can my evening give to thy morn,
My Winter to Thy Spring?
A life not void of pure intent
With small desert of praise or blame;
The Love I felt, the Good I meant,
I leave Thee with My Name.

Whittier also wrote poems about pumpkin pie and about anti-slavery hero John Brown kissing the slave mother's child just before his execution at the gallows.

Whittier College plays Division III sports, and the Poets compete in the Southern California Interscholastic Athletic Conference. The 2012 football team went 4-5, winning games with scores such as 55-24 (Puget Sound) and 61-30 (Occidental) and losing by scores of 62-38 (Cal Lutheran) and 63-40 (Redlands). The poetic statistic of '12 is that Whittier went 0-5 at home and 4-0 on the road.

Whittier plays a role in Hollywood. "The Wonder Years" and "True Blood" are among the TV shows that taped in the city while several movies have shot on location: "Back to the Future" and "Father of the Bride II" and "The Next Best Thing" (Madonna, Rupert Everett) and "Terminator 3" and "Blow" and "Ali" and "Disturbia" among others.

Tina Yothers is from Whittier!

So was Lou Henry Hoover, wife of President Herbert Hoover.

As was President Richard Nixon, who played football at Whittier High and Whittier College.

Whittier College, which produced Will Kefauver and Olympia Hostler.

Artists whose works hang at Fiddlehead at Four Corners in Bennington, Vermont.

Whittier, My Whittier!

Olympia Hostler grew up in Sacramento and began an acclaimed art career "by chance" after moving to Jersey 7 years ago. The Picasso acolyte characterizes her work as "energetic art in motion" -- she pours a combination of acrylic paint and liquid polymer onto a canvas then moves the canvas in any number of directions "before I decide which orientation to put it in."

Instead of brushes she uses toothpicks and popsicle sticks and newspapers to create several layers. The polymer gives each piece a fantastic shine.

"I usually win awards because they are so unique," Olympia said in the video below.

Her 15 pieces at Fiddlehead range in size from 11x14 to 36x48. Here are a few ...

"Breath" ($6,000)

"Bloom" ($6,000)

"Vibrant" ($3,000)

"Harley" ($2,500)

"Woodstock" ($9,000)

Olympia's full collection will be available at by Tuesday.

Until then, this is Olympia Hostler of Whittier College ...

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