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Friday, Sep 29, 2023

'Painted' opening skates to success

Although the event’s title suggests a leisurley stroll, one contributor to the Middlebury Arts Walk, which kicked off its second season on Friday night, has chosen to navigate through the arts via rollerblades. Through Ripton artist Jean Cherouny’s experimentation with the creative process, “Painted,” an exhibit of 21 abstarct pieces, was born. The pieces on display are a testament to the freedom of expression; Cherouny produced the paintings with a method called rollerblade-painting.

“Painted” was a cozy and intimate gathering of Chernouny’s close friends as well as many Middlebury residents and college students. Visitors to the gallery were both amused and amazed at Cherony’s method, but all agreed that her style was extraordinary and that each piece had its own unique meaning behind it.

“It’s just stunning,” said Barbara Hofer, a Middlebury psychology professor visiting the gallery. “You realize the intensity involved in doing this.”

Midway through the showing, Cherouny gave an articulate talk explaining her background and her painting methods, finishing her eloquent speech with the poem “Starlings in Winter” by Mary Oliver. In the end, Cherouny deemed the showing a great success.

“People were having fun looking at [the paintings],” said Cherouny. “One friend came in and it went straight from her head all the way to her feet. I was really happy to see that.”

This was not Cherouny’s first time participating in the Middlebury Arts Walk. At last year’s Arts Walk, she performed a live demonstration of rollerblade-painting in the Middlebury town green’s gazebo. She intends to participate in next month’s Arts Walk as well, perhaps holding a yoga session in the Art House gallery among her pieces. Besides painting, Cherouny also teaches art to students at Middlebury Union Middle School.

The rollerblade-painting process is slippery and often perilous, but Cherouny has gotten used to falling after three years of using the technique. She developed this art method because she was an avid rollerblader and skier, but needed to take a break from being active to work and take care of her family.

“I wanted to be on my blades, and I wanted to incorporate it into my art,” Cherouny said.

She first began rollerblade-painting shortly after the death of her father.

“I felt caught between worlds,” said Cherouny. “I actually had this kind of infantile thought: am I ever going to rollerblade again? So I said, ‘Let’s see if I just tried this.’ People know me to be very bold and that I do things that I like to do. So I decided to pour some paint into a tub, and I covered the garage with Typar paper and just started skating.”

Cherouny begins work on a piece by “rollerblading-on” a base coat of color, and skates onward from there using other colors. Her method is easily seen in her paintings, which are highly textured and layered with strokes of vibrant color. She uses mostly oil and paint, but regardless of the medium it is clear that each “stroke” of the rollerblade is a deliberate action.

“It’s like a dance. I put my foot like this, then this, then drag the toe of the blade across,” Cherouny explained, demonstrating the actions. “If people could see the whole process from beginning to end, they would see logic. They’d say, ‘Oh, she’s thinking of that, or that.’”

When asked about the meaning of the exhibit’s rather simple name, Cherouny explained, “It’s honestly the way I feel. I don’t think you could have a more beautiful thing to say. I love paint, and this is the way I love to paint. It’s not just a title. It’s paint.”