Bruce Gomez, Julee Hutchison and Gordon Brown are artists who share a love of the natural world. They are also three peas in the same pod, namely now Slate Gray South, occupying the address associated with the Telluride Gallery. In fact, Gomez was the very first artist the gallery’s original owners, the Thompsons, signed for their stable when they opened for business on Main Street (at 130 East Colorado) back in 1985.
Gomez and Hutchison are similarly inclined, producing easily recognizable, fuzzy-edge, forms that are wonderfully nuanced. Brown is non-objective artist, whose work tends to depict an idealized, abstracted, natural world of lyrical and atmospheric landscapes and seascapes.
The three artists are part of a wide-ranging group show that also includes another renowned artist from the former Telluride Gallery, potter Goedele Vanhille.
The four talented artists in “Locals’ Loop” share a common thread: through their work, the realm of the ordinary (a cow) and the everyday (leaves on a tree) is elevated, almost sanctified.
From one cool remove, Bruce Gomez a realist: what you see is generally what you get, signature shimmering surfaces always pleasing to the eye. Now step up closer to the work and squint: Gomez’s lush, layered pastels become a complex tapestry of abstract passages – parts of the sky, sections of mountains and water – with an Abstract Expressionist feel that, in the end, amounts to gorgeous studies of color and light.
Entirely self-taught in the medium, Gomez has worked with pastels for decades. His creative process begins with a photograph. Next he plots the principle elements of the composition from photograph to paper, which he treats with sandpaper to create his signature velour surfaces. Gomez’ subject matter comes primarily from his travels throughout the western U.S., France, Italy, and England. He tends to feature Telluride, but also Moab, the Grand Canyon, Wyoming, Paris, Provence, and Tuscany.
Gomez’ artistic influences range from Paleolithic art to Alfred Sisley, Maxfield Parrish, Juan Gris, and Gustav Klimt. The goal he set for his work is capturing that one unique and spectacular moment of life, whether in the mountains, in an urban setting, possibly slogging through a deluge, snowshoeing in -10°F, or painting plein air in 101°F.
“I pride myself in painting something that anyone can see themselves if they hang around: no exaggerations, no symbolism, and no implied metaphor.”
Bruce Gomez paints and teaches out of his Denver studio. However, he, like Hutchison, have regularly led classes at Telluride’s Ah Haa School for the Arts.
For Julee Hutchison, the outdoors is a place of spiritual revery. Her paintings, however, do not quake with religiosity (like her 19th-century antecedents), rather, they speak volumes about the complex nature of art about Nature in a very quiet, but very direct way: some images are playful; others, more introspective.
Hudson River master George Inness famously said, “You must suggest to me reality. You can never show me reality.” Hutchison to a “T.”
Hutchinson’s impressionistic landscapes are postcards from the interior, reflecting not a landscape per se, but the artist’s attitude towards a particular place. Hutchinson’s gift lies in an unerring ability to mold her passion for her surroundings into a reflection of private feelings and sensations, at their best – and her new images qualify – a synthesis of direct observation, memory and fantasy, with a growing impulse towards abstraction.
Many of the æsthetic choices the artist now makes reflect her decades-long career in graphic design.
“I think [that career] gave me an edge on designing a good painting.”
The former Telluride Gallery showed Hutchison’s work for more than 16 years. She is also an annual finalist in the Plein Air Salon Competition and named “Artist to Collect” by Southwest Art Magazine.
A native Colorado artist, Gordon Brown, has been professionally painting for 30 years.
“My paintings are all about light and mood,” Brown once explained to Telluride Inside… and Out.
The man never tires of the view from his converted barn/studio in Ridgway, a place that allows him to observe firsthand the various moods and colors of the changing seasons.
From his earliest years, Brown was rarely found without pencil or paintbrush. Weekend backpacking trips into the Colorado canyons were part of his ritual. The following days would find him assembling his newly found Ute arrowhead collection or painting Indians and their campgrounds.
Teachers and artists strongly encouraged Brown to pursue his artistic talent, not fully realized though until years later when the artist became mesmerized by the work of Chinese painter Shang Ding, who became his tutor and mentor. In true historical tradition, Brown apprenticed under Professor Ding of the Beijing Central Art Academy, accompanying him as they made their way through the landscape, emulating his every brush stroke in a plein air (painting outdoors, not in a studio) style.
Over the years, Brown continues to show his appreciation for the subtleties and drama created by changing light, the through-line of his work, examples of which can be found in the permanent collection of the Denver Art Museum and the Forbes Collection to name just two of the many institutions which have acquired his paintings.
“I borrowed from the old masters, the modern masters, and every artist I know. I’m always experimenting, occasionally destroying and not worrying if it will work or not; being childlike, that’s how I approach painting,” Brown explains.
This unwavering commitment to testing his limits and looking for more ways to interpret on canvas what he sees—has kept Brown’s work fresh and ever-evolving. In his career spanning nearly 30 years, Brown has carved a solid niche for himself as a “new” old master of the luminous landscape.
Recently Brown developed a new techniques to alter his surface texture, specifically in his abstract paintings. He now utilizes masonite board or aluminum sheets as rigid substrates so that he can scratch into the built-up layers of paint.
Gordon Brown was represented by the Telluride Gallery for over 18 years. Add it all up and the work of Gomez, Hutchison and Brown becomes a tour de force of preternatural color and persistent light, subtle brushstrokes providing an internal architecture, while yielding to dazzling color and beguiling composition. Potter Goedele Vanhille brings childlike wonder and whimsey into the mix.
For many years, Belgian-born, Norwood-based potter Goedele Vanhille has created whimsical poetic forms inspired by nature. Her work features carved flowing lines that seem to defy physics.
Vanhille worked with a gas kiln back in Belgium, but for years she fired with electricity. However a relatively recently built a gas-fired kiln has once again allowed the artist to enjoy the fresh, yet familiar array of possibilities fire offer to the pottery process, the outcome affected as it is by the intricate interplay between fire, stacking, flame, heat and soda introduction.
Fire leaves its mark on each piece, dapples of carbon, smooth glassy surfaces and toned down colors that are more muted and earthy. The hand-built work, however, still retains the surreal shapes that are Vanhille’s signature.
Seasonally, Vanhille makes functional work which takes her back to her beginnings with clay and reinforces her long-term intimacy with the material and process. The rest of the year though, the artist experiments with more playful and organic sculptural work such as the pieces on display through the month of June.
Vanhille has shown work both nationally and internationally. To this day, she is able to retain her commitment to her studio and delves happily into her projects, enjoying the surprises they dependably offer.
Susan is Telluride Inside… and Out’s founder and editor-in-chief, the visionary on the team, in charge of content, concept and development. Susan has covered Telluride’s cultural economy, which includes non-profits and special events, since 1993. Much of her writing features high-profile individuals in the arts, entertainment, business, and politics. She is a former Citibank executive specializing in strategic planning and new business development, and a certified Viniyoga instructor.