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Exhibits unite to do good

Last modified: 10/18/2012 12:00:00 AM
Virtually anybody who lives in New England can relate to Noboru Murakami's painting titled 'Snow Blower and Me.' The blurred figure who's all but engulfed in great blotchy swirls of snow is emblematic not just of anyone who's wrestled with this particular piece of machinery - though that alone describes a significant portion of the population - but anyone who's done battle with winter.

In the adjoining room of the Lakes Gallery at Chi-Lin in Meredith, paintings, photographs and textiles from the other side of the globe provide a striking contrast to Murakami's everyday New England scenes. And yet, just as there are hints of the exotic in Murakami's choice of color and in the descriptions he's written to accompany the pieces, there are universal human emotions embedded in the faraway scenes and unfamiliar styles of this exhibit.

'Only One Sari' by J. Nath depicts an Indian woman standing in the sun, one end of her sari wrapped around her body, the other tied to a tree, a wide expanse of the bright orange cloth stretched taut between them. It is wash day, and she will stand there until her garment dries, then unwrap the other side and do the same thing again. It's a chore no American viewer can relate to, and yet she is not so different, really, from the man with the snow blower.

What also unites the two exhibits, on display through Veterans Day, is that they are both for a good cause. Sales of Murakami's paintings will be donated to the International Red Cross to help with tsunami relief in his home country of Japan.

Namaste, which features work from 10 Indian artists, was organized by Ann Peck of

Topsham, Vt., who runs Help-Kids-India. Proceeds from art sales will help support schools for preschool age children in Kodaikanal, India, where the supposedly dismantled caste system still has a stronghold. The schools - or creches, as they're called - provide shelter, food, education and healthcare for 3- to 5-year-old children in the untouchable caste.

'If they don't go to school then, the chances of them getting into school later are basically zero,' said Suzanne Lee, owner of the gallery.

Along with J. Nath's intriguing dot-pattern paintings, there are brightly colored pieces of folk art, a set of Buddhas made from ink and layered materials, painted saris by Ann Peck and photographs by her son, Judson.

While the Namaste collection proved a perfect fit for Lee's gallery, which typically features art with an Eastern influence and an abstract feel, Murakami's work represents a departure for Lee. Aya Itagaki, an artist, calligrapher and teacher who regularly exhibits at Chi-Lin, introduced Lee to Murakami, a self-taught painter who lives in Gilford - and lobbied hard to get her to show his work.

'I'm not a person who normally shows local artists. . . . I usually show work that fits our style,' said Lee, who traveled all over Asia as a designer before settling in New Hampshire and opening the gallery. But there was something about Murakami's work, something about the way he infused even the coldest of scenes with warmth and the way he glorified the mundane, that spoke to Lee - so much so that she decided to make him the inaugural artist in a new series featuring undiscovered talent.

A third benefit is also going on at the gallery. Lee's nephew, a military officer, is co-founder of an organization called Flying Scarfs, which was created to help war widows in Afghanistan. Visitors to the gallery can purchase handmade, beaded and embroidered scarves to help Afghan women.

The Lakes Gallery at Chi-Lin is located at 17 Lake St., Meredith, and is open Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, 1 to 5:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For information, call 279-8663. For information on Help-Kids-India, visit help-kids-india.org.


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