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Art & Craft of the Violin by Chris Lann Designs

In case you missed it in the July 27 Brattleboro Reformer, Douglas Cox’s exhibit continues at David Walter‘s Master Craft Gallery. Check out the release here and be sure to visit the exhibit during this Friday’s Gallery Walk in Brattleboro:

Cox_gallery1-Gelston

Contemporary violinmaker’s exhibit offers perspective on 500-year tradition

BRATTLEBORO, Vt.: Throughout his 45-year career as a violinmaker, Douglas Cox has painstakingly studied and replicated revered instruments of past masters. In that time, he has made 800 violins, violas and cellos, and each tells a piece of the story about his journey as a craftsman, as well as the violin’s place in history and in the hearts of the people who play and listen to its music.

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William Dixon photo of Douglas Cox at work.

That story, as told through 15 of Cox’s instruments, is the subject of his current exhibit, The Art & Craft of the Violin, which runs through Aug. 31 at the Master Craft Gallery in the storefront of goldsmith and platinumsmith David Walter at 81 Main St. in Brattleboro. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

By taking the violin out of the concert hall or instrument shop, Cox says, the gallery setting invites the public to experience more than just the sound it makes.

“The object itself is only a midway point between how the object got conceived and produced — both in my hands and within the 500-year history of the development of the violin — and its function as something which produces music,” he says. “We’re trying to put (the violin) in that context.”

This is the second exhibit for the new Master Craft Gallery, a space Walter conceived as a venue to spotlight others who, like himself, consider themselves primarily craftsmen rather than artists. Walter is a metalsmith who has produced fine jewelry for Tiffany & Co., Buccellati and Schlumberger. For him, the distinction is that, where art concerns itself with the artist’s intent and the viewer’s response, craft springs from a “conversation with the materials.”

“Craft is always limited by your skill, and the material is always a limiting factor in how well you’re able to express yourself,” Walter says. “If a leg falls off a table, it’s not a table anymore, so that’s a craft object. If the leg falls off the table and that’s part of your statement, then it’s an art piece; (the message) is not limited by your skill.”

But he and Cox agree there are places where art and craft overlap.

Cox says work with a high level of craftsmanship exhibits “beauty that comes from something that reflects the materials, the tools and tradition — not in a way that is the artist’s imposition of a design on the material, but the craftsman allows that to come out — and it is art. I’m getting to the point in the last half-dozen years or so, where I’m comfortable talking about my work as art.”

Instruments in the exhibit span Cox’s entire career, ranging from the first viola he made in 1968 as a student in the State Professional School for Violin Making in Mittenwald, Germany, to his opus #795, a five-string viola “Pomposa” he completed in 2013. In between, the show documents the process by which he reproduced instruments based on historically significant exemplars made by the likes of Antonio Stradivari, the most widely renowned luthier in history. A guide that accompanies the display gives the back-story on each of the instruments, and a catalogue in book form is in the works. Expected to be published at the beginning of August, the catalogue will be available for $25, plus $5 shipping.

In addition to completed instruments, the exhibit includes Cox’s production notes, tools and in-progress violin components sharing the space with Walter’s jewelry.

“It really is a fascinating juxtaposition of the jewels and the violins and violas,” says Laurie Indenbaum, business manager of Cox Violins. “People are really interested in getting that inside view of … how (an instrument) goes together.”

Of course, “it’s not just what they look like but what they sound like,” Cox says, “and we’re providing a range of opportunities to experience that.”

Several performances will coincide with the run of the exhibit, including classical and folk duets on Cox violins in the gallery during Brattleboro’s Gallery Walks on the first Friday of each month.

A schedule of these and other developing performances will be available at http://www.coxviolins.com.

Also, in a novel event, the public will have the chance to sample violins and wine together on Aug. 9. At 5 p.m. in the gallery, five Cox violins will be paired with five pieces of music that bring out the instruments’ distinct tonal “flavors,” and Windham Wines will pour five wines that complement the performances. The cost is $35 per person, and limited space is filling fast. Contact Walter at (802) 722-9620 or email info@dfwalter.com to reserve a space for the event.

Cox says a good wine and a good violin have a lot in common. He usually uses local wood in crafting his instruments and says the vintner’s term terroir — the idea that the environment where a grape grows imparts distinct qualities to the wine made from it — applies to his violins, too.

“I’m very aware of the differences that different woods make in the ineffable quality that comes out in the instrument and that where the tree grew makes a difference,” he says. “Also, the ways in which we talk about the complexity of a wine’s flavor and the complexity of the sound of the violin are equally challenging.”

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