Middlebury College Museum of Art

News & Events

Six Decades of Sabra Field, This Summer at Middlebury

May 12, 2017

Sabra Field, Now and Then: A Retrospective
May 26–August 13, 2017

For immediate release: 5/15/17
For further information contact: Douglas Perkins, at deperkin@middlebury.edu or (802) 443-5235

On view from Friday, May 26 through Sunday, August 12 this summer will be an exhibition of one of Middlebury College’s most celebrated alumnae and one of Vermont’s “Living Treasures.” Sabra Field Now and Then: A Retrospective includes some 70 prints that span six decades of the artist’s career. Nearly all come from the College’s repository of Field’s work, a gift to the Museum that has been growing as the indefatigable artist maintains her active production schedule. In addition to many of her signature Vermont landscapes, mythological suites, and portraits, the exhibition includes the revelatory 2015 documentary film Sabra by Dartmouth professor William Phillips. The installation is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with a deeply personal, informative essay on the artist by Middlebury alumna Nancy Price Graff.

Among the most highly lauded artists in the state, Field was named “an Extraordinary Vermonter” by then Governor Madeleine Kunin in 1990 and a “Vermont Living Treasure” by the Shelburne Craft School a decade later. Commissioned by the United States Postal Service to design a commemorative stamp on the occasion of the Vermont Bicentennial, Field’s image sold more than 60 million copies and became a best-seller for the USPS as well as a marketing bonanza for the Vermont Travel Division. She has also designed imagery for calendars, credit cards, wine bottle labels, UNICEF cards, and hot air balloons. IBM, the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College, Billings Farm in Woodstock, Vermont Public Television, Vermont Life magazine, and the Darmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, as well as her alma mater, have all commissioned her designs. Relying on an iconography of green pastures, windrows lying in soft curves, an old red barn, blue hills, and a blue sky that goes on forever, her landscape designs conjure up a pastoral idyll that has enormous public appeal. As Graff writes, “If naming something is to own it, then Sabra Field owns Vermont’s color wheel. Her iconic images of Vermont’s vibrant landscape feature green fields, blue skies, white clouds, and purple mountain majesties.”

Field was born in Oklahoma, grew up in New York, and attended Middlebury College, graduating in 1957. Influenced by her art teachers Joseph Ablow and Arthur K. D. Healy, she resolved to become an artist. After further study at Wesleyan College, where she made her first woodcut prints, she taught art at various prep schools in Connecticut. Although married and the mother of two young sons, she was committed to pursuing her career as an artist. In 1965 she acquired a derelict 19th-century tavern “waiting to fall down” in the White River Valley, which she eventually restored and converted to a permanent home and studio.

Despite the rural subjects of her best-loved and arguably most popular prints, Field objects to being labeled purely a pastoralist. She insists that her images are not idealized fantasies of bucolic life. Indeed, she has faced obstacles and tragedies that her apparent outlook, whether sunny or moonlit, belies. Some of these works—her Demeter Suite or Twenty-Third Psalm Suite, for example—explore the pain and sorrow of a mother losing a child. One of her favorite works, Piero Forever, a five-part octahedron, is an homage to her all-time inspiration and “idol” Piero della Francesca, the 15th-century Umbrian painter. Others are explorations of her informed concern for the health of the planet. Cosmic Geometry, a 16-panel design that Middlebury College has installed in greatly expanded dimensions on the exterior wall of its Wright Memorial Theatre, investigates parallels between spiraling, tiling, branching, and scaling forms in both the natural and the man-made, constructed world.

Of course, the exhibit, which fills the Museum’s Christian A. Johnson Memorial Gallery, does include a strong contingent of Field’s pastoral works both old and new, including her 1977 Mountain Suite, commissioned by Vermont Life Magazine in 1977, as well as the recently completed Cloud Way, her self-proclaimed signature image for this retrospective, detailing a stretch of the White River near her home in South Royalton.

Since the 1960s Field has exhibited her art in galleries in New York and Woodstock, Vermont, and recently at the Edgewater Gallery, in Middlebury. She also has a viable commercial online presence. But one does not have to look too far to find Field’s art. Her prints can be found nearly everywhere in Vermont: in schools, banks, town halls, public buildings, police stations, libraries, hospitals, doctors’ offices, and homes—especially homes. This pleases Field. “Prints are for everybody,” she says.

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Press Images

Sabra Field, Mountain Suite, Spring
Sabra Field (American, born 1935), Mountain Suite: Spring, woodcut print on paper, 1977, 15 x 10 inches. Collection of Middlebury College Museum of Art. Gift of the artist.
Sabra Field, Suite of the Months, September Corn
Sabra Field (American, born 1935), Suite of the Months: September Corn, 1986, woodcut print on paper, 12 x 12 inches. Collection of Middlebury College Museum of Art. Gift of the artist.
Sabra Field, Upper Valley
Sabra Field (American, born 1935), Upper Valley, 1999, woodcut print on paper, 18 x 36 inches. Collection of Middlebury College Museum of Art. Gift of the artist.
Sabra Field, Piero Forever
Sabra Field (American, born 1935), Piero Forever, 2012, linocut print on paper, 44 x 44 inches. Collection of Middlebury College Museum of Art. Gift of the artist.
Sabra Field, Cloud Way
Sabra Field (American, born 1935), Cloud Way, 2016, woodcut print on paper, 20 x 19 inches. Collection of Middlebury College Museum of Art. Gift of the artist.
Sabra Field in her studio with various prints from the Pandora Suite
Sabra Field in her studio with various prints from the Pandora Suite

The Middlebury College Museum of Art, located in the Mahaney Center for the Arts on Rte. 30 on the southern edge of campus, is free and open to the public Tues. through Fri. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sat. and Sun. from noon to 5 p.m. It is closed Mondays. The museum is physically accessible. Parking is available in the Mahaney Center for the Arts parking lot. For further information and to confirm dates and times of scheduled events, please call (802) 443–5007 or TTY (802) 443–3155, or visit the museum’s website at museum.middlebury.edu.