Silvermine Arts Center launches into 2020 season with New Members show

Barbara Ringer’s photography often evokes troubling childhood memories through the use of old toys, dolls, mannequins and ventriloquist dummies.

“People associate a lot of childhood memories with toys so it’s always interesting to see what people bring to my art from the back of their minds — the trauma, anxieties and fears,” the Ridgefield resident said.

Ringer is one of more than 50 Silvermine artists whose work will be part of the New Canaan-based organization’s New Members Exhibition that opens Jan. 19. The show includes paintings, sculpture, photography, ceramics, printmaking and other media.

One of Ringer’s pieces in the show depicts images of a family — as well as clowns — behind broken glass inside the panes of an old wooden frame.

She often recreates scenes people might find in a family photo album, made “a little bit darker” through the use of the less-than-perfect toys and dolls as family members.

“It’s kind of playful and, at the same time, unnerving,” Ringer said. “Some people find it a little disturbing.”

The New Members Exhibit will run through Feb. 15 at the Silvermine Arts Center and will have an opening reception, free and open to the public, on Jan. 26.

The Silvermine Guild of Artists has almost 350 members, including 56 new members in 2019. Artists can join through an open call process that involves a peer and membership committee review or by invitation.

While most new members live in southwestern Connecticut and nearby New York, others come as far away as Colorado and Louisiana.

The New Members Exhibit is held every January to highlight the work of artists who joined during the previous year.

“There’s a lot of really exciting, fresh work,” Roger Mudre, Silvermine gallery director and show curator, said of the exhibit.

“For someone who’s collecting or looking to start a collection of contemporary art, there’s lots of choices, from figurative representative pieces to sculptural pieces to very abstract pieces — in all shapes and sizes,” Mudre said. ““A lot of it is affordable.”

“Breaking the Chains that Bind,” a sculpture by artist James Buxton of Farmington, uses images associated with American slavery and domestic work often done by people of color.

Buxton said it shows “how certain people are put into a box throughout their lives, depending on their ethnicity, gender, religion. I’m trying to interject African sensibility but it’s about fighting the universal boxes that everyone can be put into.”

Buxton, a professor of sculpture at Central Connecticut State University, often utilizes found objects in sculptures designed to offer insight on politics, race and ecology.

He said he’s proud to join Silvermine after previously winning the sculpture prize at the guild’s annual Art of the Northeast show in 2015. “An artist needs as much exposure as a musician and a writer,” Buxton said.

The Newburgh, N.Y., native had the “art bug” from a very young age. “It’s like breathing,” Buxton said of his creative side. “I can’t function without art.”

He’s had one-man shows at galleries, colleges, art leagues and government buildings in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York.

Susan Cutler Tremaine has a large painting depicting numerous squares with small circles, designs and varying colors in the show.

“It’s about the concept of conversations and relationships between people, and how that can affect us, bringing us together and pushing us apart,” Tremaine said of the work.

The New Canaan resident grew up in Canada and previously worked in architectural interior design, doing mostly corporate work for firms such as Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

“I always had art in my life. It’s something I always wanted to do,” she said, noting she was inspired by an artistic grandmother and encouraged by her mother.

“Even when I’m not actually painting, I’m thinking about it,” she said of her artistic instincts.

Tremaine also was part of Silvermine’s recent HeART & Mind exhibit that focused on mental health and the healing power of art. She’s had work in group and solo shows at various locations in Connecticut and Canada.

Ringer said her artistic outlook was influenced by watching Alfred Hitchcock films while growing up in the South Bronx. She went to film school and then worked in TV production in New York and Europe.

Her fascination with dolls began when she “started feeling sorry for broken dolls” she’d find at tag sales. Now friends and acquaintances give them to her.

“A doll helps me create a character,” said Ringer, whose work has been exhibited in Connecticut and New York.

The Silvermine includes five contemporary art galleries, an art school with 4,500 enrollments, art gift shop, and educational outreach program offering classes in Norwalk and Stamford schools. The nonprofit arts center regularly hosts lectures, film screenings and other events on its five-acre campus.

Members are able to work with other professional artists and exhibit work in the galleries. The Silvermine membership committee is accepting new member applications through March 19.

For more information about the exhibit or arts center, visit