University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

One work, two artists

Bill Davison and Gerrit Gollner
Bill Davison and Gerrit Gollner '98 at JDK's print studio. photo by Grace Weaver '11

The Green / Art

One work, two artists

It’s early August and Bill Davison, professor emeritus of art, and Gerrit Gollner ’98, a former student, are in the first stages of a collaborative print project. As they look over initial sketches and discuss directions at the Iskra Print Collective in the basement of JDK Design on Maple Street, Davison is the first to shelve the notion that he and Gollner will labor under any sort of vestigial teacher-student hierarchy. That ended long ago, says Davison, as soon as Gollner graduated and began a stint as a teaching assistant in the art department. “At that point there was no sense that I was any different than she was,” Davison says. “She was just a young artist and I was an older artist.”

Incipient talent and a prodigious work ethic combined to drive Gollner’s rapid development during her student years and after graduation. A key milestone along the way was a 1994 exhibit titled “Rake,” curated by fellow alumna Rachel Comey ’94 for the Exquisite Corpse Gallery. Now known as JDK Gallery, the space is just upstairs in the JDK building where Gollner has been painting and printing during her residency in August and September.

Gollner makes her living with her art and makes her home in Cologne, Germany these days. But a confluence of family, friends, and the Burlington art scene conspired to bring her back this summer. Eleazer Durfee ’86, a member of UVM’s Fleming Museum Board, and John Bates, owner of Black Horse Art Supply, proposed bringing Gollner to Burlington for a residency leading up to a show during this year’s South End Art Hop. JDK stepped up with space for her to work at Iskra and the assistance of highly skilled printmaker Leo Listi, a JDK staff member who manages the Iskra Collective. And her longtime friend Janie Cohen, Fleming Museum director, offered a place to stay.

Gollner’s return to Burlington was a busy and productive time. Undaunted by an August 29 bike accident in which she seriously injured her right hand, she created a number of new paintings and drawings and the print collaboration with Davison titled “tandem.”

Davison offered a starting point for the work with an intriguing  news photograph of shark fins lined up on a wharf in China. Gollner immediately liked it, and they began moving forward with a basic plan for a work structured with quadrants: two for Gollner, two for Davison, and the liberty to “intervene,” even “invade,” one another’s graphic turf.

Looking back to when he first met Gollner, Davison recall her begging for a place in his fully enrolled lithography class. “I didn’t know who she was, and suddenly I had this sixteenth student that I didn’t want in the class,” the professor says. “But within a month it was so apparent that she was so beyond anyone in terms of comprehending the process and making the most inventive work I’d seen in many, many years.”

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