Bellows Falls Painter Goes Large-Scale For Five Seasons Project

Oct 15, 2015

Main Street Arts' Five Seasons Project, including local composer Carol Wood's original piece, The Saxtons River Suite, is set to hit the stage next month.

Along with original music, several area artists were asked to add to Main Street Arts' collection of historical theater curtains, some of which are over 100 years old.

Inspired by Wood's composition, artists Michele Ratte, Donald Saaf, Eric Aho, Julia Zanes and Charlie Hunter were asked to depict a season on each of five 9-by-18-foot theater curtains.

Painter Charlie Hunter from Bellows Falls was chosen to create his curtain based on the New England weather-inspired "Maple & Mud Season" and he recently spoke with VPR about the project.

On the theater curtain he created for The Five Seasons Project

"I got the call to join my peers and come up with this 9-foot by 18-foot theater curtain depiction of what her music conveyed to me. And ... what was really cool was I got to use my friend Bart's sugar house. And Bart is right across a covered bridge. So it's this stark covered bridge, Bart's house and his sugar house in the background with the sugar house, steaming away. And I am so guaranteed maple syrup for the rest of my life."

On the challenges of large-scale painting

"It's like the difference between badminton and tennis. In that, badminton you use your wrist and tennis you use your arm. This was the tennis of painting. You could get your whole arm into doing a nice maple branch.

"It took about a month and a half, I think. I had a studio assistant, Jon McAuliffe, who was invaluable in figuring out the logistics. And you have to tack the entire 9-foot by 18-foot piece of muslin onto a frame, size it, and then it stretches and then you can paint it. We hung mine up on the wall of the ex-paper mill in which my studio resides ... We built a false, very smooth wall, tacked the muslin to that and I painted it vertically."

On the future of the painted curtain

"I can't quite figure out what production is going to ever be able to use it in a play. At Main Street Arts, they love Gilbert and Sullivan, and I just don't remember the scene in the Mikado where it takes place in front of a sepia-toned covered bridge. We were talking about how kind of moving it is to be part of a continuum. The reason we were asked to do these theater curtains is we are the 'artists of the moment' who live in that area.

"Main Street Arts has the largest collection of old theater curtains in the state ... There are like a dozen of them in Saxtons River from around the turn of the 19th to 20th century. And to be asked to do a modern iteration of that was a real honor and to think that Main Street Arts currently uses these 100-year-old curtains in theatrical productions, and so quite possibly these curtains are going to be used 100 years from now. And if anyone is looking at someone who is alive now's art from 100 years ago, that's pretty cool."

See more artwork from The Five Seasons Project artists now through Nov. 9 at Main Street Arts in Saxtons River.