The bells kept ringing at the Lyndon House on Thursday night. “Are they making an announcement?” one woman asked me. Nothing ensued, and we were all easily pulled back into our animated conversations. The bells rang again. Eventually the noise of the crowd drowned the ringing out entirely, as hundreds had gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Lyndon House Art Center’s Juried Exhibition.
From silver spoons by Sydney Noffke, with their lustrous surfaces beautifully betraying the various tools of their making, to Macchina del Tempo (Time Machine) by M., C., T. and M. van Wagtendonk, a mixed media kinetic sculpture responsible for all the bells going off, the work was varied and, often, luscious to behold.
Macchina was a family collaboration by artists Martijn and Caryn van Wagtendonk and their children, six year old Tess and nine year old Max. They started the work when they were in Cortona with UGA and the family continued to add to it and develop it later in their home studio. About the work, Caryn says “ I’m in love with it and I loved the collaborative aspect. It was fun sharing it with the kids and each other. We would gather and stuff everything we could into our backpacks on outings during the day.” This even included artificial flowers that had been tossed into bins after a cemetery cleanup during an Italian Day of the Dead-like celebration.
The result is a large and whimsical sculpture made of chocolate wrappers, strung chestnuts, an old rotisserie handle, pigeon feathers, a clock mechanism, gold leaf and other odds and ends, all incorporating sound and movement. The piece is beautifully framed by its placement upstairs in front of a dramatic arched window with a striking view of north Athens and beyond. Every fifteen minutes a bell sounds and a train makes its little journey at the base.
Fiber Arts, printmaking, painting, photography and other disciplines are well represented. Trent Seller’s Mandy, a silver gelatin print of a vintage mannequin, cooly greets you as you enter the atrium Gallery. Stefan Eberhard’s Lift Off! was popular with visitors, and had the artist explaining his late-night adventures dropping things into an aquarium and photographing the results. Nancy Lloyd’s Geneva Graffiti Blur is an eye dazzler and conveys a strong sense of motion with layers of photographic imagery, including lyrical ribbons of graffiti text that lead the viewer through the work.
Phillip A. Elie, who recently moved to Athens from France, contributes a series of little “carnets”, or notebooks, framed as a group. His lively sketches of joyous figures, pretty girls, delicate foliage, a buddha, rabbits, an accordion player, and pointy eared dogs speak of his life and journey. When asked about the opening, he responded, “Do you know how rare it is for me to see hundreds of people milling about and actually looking at the art and discussing it? If it’s normal for you to see such behavior, well then, that’s why I’m here: to be among you at last.”
The energy and interest of the crowd Thursday night was obvious. Didi Dunphy, Supervisor of the Lyndon House, said "This show does help support the Center and I am grateful for the turnout. My heart is warmed by the positive response."
Dunphy went on to say that she felt a number of factors converged to make the show and the opening such a success. " Number one, we had a juror from the Whitney." 194 works were selected from 862 entries by Carter Foster, Curator of Drawings at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York.
The scope and diversity of the show compelled me to revisit it the next day. After the boisterous party of the evening before, the calm and tranquility of the space, inhabited by only a few visitors, was noticeable. I relished the opportunity to look and connect with the works. But a warning: Macchina's bells are still going off every 15 minutes, and the sudden ringing throughout the galleries will take you by surprise.