New works, and a look back, start the new year at Silvermine Arts Center
As the final remnants of a recent winter storm streamed its way across Stamford, the water off Shippan Point roiled with frothy waves, just beyond the windows of Donald Axleroad's home.
The turbulence was echoed in a pile of newspapers he plucked from a chair to show the inspiration for his latest work, which will be on view at the Silvermine Arts Center beginning this weekend.
"It's here every day, in every way," he said, talking about the theme of his show, "The Disintegration of Truth and Trust," which will be revealed in a dozen or so large woodblock prints.
Headlines highlighted the ongoing fallout of the mortgage meltdown, tales of corruption, calls for gun control and consumer fear brought on by economic uncertainty.
"I just feel there seems to be a change of morality in this country," he said.
Largely guided by the disappointment that telling the truth seems to have lost to the art of lying, his work is an attempt to reveal what is hidden and inspire others to recognize this shifting moral code. The works address universal themes, such as injustice, prejudice, greed and intolerance, but timely topics such as unemployment, environmental destruction and violence inspire the images.
One work, in particular, was prescient. Although inspired by 2012 mass shootings that had occurred prior to the tragedy in Newtown, Axleroad's print shows a faceless man holding an assault rifle with the word "NEXT" imprinted across the page in large, red letters. Among the images of those presumably who are next in the line of fire are the faces of two young children.
"This is all work that I have done in the last three months," he said.
The theme of an imbalance of power, whether it be financial, political or societal, runs through the pieces, too.
"People want to believe that things will be OK," he said in a recent news release about the show. "We have become a very closed society and the number of people who can impact what is happening is becoming increasingly smaller."
Axleroad, who is a longtime member of Silvermine, is often inspired by Greek mythology, which can be seen in the figures and themes he employs in pieces about contemporary issues and experiences. An award-winning artist, his work has been on display in major museums. He also works as an educator, most recently teaming with health advocates to use the medium of art to discuss issues concerning Alzheimer's disease. He also founded the Artist's Initiative of Stamford, which teaches art to developmentally disabled adults.
Axleroad's work goes up at the same time the center honors its five new members with a "New Guild Members" show, offers a tribute to the late Tina Rohrer and shows off pieces of its print collection. All exhibitions open on Sunday, Jan. 6, and run through Sunday, Feb. 17.
Rohrer, who died in 2012, had begun working on a solo show in 2011. As such, organizers said her family has worked with the center to bring the work to the public, as a way to honor the Pound Ridge, N.Y., artist and to commemorate her talents with a variety of media.
"A Commitment to Color, Movement and Geometry," will feature paintings and works on paper that show her love of color and movement, as seen through geometric patterns and shapes.
"Tina and I had been working toward a discussion of color play ... monochromatic shifts ... through the color spectrum," said Jeffrey Mueller, Silvermine's gallery director. "We will be showing some of those works, as well as a look back at the longstanding relationship Tina had to color and rhythm."
Rohrer, who initially started out as a scientist, spent 27 years working as an artist, receiving many honors along the way. In an artist's statement, she spoke about her inspiration: "Confronting my own mortality has increased my awareness of deeply rooted spiritual concerns. Thus, my art deals not only with self-unity, but also with some type of oneness with God, a Higher Power, nature or the cosmos."
Gallery space also will be opened up for selections from Silvermine's permanent print collection, which has more than 200 prints. The collection, which was started about 50 years ago, contains pieces from artists such as Christo, Gabor Peterdi (who helped start the collection), Jack Damer, Michael Mazur and others.
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Silvermine Arts Center, 1037 Silvermine Road, New Canaan. Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Exhibitions run Sunday, Jan. 6, to Sunday, Feb. 17. Opening reception: Sunday, Jan. 6, 2 to 4 p.m. and artist talk with Donald Axleroad, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 6 p.m. Free. 203-966-9700, http://www.silvermineart.org.