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CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. — The great Romantic Age English poet William Blake once mused the following when asked about his connection to nature — given that he also was a painter and printmaker:

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity … and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the [person] of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”

Blake’s meditation might very well reverberate with local art lovers as they converge on a new exhibition, “Celebrating Nature: Two Distinct Approaches,” which opens Friday at the Valley Artisans Market in Cambridge. The show will feature 19 recent pieces by local painters Judy Kniffin of Bennington and Barbara Sarvis of Shaftsbury.

Sarvis and Kniffin, longtime friends and well recognized visual artists in their respective communities, have two distinct styles. They decided a joint show was an apt way to provide counterpoint and context to the expansive subject of nature and its many interpretations among artists, especially in the era of COVID-19.

Watching the sun stream into her studio, Kniffin noted that with growing dependence on, and involvement in, communication technologies, “it’s easy to take the natural world around us for granted, and even not notice it much.”

“Worse yet, the natural environment is increasingly a field to exploit solely in support of our technological growth,” Kniffin said. “I suspect we’ve truly lost our sense of proportion and balance on this remarkable planet. ‘Interdependence’ is a term we have corrupted in our favor, but ultimately at our peril.”

Sarvis agreed with her friend, explaining that that her COVID-era artwork exhibited in this show reflects a time of her life in the late 1960s, “when making art was a necessary act of expression.”

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“Forty years later, I have returned to my roots, figuratively and literally, digging my feet into Mother Earth’s lush ground,” Sarvis said. “The tree roots grab me around the ankles and keep me close to her spirit. She wants me to stay and I want to thank her for guiding me back to what is important, creating visual stories that reflect the need for change.”

In addition, Sarvis said three of her pandemic lockdown paintings were accepted into literary journals.

Indeed, the idea for the exhibition was born of the artists’ shared ethos, framed by the counterpoint of their two distinct styles. Kniffin explained that while both women focus on “nature” in their paintings, “it’s clear that our natural responses invoke quite different responses from each.”

“[Barbara] celebrates a very spiritual connection and expression, while I hone in on the physical attributes and interdependence [between nature and humans]. Both collections call on us to consider our role. What seemed external, and eternal, pleads loudly now for our full attention.” Kniffin said.

In returning to the unfinished canvas by her side, Kniffin emphasized that the two different celebrations of nature in this show balance each other out but should be seen in person to be fully appreciated.

“Online viewing of new art creations is a good way to grab a quick take on the art scene,” Kniffin said. “However, it should never replace standing before the actual piece of art, exchanging views or even facial expressions with those around you, as well as reading reviews by art critics who can and will share their own response to the works. Come to the exhibition and see for yourself.”

“Celebrating Nature: Two Distinct Approaches“ will run from Friday to May 10 at the Valley Artisans Market on 25 East Main St., Cambridge. An opening reception is from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Call ahead for COVID protocols. More information is available online at valleyartisansmarket.com or by calling 518-677-2765.


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