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The Flynn's latest art exhibit 'Riddleville' leans into chaos, whimsy

The exterior of the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts marquee in Burlington Vermont
Meg Malone
Vermont Public File
The Flynn has a new exhibit called "Riddleville."

A new art exhibit at The Flynn in downtown Burlington showcases an imaginative world of sculpture art.

"Riddleville" uses everyday objects to create a world of nostalgia and joy.

The gallery is filled with an overwhelming array of tiny objects that are strategically mounted on tall metal pillars and all along the walls.

In one tableau, a small cow sporting black wired headphones is surrounded by several vintage toys and deconstructed machinery.

Man in black pants and a blue button up stands in an art gallery.
Nora Thomas
Vermont Public
Burlington artist Clark Russell has been working on 'Riddleville' for more than a decade.

Burlington artist Clark Russell is behind this immersive world. He says the project has been in the works for a decade.

"I've been collecting my whole life and about 10 years ago I started to dabble in making this small world, and when I first started doing it, I actually felt like I was doing something wrong," he says. "Finally, about three years ago, I committed to making this happen."

Russell says he is still figuring out what "Riddleville" means.

Some towers were designed to portray certain themes, including in protest of excessive materialism and environmental degradation, but ultimately the work is up to interpretation and Russell says his main goal is to express joy.

"The end result is a mix of socially conscious scenarios combined with very whimsical ones that don't have so much weight," he says.

Jay Wahl, the executive director at The Flynn, says "Riddleville" is highly theatrical — making a great fit for exhibition at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery onsite.

Small plastic cow wearing headphones sits among other small household items.
Nora Thomas
Vermont Public
"Riddleville" takes everyday objects and pieces them together to explore themes like materialism. It also aims to bring viewers joy.

"'Riddleville' itself is this world you want to enter," he says. "It's a work of immersive theater. You're a character entering and exploring this world and that powerful sense of memory that's created when you see objects that you might remember from your childhood or that sense of nostalgia or longing."

For visitors Simon Servetar and Rebecca Walsh the chaos of "Riddleville" deeply resonated.

"It's a projection of the chaos inside of my head, I feel like, and also like defines the chaos of society," said Walsh who was viewing the exhibit for the third time.

This is the first public display of "Riddleville."

Artist Clark Russell will be on hand at the exhibit Fridays and Saturdays until Nov. 19. For the remainder of the year, patrons will be able to explore the exhibit when attending shows at The Flynn.

This story is a collaboration between Vermont Public and the Community News Service. The Community News Service is a student-powered partnership between the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program and community newspapers across Vermont.

Nora Thomas is a sophomore at the University of Vermont. She is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in environmental studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.
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