Detail of one of Kyle Cassidy's photos entitled Uzi, Judi and Donno

Brattleboro Art. Guns. Tea. And Curtis's BBQ


Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Susan B. Apel

I am not sure what I expected in walking into the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, but it wasn't guns. A recently-opened nine-artist exhibit, Up in Arms, is disturbing, enticing, challenging, and multi-media. Not to mention at times weirdly interactive. You are invited to take and post a selfie with a wall-sized representation of .357 Magnum aimed at your head. Another artist asks each viewer to select and take home a postcard of a Glock or an AK-47 (your choice), the better to understand how guns are lost in circulation throughout the world. All of the current exhibits run through October 23, 2016.

The cat on the shoulder . . .

It is Kyle Cassidy's work however, that caused me to begin conversations with strangers who happened to be fellow viewers. His photographs are just that provocative. Cassidy made portraits of gun owners in their homes, with their guns and family, as if posing for the annual Christmas card photo. Each is accompanied by the subject's explanation for owning a gun. Some photos have a weird, Diane Arbus sort of vibe and others look entirely ordinary. Given the volatile nature of the subject matter, the reviews of this project in book form (according to the exhibit program) are both expected and not. "For gun owners, Cassidy is an artist who finally shows their point of view in a positive light. For ardent supporters of gun regulation, the book provides confirmation that gun owners are the lunatic fringe." For me, I saw scary guns and very human people in the same frame. 

Nicky from Pennsylvania (who reminded me of my Uncle Bruce) bought a gun for protection when cancer of his vocal cords left him "too old to fight, too sick to run" and unable "to yell for help." 

If Cassidy's work is heavy, Jamie Young's paintings in Chaos and Light are a welcome change. Color, light, and creeping vines. A second photographic exhibit, this one by John Willis, is a sad, surreal, and visually appealing exploration of House/Home that focuses on economic injustice. The curator's notes reveal a less than well-known fact; when FEMA-supplied trailers given to Katrina victims turned out to be toxic, FEMA reclaimed them and then sold them for $3000 each to Native American families on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. How many things are wrong with this picture? These starkly beautiful photos encourage the viewer to ponder.

From House/Home, A Work In Progress

Of course one of the stars of the Brattleboro Museum is the museum itself, a gorgeously rehabbed train station celebrating its 100th birthday. There's an exhibition--Union Station: Gateway to the World--of historic photos, including one of Brattleboro residents marching off to war, and another of the legendary and mysterious Madame Sherri, who arrived by train wearing a fur coat and "only herself" underneath. And she remained ever thus throughout her years in Brattleboro.

View from the marbled viewing platform of the museum, where the train arrived on time.

Apart from the museum, fun on this day trip to Brattleboro included a stop at Serenity Herbs and Teas, calm and spare in its decor and full of aromatic organic teas--you're invited to take a gentle sniff--and a quick bite at Tulip Cafe for crepes. On our way back home, we stopped in Putney at the incomparable Curtis's for some takeout barbeque, where bikers are always present and the line is very long. Since everyone is there not just for the food but for the experience, absolutely no one complains about the wait.

Owner Curtis Tuff presiding over numerous racks of ribs.

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