Blaykyi Kenyah is a visual artist from Accra, Ghana, where he lived until moving to the United States to earn a bachelor of arts degree in politics from Princeton University. His latest project, Secret Places, was a culmination of a photographic investigation of urbanity in one of Ghana’s small towns through temporal and geographic suspension and obscurity. Kenyah says, “When I decided to be an artist, I think, one big difference between me and lots of artists is, there are lots of artists who have a natural talent that they … get complimented on and it slowly grows and then they realize maybe they can make something of it, and so they do. I was not planning on being an artist until maybe two or three years ago, and when I came to it, I had never handled a brush, a paint brush. The only reason I can do this is because 1960s and 1970s conceptual artists who decided for us … that you don’t need skill to be an artist. You need good ideas, and the skill will come, the skill can be learned.”
In her video, Adriana Gallo says: “I’m more trained as a painter but have found that my painterly approach wound up being less descriptive and more sculptural, or materially oriented, like frosting on a cake … painting a wall felt truer than depicting something within a window. … I think about an art practice as that — it’s practice, or, in terms of a craft, you’re developing a lifelong skill-set, and there’s no end point, so there’s no reason to stall, necessarily. It feels satisfying to me to work with … material and physical objects. So if I can set up parameters for myself and rules, then there’s sort of an easy entry point. It doesn’t feel like the product itself is what matters. It’s really the experience of generating this thing that you don’t necessarily even have to show to anybody else.” Gallo, of Milan, Italy; Boston; and Providence, Rhode Island, now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
RH: Carrie! You know, with all the trouble in the world today, how do you find your personal happiness?
RH: Painting! That’s what you’re doing right now! You must be on top of the world —
CP: It helps. It’s very therapeutic. I also really enjoy sharing art with others, hosting paint and sip classes at home in my studio and — yeah, art is good for the world. We need more art, so I’m all about sharing that with others.
RH: Carrie, what’s your favorite breakfast cereal?
CP: Breakfast cereal! I hadn’t had it for years, and I recently bought a box of Golden Grahams. They taste like Graham crackers in a cereal. It’s amazing.
Ruth Sangree, Ashford, Connecticut
I’ve been coming up here for what seems like a dozen years now, twice a year, August and October. I just love coming up here to be in Vermont for the long weekend. I teach fourth grade also. And what’s nice about teaching fourth grade is, you feel like you have an impact on the children. You’re trying to teach them things that will help them be better people in the world.
RH: Ruth, what kind of cereal do you like for breakfast?
RS: I like my own homemade granola. You know, there’s obviously an oats base. I put a ton of nuts in, all different types of nuts — dried cranberries, any kind of berry I have that’s dried. I put in honey and other things
Lynn D. Pratt, Pawlet
Painting is my happy place. I love just sitting down and really getting into the details. I paint super-photorealistic, so I really just like sitting and painting, and I can kind of black everything else out going on around me. My all-time favorite breakfast cereal? Candy corn.
RH: Candy corn? Isn’t that a candy? That’s not a cereal!
LP: Doughnuts. Definitely doughnuts.
RH: That’s not a cereal either! Like Corn Flakes, Rice Crispies, like that.
LP: Cinnamon Toast Crunch!
RH: Oh, yeah? What do you like about that? Is it the crunch? Or is it the cinnamon toast?
LP: Both. It’s like candy!
KJ Rhodes, Brandon
I’m happy everyday if I can put my feet on the floor and breathe air, and be vertical — life’s a good day.
RH: What else makes you happy? You like TV? You like movies? You like music?
KJ: Dogs, and animals. … They have all kinds of antics. They’re good company, and they like to go for walks, and they like to be outdoors.
RH: What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?
RH: I love those! If you can’t find Grape-Nuts, you get those knock-off Nutty Nuggets, the generics.
KJ: We used to call them the ghetto cereal.
RH: The cheap Grape-Nuts. Barley and salt.
Thom Cassotta, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Two art shows and smoke a little bit of pot.
RH: Halloween coming, just a couple of weeks now. What’s your favorite Halloween candy?
TC: I don’t do candy at all, so I have to say apples.
RH: When you were a kid, you must have liked candy then.
TC: Well, I guess chocolate. Chocolate bars, stuff like that.
Kelly Gearwar, Killington
I get myself out in nature. It’s what makes me happy, going for a walk, even around the lake, into the woods, just down a simple trail, listening to the quiet — that’s what makes me happy. … I can pretty much go right out my back door. … We get a lot of people from New York City who come up to Vermont specifically for that.
RH: Your favorite breakfast cereal?
KG: I don’t eat cereal any more, but when I was a kid it was Cocoa Pebbles.
RH: Is that like a Flintstones-related product?
KG: Yeah, exactly.
RH: Pebbles and Bam Bam?
RH: Got it. Thanks very much, Kelly, thanks for talking with Street Talk!
We’ve got Wheels for Warmth. This is our fourth annual (in Rutland). It’s been happening for 15 years in Vermont, started by the governor, actually, Phil Scott, way before he was governor. He owned a construction company, and then he became state senator, and then lieutenant governor and he still did this down here. Then once he became governor he kind of handed it off, so this Wheels for Warmth exists as it’s own organization. It benefits BROC-Community Action, and it benefits specifically our crisis fuel fund, which will keep Vermonters, specifically Rutland County families, warm this winter. Our trained staff will deal with people over the next few months to help distribute this money. We actually work through local fuel dealers, so the money actually goes to the local fuel dealers. The dealers bring their fuel directly to the home for the family that’s in need. Last year, of course, the winter never stopped — not as much snow as we might have liked — but there was a lot of cold that went on into April. We exhausted all of our funds last year. This event raised $20, 500. This is a generous community. We care about our neighbors, and they were kind enough again to donate hundreds of tires again this year.
The Batman, Gotham City
I’ll tell ya, I’ve been looking for tires for the Batmobile as well as the Batcycle. We’ve had a great day here looking for tires at Casella’s Construction. My Gosh, this is better that Gotham City ever thought of being.
Eric Schubert, Springfield
My role here is, I’m responsible for technology for Casella Construction to make what seems to be a trade-based industry a lot more powerful than it looks on the surface. Wheels for Warmth has been going on for a long time. We’re a huge, huge participant in this project. It does wonderful things for people, great deals for people who need tires on the cheap. Right now, everything here is half price, so you can come in and get a set of 17-inch tires and pay 50 bucks!
Vt. Sen. Brian Collamore, Rutland Town
I’m part of the legislative delegation that is hosting the event again. Wheels for Warmth has been going on for 15 years up in Middlesex. So the idea is — and this was all occasioned by at the time Senator Phil Scott came up with the idea of getting used tires, selling them for great prices so people have a chance who can’t afford to buy new tires to at least get a serviceable tire and take all the money from that and give it to BROC for their heat assistance program. That’s what it’s all about. … the whole Casella team is the main part of this, but also Omya sponsors it and the entire Rutland delegation regardless of party comes up and cooks. We all have a good time, and it’s all for a good cause.
Melissa McCutcheon, Rutland
I am volunteering here today. I work at Vermont State Employees Credit Union, and we are volunteering for a good cause. The cause is Wheels for Warmth, to provide heating fuel for elderly and people who are in need over the winter
RH: Have you bought tires here?
MM: I have in the past — not this year, but I have — 17-inchers for my Nissan Pathfinder. I love it!
Naomi Chamberlain, Castleton
My husband Kevin works for Casella Construction, so we’re here volunteering our time for our community and helping people find tires for the winter.
RH: So they get you to haul these tires around?
NC (with fetching giggle): Yes!
RH: You pretty good at that?
NC: I am!
RH: Have you or your husband ever bought tires here before?
NC: I haven’t, but I have family members who have.
RH: So if I wanted a set of tires, ballpark, how much is that going to set me back?
NC: Anywhere from $25 to $100, depending on the size.
RH: Cheap! Come on down!
Vt. Sen. Cheryl Hooker, Rutland
RH: Tell me something, how are your hot dogs, Cheryl?
CH: Oh, the hot dogs are great! So are the cheeseburgers and the hamburgers, all donated by Omya for this incredible event. So what a great day it’s been here at Wheels for Warmth, the 15th annual, and we’re so lucky to have this, thanks to Gov. Scott who started it 15 years ago and the Casella company, which has been such an integral part of it. This whole event has kind of ripple effects. Not only does it help people who want to (A) who want to get rid of tires, (B) who want to buy tires for an affordable rate, (C) who benefit from the fuel assistance that this money is raised for. So it’s an amazing event.
RH: Bernie, tell me about Halloween — where’s it come from, why do we celebrate it?
BERNIE MILES: In general, it’s All Hallow’s Eve, it started off as kind of a religious holiday from my understanding. But that said, for my part, I’m a big comic book guy, so I really get into the Rutland comic book origins with Halloween. It’s nice that Rutland’s city parade was featured in a lot of comic books in the ’60s and ’70s, and still is today, so I get a big kick out of that. I still dress up with my kids. I’m dressing up as the Riddler from the Batman series this year. My little girl’s being Harley Quinn, so it’ll be fun. And I completely support changing Halloween to the last Saturday of October instead of being Oct. 31st.
Edna Donohue, West Rutland
EDNA DONOHUE: I think the Catholic religion might have started it with All Hallow’s or whatever. It was started out as a religious holiday, I think, and it evolved into what it is today.
RH: So where did all that candy come from?
ED: I don’t know!
RH: You know, I think the dentists might have started that tradition of giving out candy to the kids, you know, to drum up business.
ED: Maybe. You never know.
RH: When you were a girl, when you were younger, did you dress up and go out trick or treating?
ED: Oh, yes, that was the thing. And then as a teenager we went out mostly tricking.
RH: What was your best costume?
ED: One year, when I was probably about 12, I went out as Josephine the Plumber, from those TV ads. She just always wore overhauls and she had an engineer’s cap, and she always had a pipe wrench, so I drug around a pipe wrench that was bigger than me almost.
DANIELLE BEEBE: For the kids! It’s all about the kids. The last couple of years we’ve been going as a family. This year we’re dressing up as Jessy from ”Toy Story 4” and my husband’s going to be Buzz Lightyear. And last year we took our daughter out, and we all dressed up as S’Mores. It’s fun, and it’s nice to be a kid again and enjoy it while they’re still young.
RH: Who has more fun, the kids or the adults?
DB, DR (in unison) The adults! Oh, most definitely, absolutely!
DB: My husband, he’s just a big goofball, and just enjoying our daughter and everything about it.
DEBBIE RANDALL: I love to decorate. I’m very decorative. I do my house and my outdoors. I live up in the woods so I don’t have too many trick or treaters. I’m the biggest trick or treater.
Gus Bloch, Rutland
GUS BLOCH: We do it for the candy. That’s the only reason I ever did it when I was a kid. We used to go out trick or treating — all around the neighborhood. But nowadays, folks come in their cars. They let their kids out in the neighborhood they think are the best ones, but back then we had to take what we got. You know, you had to be careful which house you went to, and sometimes the ladies scared the daylights out of you — they’d come dressed as a witch or something, oh man. But I loved those days. Now we come to the parade and that’s about it.
RH: What was you best costume?
GB: Maybe it was when my mom dressed me up as a pumpkin. But I never made it as a pumpkin queen.
Donah Smith, Rutland
DONAH SMITH: I am not sure of its origin, but I do know that Rutland has a great parade of the 26th, so everyone should come out and enjoy that.
RH: When you were young, as a kid, how did you celebrate Halloween?
DS: In the traditional ’60s way with one of those plastic costumes and plastic masks, trick or treating with your friends.
Nick Pryslak, Rutland
NICK PRYSLAK: The best I got, you know, I thought I got a quarter from this woman, and I got home, and I found out it was a nickel, and I was really disappointed.
RH: I can imagine. You should’ve gone back.
NP: I should’ve. Four more times.
RH: You should’ve said, “What’s this all about? You stiffed me!”
NP: We always had a good time, dressing up, going around to all the houses.
RH: Best costume?
NP: I made it myself — took these big shopping bags, and I put them on me, and I labeled it “The Old Bag.”
Tamara Musto, East Wallingford
TAMARA MUSTO: It’s new for us because we started celebrated Halloween not too long ago. We do bring the kids to do trick or treating now there, too, and they enjoy dressing … however they like. Yeah, they do house to house and they do also have big parties in, like, plazas — that’s how you say it? — where people will bring candies and share it.
Talking Pictures visits with Lauren Peterson, of Snowmass, Colorado, an October 2019 artist-in-residence at 77ART in Rutland, Vermont. She says, “I kind of subscribe to the idea that art should be a way of looking at the world around you and providing a new context for everyday objects. So I use found objects and … non-art objects to make painterly sculptures and installations. I’m still talking about the history of art in a way, but also showing you a lamp or a carpet, or whatever the object might be, in a new way.”
Rachel Spitzer-Firliet, of Proctor, is an artist-in-residence this month at 77ART in Rutland. When Talking Pictures asked her what deciding factor in her life prompted her to become an artist, Spitzer-Firliet said, “I don’t ever recall not wanting to be one, to be honest with you.” Now, as an adult, she says the work is almost obsessive. She said, “I can’t not do it. It’s just an internal drive. It’s calming. It’s meditative. Some people have exercise and other things they can do that shut their brain off. Art is like that for me.”
Whitney Ramage, whose recent video and sculptural artwork is currently in exhibition at Rutland’s 77ART Gallery on Merchants Row, describes her concept and process of making her video short “Recompense” and the personal feelings she experienced as she worked through production. “That work for me,” she says, “has a lot to do with the past year and this kind of outpouring of painful stories among women in my life as they cope with being women in society, and the feelings that are brought up by the state of things. … I wanted to do a work, or works, to process that. ”
“I make work about the fat female body. I’m a sculptor turned photographer, and I use my own body in my work now. … It was actually a health issue. I put on a lot of weight all of a sudden, and at the time I didn’t know there was actually something wrong. And I was, like, ‘What’s my body doing? Why’s it changing? And it made me, like, super self-aware of like how much space I was taking up, and just like that change in my own body, and I was, like, ‘Let’s just make art about it.” I feel like it’s easy to make art about something that is close to you and then a lot of other people can also relate to.”