Exhibit spans 3 generations
Artspace show displays talents of daughter, mother, grandmother
Emily Tatro, her mom Debbie Voiland, and a self portrait of her mom Cynthia Voiland at Arts Space in Greenfield's trhee generation show.
Reception on Thursday
Like mother, like daughter, like grandmother?
It’s not quite so simple, but you could get that idea from a short-term exhibit that’s winding up at Artspace on Mill Street in Greenfield next week.
“Three Generations of Making Art” shows the influence that one woman’s talent had on her daughter and granddaughter’s artistic inclinations before her death at age 95 last year.
The exhibit is anchored in the watercolor and oil paintings, drawings, pastels and other works by Cynthia Voland, an Aurora, Ill., housewife who studied art at Wheaton College in Mass., where she majored in art history, as well as briefly at New York’s Pratt Institute and the Chicago Art Institute. Despite her training, she kept her artwork an avocation, according to her daughter, Debbie Voland of Greenfield.
“She liked to do watercolors because she liked to be outside, close to nature,” said Voland, who moved to Greenfield in the 1980s. “She had all sorts of creative projects, including making wooden furniture and wooden carvings, and even wine. She loved to make pickles and sauerkraut. She’d gather her own dandelions and elderberries and make wine.”
Two of the elder Voland’s wooden sculptures are included in the exhibit, as are a number of her pen-and ink drawings, portrait sketches and pastels. But the bulk of her exhibited works are watercolor and oil paintings, including portraits of her husband and of her daughter, renderings of animals and nature, as well as an extensive assortment of houses and barns.
Several of the houses, as with some of the portraits, were commissioned by friends.
Each of the portraits, including two self-portraits, clearly convey personality and even the paintings of structures — many of them showing the painter’s preference for dilapidated houses and barns — convey personality with bold, confident strokes that almost seem to place the buildings in motion.
“I liked her art for not attempting to be realistic,” said Voland, who points to one watercolor of horses at a riding stable, done from an overhead perspective that she recalls seeing as a child while sitting up on a hill.
Although her mother always seemed to be working on projects, Voland said she was drawn to music and never tried her own hand at art until her adulthood, when she took classes in drawing, photography and pottery. She was reluctant to include her own porcelain and pottery works in the exhibit, since she makes them solely for her own enjoyment, yet the collection of pitchers, bowls and cups holds its own and contrasts nicely with her mother’s two-dimensional work.
“I enjoy it a lot,” said Voland, who’s studied with local potter Lucy Fagella and Molly Cantor. “It’s fun to eat out of things I’ve made.”
But if Voland was influenced by growing up with a mother who clearly was drawn to painting, she says that her daughter, Emily Tatro, was particularly inspired by regular visits to her grandmother in Illinois.
Tatro, who also took lessons from Fagella in 10th grade, studied art at Oxbow School in Napa, Calif., and then briefly at Simons Rock of Bard College, shows her own artistry in a variety of whimsical, nature-inspired clay sculptures in the show, from a series of goat hoof-inspired pieces to fish and even an upside-down sloth. Most of her pieces exhibited are conceptual artworks from Oxbow or Simons Rock.
Tatro, 19, now lives in Northampton, where she is renting studio space before returning to school next spring at Marlboro College. She remembers her grandmother drawing both her and her brother during visits to Illinois as a girl.
“She was a big inspiration for me,” recalls Tatro, who was a student at both Greenfield Center School and Four Rivers Charter School. “We had passion for similar things and having her be an artist was a big inspiration always.”
While her grandmother was more inclined to fill her house with found fossils and rocks or birds’ nests or wildflower arrangements rather than of her paintings and prints, Tatro remembers always finding encouragement from her mother, as from her grandmother.
Tatro once found a painting hidden under her grandmother’s couch cushion during one visit. The Artspace exhibit includes that painting of a girl in a yellow dress by Cynthia Voland, as well as several portraits of her daughter. There is even a self-portrait done by Cynthia Voland’s own mother, Hattie Tuttle of Nova Scotia, who is Tatro’s — great-grandmother.
Each of the three women gave encouragement to the other, but Debbie Voland says, “I think that just living in the environment that Cynthia created in her home encouraged creativity in the family.”
Senior reporter Richie Davis has worked at The Recorder for more than 35 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 269.
Staff photographer Paul Franz has worked for The Recorder since 1988. He can be reached at email@example.com or 413-772-0261 Ext. 266. His website is www.franzphoto.com.