Or Vice Versa

Silkscreen shirt by The BenningTwins

December 1, 2022

In Bennington, you can see art and shop, and not necessarily in that order.

Let’s start with art. This December, for the Bennington Museum’s 8th annual closed-bid-auction art exhibit, the theme is “In the Shadow of the Hills,” intended as a warmup for next summer’s
Haunted Vermont.

Call it foreshadowing. The current exhibit runs through December 31st, when the Museum closes for the winter months.

The auction part is easy. You may bid to purchase the artworks in the exhibition in person or online. Just go beyond the opening bid threshold set by the Museum and you’re in the game. The catch is that you can’t see the opposing bids.

Don’t let the thought of other bidders haunt you (though it will, which is part of the fun).

Of course, there’s no need to bid at all. The artworks, by 27 artists with connections to the region, are simply there for you to enjoy. As in past years, Museum Curator Jamie Franklin sent out invitations to prospective exhibitors, and artists responded by creating or selecting work based on the theme.

In case you haven’t heard, Bennington is a very dark place – at least in the imagination.

The show’s presiding spirit is writer Shirley Jackson, who published deeply unsettling works such as The Haunting of Hill House and “The Lottery” while living in North Bennington for twenty mid-
century years. Portraits of Jackson show up in a number of the works on view.

The darkness isn’t all Jackson’s doing, however. The widow Krieger was tried as a witch in Pownal (some time ago), and Manchester has its vampire. Middie Rivers disappeared in 1945 while hunting in the disincorporated ghost town of Glastenbury that borders Bennington, and Paula Welden, a Bennington College student, took a walk on the Long Trail in 1946 and was never seen again. Three other disappearances followed not long after in the same general

Then came an airplane crash, and the “Bennington Triangle” (modeled on Bermuda’s) was born. Bennington grad Donna Tartt’s 1992 novel The Secret History added to the noir mystique. In 2018 the Travel Channel included Bennington among the Most Terrifying Places in America. The locals chuckled.

Each of the artists in the show takes to the shadows in their own way. Some evoke spectral presences, and some ward off dread with whimsy, as in Rhonda Ratray’s little paintings of dwellings
gone wrong and the BenningTwins’ clever takeoffs on paranormal tourism.

First-time exhibitor Portia Wassick (who literally grew up in the shadow of Glastenbury Mountain) inks a ghostly stair and a
smoking lantern, among other ominous images.

Jeweler Katie Cleaver is back with an exquisite moonstone-and-gold pendant that may be used as an amulet. You can see the artworks not only at the show but online on the Museum website.

You can bid online too, as long as you do it by the December 19 deadline. The Museum splits the proceeds from each sale with the artist.

You can’t exit through the gift shop, but you will see the gift shop behind the front desk, and it’s well worth a visit. If you do go in, you are likely to begin to shop.

Now, are you ready for downtown?

You can shop and stroll in a festive, post-Covid atmosphere in downtown Bennington. Main Street boasts well-stocked antique stores, old favorites like Bringing You Vermont, The Village Chocolate Shoppe, and The Gift Garden, and new arrivals like Juniper Lane (Bennington’s first recreational cannabis outlet), and Exotic Clouds Smoke Shop with its wide selection of beautiful bongs.

The Bennington Bookshop may have moved to its new location just south of the Four Corners since your last visit, but Hawkins House has been offering jewelry, clothing, and gifts half a mile from the center of town at the corner of on North and County since 1977.

Pownal resident Phil Holland writes a monthly post for Vermont Begins Here.