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Belmont Artists Explore The Longing to be Home, Away

Fifth-annual ArtNight features eclectic exhibit at Belmont Media Center

What began as a way for a group of friends to fend off the dreariness of winter by creating something artistic together has turned into an annual art exhibit for the entire community to enjoy.

About five years ago, several mothers whose children attended the accepted an offer by Stacey Hammerlind to come to her house on a cold February night and make valentines.

It was such a gratifying evening that the women decided to get together more often. They started to socialize regularly and engage in creative projects, sometimes painting wine glasses or learning to mosaic.

In 2007, the group decided to make a serious commitment to their various media of expression and established “The Year in Art.”

They vowed to meet every month for ArtNight with each committing to completing a piece of art whether it be a collage, painting, quilt or prose.

In March 2008, they showcased the art they had accomplished during their get-togethers.

On Monday, Belmont ArtNight opened its latest show at the Belmont Media Center’s gallery. Centered on exploring the dichotomy of wanting to be both home and away, the multi-media exhibit runs through Feb. 24 with an artist reception on Friday, Feb. 3 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

This is the group’s fifth annual exhibit and features art by Stacey Hammerlind, Gail Erdos, Johanna Swift Hart, Joanna Dunn, Peggy Tryon, Kathy Rushe, Diane Covert, Sharon Nahill, Susan Johnson, Sandy Kane, Shelley Bertolino and Lisa Gibalerio.

Finding meaning through making art

For Lisa, a member of ArtNight since 2007, “home away from home” is time spent at the beach. Having grown up in Rhode Island, she will be exhibiting photographs from a beach scene in that state to share the beauty in her “home away from home.”

A columnist for Belmont Patch, Lisa recently wrote a piece on this site describing the difficulty of coming up with an artist’s statement for a show.

She wrote about the challenge many face in finding the words for why one is moved to create art. But what’s extremely easy in the artistic aspect of her life – and downright joyful –is the opportunity to belong to this group of women.

Originally, Lisa’s form of art was writing essays and poetry. However, several years ago, she began to study photography with Cynthia Hauk and now works as a semi-professional photographer.

In many ways, she said, the monthly ArtNight gatherings act as an impetus for creating art.

“Otherwise, would I find the time to select and frame my many shots of the beach?” Lisa asked. “Not likely. They’d still be on my computer.  By meeting monthly, this group offers the possibility of creating a final product.

“We’re close friends who often create art when we’re together,” Lisa said. “What could be better?”

Stacey, who the others credit with starting ArtNight, said the monthly evening ensures she will put aside some time to be creative and time for herself.

“It is too easy to say that there isn't time, there is too much to do and we help each other to remember to find the time,” she said about the group and their gatherings.

The medium Stacey always returns to is quilting but she loves to try everything.

This year, she has a few collages in the show and a quilt that really touches on the exhibit’s theme of “Home and Away.”

“I made the quilt when I used to leave my home here and drive to my childhood home in Connecticut to spend time with my mother who was in a nursing home dying from cancer,” Stacey said. “I would sew and she would sleep and those were some of the nicest times we ever spent together. “

Creating a sisterhood over the years

A lot of friendships start through shared interests, said Gail, whose piece in the show is titled “There’s No Place Like Home; There’s No Place like Rome” – a collage in a suitcase that features word play, found objects and humor to reflect her love for traveling and for being home.

“This has evolved into a therapeutic gathering,” Gail said about ArtNight. “When I was having cancer treatment and couldn’t leave home, the group came to my house. The art we did and the friendship we share is a large part of what got me through that time.”

Johanna agreed that the group is both productive and healing.

“ArtNight has led me to the most remarkable women friends I’ve ever met,” she said.

And she finds it’s very different to create art without others.

“It’s very collaborative and encouraging,” Johanna said. “There’s an image that art is indulgent and, for many of us who balance jobs and motherhood, ArtNight allows us to take the time for ourselves which we otherwise would not do.”

She makes the time for the monthly evening and relies on it.

“It’s a very sacred cow in my schedule.”

Gail also depends on ArtNight for its life-giving qualities and the chance to create amongst her friends.

“It’s a sisterhood,” she said. “A lot of us don’t do art except during the monthly evenings.”

What Stacey pointed out she really wants to say is: “Thank you to these women for being in my life and sharing so much of yourselves.”

Art for pleasure, to share with others

Gail’s piece has special meaning for her because the suitcase she uses for her collage belonged to her grandparents who used it when they traveled to Europe in the 1940s and 1950s.

“(Using their suitcase) has important associations for me because I was close to them and their home was also my home,” she said.

Johanna’s artwork is also highly personal and reflective of her life.

She will have several pieces in the show.

An acrylic painter, Johanna makes collages that include every-day objects.

“I used to joke that I’d pick up things from my floor and bring them to ArtNight,” she said.

Her piece titled “Mom on a Wire” is a mobile sculpture that represents balance and imbalance, the different roles in her life.

Johanna began her other piece at one ArtNight after learning that day her brother-in-law was gravely ill with cancer.

“I was ashen when I arrived,” she said, explaining the deep emotional pain she was suffering. “I started working on a collage about the noise in our relationships.”

Titled “The End of the Road,” Johanna said the piece expresses her hope that the “noise” we create through our associations with others fades as one moves toward tranquility.

What Gail hopes viewers of the exhibit will experience is how the diverse art that has been inspired by the creators’ emotions relates to them as well as an understanding of what is going on in the Belmont arts community.

Johanna said the technical background of the group is so different but all have something they’d like to communicate with others.

“No matter what the level of talent, you can still make art for your own pleasure and to reach out to others,” she said.

Stacey hopes that what people get out of the show is the realization that are many types of art and everyone has something to offer.

“I hope we can inspire someone to go home and say “I am going to try that’,” she said.

“One of the jokes in the group is that we all started out saying we weren't artists,” Stacey explained. “I have a cross-stitch that says ‘If can do it, it’s not art’.

One of the challenges the women have faced – and a process they went through – is finally being able to answer “Yes” when people ask if they are artists, she said.

“I am always amazed by how much of themselves everyone is willing to share/expose through their art and how supportive we have been of each other.”

The Gallery@BMC is a community-centered multi-media art gallery located in the Belmont Media Center at 9 Lexington St.  The gallery space encourages, supports and promotes the work of local artists in Belmont and surrounding communities.  Already a vibrant community media center with extensive hours open to the public, BMC is an excellent venue for local art exhibits. If you are interested in showing your work at the Gallery@BMC please email stacey@belmontmedia.org

Susan Danseyar January 26, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Annie Silverman and Deb Belshaw will also have some art in the exhibit.
Lisa Gibalerio January 26, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Many thanks, Susan, for writing this piece!
Johanna Swift Hart January 30, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Oh my, we also forgot one of Art Night's founding mothers, Lynne Doblin -- our mistake, not Susan"s! (I was always bad at deadlines, which is why I no longer do what you do.) Thanks for the great coverage of this terrific exhibit, Susan and Franklin.
Gregory45 February 18, 2012 at 11:31 AM
"This world can't sustain us, so how we can get home?" Thanks Susan !

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