All the senses will trigger memory, but for many people, a visual image opens a locked door to personal history, often forgotten or detached from the routines and obligations of daily living. Gail Winbury’s extensive body of work currently at the Southern Vermont Arts Center is a powerhouse exhibit that explores the joys and struggles that we all experience as we add layer upon layer of history to the being that transitions from childhood to adulthood to old age.
The show, “The Girl Who Drew Memories,” invites the viewers to probe their own personal histories by interacting with the paintings, poetry and objects on display. Winbury was inspired by a close, immersive look into the details — the small fragments of memory — that have guided the events and choices of a narrative that is unique to her own life and yet capable of unlocking the repositories of the mind in her viewers.
The significance of memory takes on a new dimension, a duality of sorts, when we learn early in the exhibit précis that Winbury has had a dual career as psychologist with a successful practice and as an artist. When I spoke with her recently (as she was on her way to see the Anselm Kiefer show in New York City), I asked about her early influences. Even as a child, she said, there was that keen interest in art. She recounted a book that was given to her by her mother, a Japanese fairy tale book that included a story, “The Boy Who Drew Cats.” The book and the story are part of the show, so no spoilers here.
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