DVAA exhibit celebrates 90 years of local artistry

  • Contributed Photo—

  • Constance Trowbridge of Greenfield with two of her great-uncle Vaughan Trowbridge's paintings. He was in the first DVAA show in 1931. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Constance Trowbridge of Greenfield with two of her watercolors at the DVAA in Northfield. The watercolor over her left shoulder is by her great-uncle Vaughan Trowbridge, who was in the first DVAA show. Staff Photo/Paul FranZ

  • Art on display at the Deerfield Valley Arts Association in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Art on display at the Deerfield Valley Arts Association in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Deerfield Valley Arts Association in Northfield with some older works on display. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Deerfield Valley Arts Association in Northfield with some newer works on display. Staff Photo/Paul Franz—Paul Franz...

  • Birdhouses made of re-purposed mixed media by Jo-Ann Dehehy on display at the Deerfield Valley Arts Association in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • 'Bernie Mittens' on display at the Deerfield Valley Arts Association in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 2/9/2021 2:09:36 PM

The Deerfield Valley Arts Association’s new exhibit will feature paintings, sculptures and more from the present as well as from the past 90 years of member artists.

DVAA board member Beverly Phelps said some art had been donated over the years to help create a local New England art museum or exhibit. With these plans “on the back burner for now,” Phelps said, some of the donated pieces will be featured in this new exhibit.

Among the featured pieces is a watercolor painting by artist Vaughan Trowbridge that was featured in the first DVAA exhibit in 1931.

“He was a very early member from the 1930s … to have the organization be that old, and still going, is pretty amazing,” Phelps said. “I feel part of history.”

The painting was brought in by Trowbridge’s great-niece, current DVAA member and Greenfield artist Constance Trowbridge. Her work will also be featured in the new exhibit.

Trowbridge, 84, said she is named after her great-aunt, Constance, the younger sister of Vaughan, who lived in Deerfield. Hanging in her home in Greenfield today are artworks by fellow friends and artists, herself and her great-uncle, Vaughan. Trowbridge said she was too young to have met her great-uncle or aunt or remember them if she had, but now she will be sharing a gallery experience with her ancestor.

Trowbridge will showcase her own watercolor landscapes as part of the legacy exhibit. She said she enjoys selling her paintings to people who, upon viewing the watercolor works, have a noticeable reaction because they bring back memories from familiar places.

In addition to her own work, she has also submitted pieces by Vaughan that she’s had in her possession.

“His story is interesting,” Trowbridge said. “He was the third son of a banker. The two older sons were also bankers, but he took off for Paris (France) on his own in 1890, a very nice time to be in Paris for artists.”

While in Paris, Vaughan would support himself by creating and selling etchings, and nearly a dozen copies of his etchings hang on Trowbridge’s walls at home today. According to Trowbridge, classic etching as done by Vaughan sees artists cover a copper plate in wax coating and then carve into the wax and copper plate by hand with a metal stylus.

“It’s very intricate — I tried in college and did not have the patience,” Trowbridge said.

Using a solvent to dissolve the wax, all that remains is the drawing carved into the copper plate below. Artists then dip the carving into ink and press the image onto paper or canvas like a stamp or printing press.

“His approach to that was interesting,” Trowbridge said. “He drew intimate scenes of towns. When you look close you can see little families — women and children sitting outside their doors. A little 1900s village.”

When her great-uncle gave up etching, she said, he began to paint more with watercolors. One of his watercolor paintings also lives on Trowbridge’s wall at home. In addition to watercolors, Trowbridge herself will occasionally create woodcut prints that are not too far off from her great uncle’s art form. For the woodcut prints, she carves into the wood to create an image, then uses printer ink to coat the engraving and stamp the image onto a paper surface.

Trowbridge grew up in the Boston area and had six children with her husband. She moved to Seattle when she was about 50 to live closer to two of her children on the West Coast, but ultimately moved back to this area to be closer to some of her other children and her sister in Maine around four years ago. After moving to the local county, she recognized the DVAA from a label on an art piece of her great-uncle’s.

This was around the time the DVAA began regularly renting space at 105 Main St. in Northfield. The building was purchased earlier this month by the Community Bible Church, and the DVAA has since moved into the space in the building left unoccupied by Cameron’s Winery. The winery moved to 1046 Millers Falls Road in Northfield this fall.

While living in Seattle and other parts of Massachusetts, Trowbridge said, she was drawn to drawing areas of water — oceans, coastlines and rivers. She said she has enjoyed painting parts of the Connecticut River Valley and the many local farms and barns along the river. She has spent time traveling in British Columbia, and one painting she is particularly fond of — but is not for sale — was done during a visit to the Canadian Rockies.

DVAA through the years

Phelps, 74, has been a member of the Deerfield Valley Arts Association for close to 40 years. She was previously president and is now a member of the board of directors. Three years ago, she and other members arranged to bring about the gallery space at 105 Main St. in Northfield. Before they had the space, Phelps said, the DVAA would hold annual shows at the former Wilson’s Department Store in Greenfield.

“When Wilson’s was open and before we had the gallery, we would have annual shows at the Wilson’s gallery on the third floor,” Phelps recalled. “We had a couple of shows a year.”

Phelps said members would also host workshops and demonstrations. In addition to using the gallery space at Wilson’s, the DVAA had office space at the Chamber of Commerce building in Greenfield before consolidating and moving to Northfield, she said.

The DVAA is currently an all-volunteer organization after having to let go of their organization’s single employee due to financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The nonprofit association has nearly 200 artist members between the local county, the commonwealth at large and neighboring states. Phelps said the DVAA expanded membership into New Hampshire, southern Vermont and Connecticut to promote further exposure of lasting members, and to connect with new artists in the tri-state area.

“We have a diverse group of people,” Phelps said of the artists featured in the legacy gallery. “We have mostly paintings, and some sculptures. We have craft people who make jewelry, and others who do woodworking.”

After 40 years with the organization, Phelps said she was originally drawn to the DVAA for its sense of community, as well as its dedication to the arts and member artists. She said at the time, there weren’t many other organizations like the DVAA or the Art Space in Greenfield that maintained that community.

“At the start, DVAA was one of the only viable organizations for artists to gather, come together and support each other,” Phelps said.

The DVAA exhibit is open through March 13 on Friday and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., at 105 Main Street in Northfield.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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