Wilton, Connecticut, a decidedly quaint New England town nestled in the Bridgeport-Stamford Metro area of Fairfield County, is another of New England’s best kept secrets, discovered last night as we made our way from Boston to attend the opening of Victoria Wyndham’s fine art show.
Before exploring Ms. Wyndham’s “other world,” a bit about Gregory Clark’s Artifact Furniture and Design Gallery. What strikes a new visitor is the openness and welcoming atmosphere. While Gregory Clark commands most of the “recognition,” one cannot experience Artifact without paying homage to his wife, Elizabeth, who treats every visitor with warmth and enthusiasm as if they were a guest in her home.
Mr. Clark is an accomplished businessman, entrepreneur, and furniture designer who believes in a reciprocal relationship with the community supporting his works. He has launched MyDesignFoundation, which “aims to plant the early seeds of the creative thinkers of our future and cultivate arts in the community.” We will be exploring Mr. Clark’s works and his vision for cultivating arts in a future piece. Now on to the highlight of the evening:
Opening night. Victoria Wyndham’s Fine Art Show. A glimpse into Another World. No, not the soap opera, silly. Ms. Wyndham, a star of the soap opera by that name for over a quarter of a century, launched her show with a special performance of Critics, Fans and Fanatics, a lighthearted look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of theater criticism with Charles Keating — a glimpse into the worlds of Victoria and Charles. They begin with readings of various reviews spanning decades of theater. From Tallulah Bankhead to Alan Bates, one is taken on a humorous journey through critical reviews capturing the pomposity of so many critics. More often than not the audience was left laughing at the words from the so-called “experts.”
The banter between Wyndham and Keating is a delight as they work with a synchronicity rarely seen amongst actors these days. Keating recounts stories of his days on the London stage where theater is a serious matter and gleefully shares that there are many “critics” within an audience who do not hesitate to shout their disapproval of a live performance.
Moving from critics, they share their experiences with fans of the long-running soap opera Another World. The Act begins with Keating pointing out that there have indeed been many evolutions to soap opera, from the “Who shot J.R.?” phenomenon to the national engagement of Britain in the life of Deidre, the heroine of Coronation Street. Fans of soap aren’t much different from fans of football or American football. Keating brings the comparison home.
It’s 1983. Deidre is having an affair with Mike. Will she finally realize her error? It’s the fodder of water cooler conversation from 10 Downing Street to Liverpool. It’s a national event. That same evening Manchester United is engaged in a match with Arsenal at Old Trafford. While spectators are cheering their respective teams, there remains the business of Deidre and her fate. Manchester United knows the pulse of the nation. As Coronation Street is simultaneously being viewed in homes, the moment Deidre makes her decision the scoreboard at Old Trafford heralds the news – “Ken and Deirdre reunited. Ken 1 – Mike 0.” The spectators cheer. Deidre is saved. Note to self: ask Charles who won the game that evening.
Now on to those fans of Another World. Like the cast, the fans have been “gambled by procter” and “proctered by gamble”. They share letters from children teens and adults who have religiously followed the show from the early 60’s to its finale in 1999. It’s a delightful journey recounting story lines both popular and reviled. It’s a look into the intelligence of Another World viewers. For a brief moment it’s Carl and Rachel on that stage, reciting poetry and prose. And quickly we’re brought back to the present real world of Victoria and Charles. For rabid Another World fans (me included) it is an evening which brings it all home. Though the show is gone, it remains seared in memory hearkening back to a simpler time. Forgive my rambling. I’m being selfish. Now on to that which brought us to Artifact last night…
It’s Another World. The world of Victoria Wyndham and her art. AW fans know her work. They got to experience it during the course of the show. Today’s art is less traditional yet captures the essence of Wyndham’s evolution. Three rooms display her work from captivating canvasses to metal sculpture. Let’s begin with the canvas. Wyndham’s Bak’s Law Series: Finance and Physics delivers her vision with “Solon’s Warning.” Wyndham has taken the chaos of today’s financial markets and entwined it with the laws of physics and mathematics resulting in a collection of compelling works which afford the viewer’s eye an opportunity to make an individual interpretation.
One can see that Wyndham lets the spirit take control of her hand as she skillfully applies acrylics and oils to the canvas in a variety of ways, from dripping paint to carefully brushed geometrical shapes. Each painting is an invitation. Her works are less about her vision and more about her desire to provide a conduit for art lovers to make their own interpretation and see that which they perceive. It’s fitting, in some mystical way, that her paintings are on display at Artifact because, like Artifact, Wyndham’s paintings are a gentle invitation to challenge the eye and carve out that which one sees in one’s self.
In another room is a collection which I refer to as Wyndham’s “Homage to Home Depot.” One piece in particular, “Superradiance,” is a collage of every day shiny metal objects disbursed on a silvery mesh. In its simplicity, it is complicated — yet it delivers. The entire collection takes an assortment of items from our everyday lives and brings out their beauty. Be it paint chips, chrome scouring pads, or fluorescent cords, Wyndham takes that which seems so banal and creates a tableau of beautiful collections of color. Wyndham is not afraid to be bold. Every installation delivers a message in its own right. Whether it’s a collection of subtle mauves or a bold splash of fluorescent oranges, Wyndham once again inspires and challenges the eye to develop an individual interpretation of that which she has crafted. There is a lesson to be learned in the journey though Wyndham’s homage — that even the most basic things in life have beauty and an artistic value in their own right.
Now on to my favorite part of the exhibit: Wyndham’s metal sculptures. Taking everyday metal materials, Wyndham crafts works which are metaphors of life today. My favorite series is “Scalar,” which takes stamped metal sheets and forms them into sculptured waves. I call the series “Parochial School” and after you view the pieces for yourself, I hope you will understand the moniker. Wyndham has taken these sheets and crafted them into shapes which not only capture the eye but challenge the viewer once again.
If I seem to be limited in my scope or review it is being done on purpose. I want you to experience Wyndham’s art for yourself. I don’t want to influence your interpretation. I want you to accept her invitation, as I did, to go into her world, experience what she has created, and see that which you will see based upon your own life’s experiences. I believe that’s the core of Wyndham’s works. It’s less about what she has crafted and more about what you take away from it for yourself.
If you happen to be a resident of New England or nearby New York City, please take a moment this month and experience Victoria Wyndham’s art at Artifact Art & Furniture Gallery. If you are unable, visit her website at WyndhamStudios.com. For those of us who have “known” Victoria Wyndham for 30 years, this show is about reinvention and hope. It’s about coming out of the darkest times and tapping into one’s passions to see the light once again. I’m not an art critic nor am I an artist; however, Wyndham afforded me a chance to develop my own interpretation and discover that which captures not only my eye, but my emotions.
For so many years Victoria Wyndham entertained millions across the globe with her rendition of Rachel Davis Cory Hutchins. Now, she challenges us with her art and her vision of today’s world. It’s come full circle. Wyndham once again delivers. And though this is Another World for Victoria Wyndham’s fans, she gently reminds us through her art that it’s not really another world after all. In the closing of the movie August Rush, the main character says, “The music is all around us, all you have to do is listen.” I’d like to take it a step further. Victoria Wyndham’s works tell us that there is beauty all around us, all we have to do is open our eyes. Thank you, Ms. Wyndham.