“As Telluride’s off-season is just around the corner, we can’t help but reflect on all the extraordinary artists whose work graced our walls at solo and group exhibitions.’Reminiscence’ features these artists of 2022, among them, Gordon Brown, Gil Bruvel, Rebecca Crowell, David Davis, Dana Flores, Bruce Gomez, Cie Hoover, Julee Hutchison, Judith Kohin, Christopher Peter, Silvio Porzionato, Gina Sarro, Topher Straus, Kathryn Tatum, Maggie Taylor, Joseph Toney, Jerry Uelsmann, Goedele Vanhille, and Amy Van Winkle,” explained gallery director Krissy Kula.
“My paintings are all about light and mood,” Colorado native Gordon Brown once explained to Telluride Inside… and Out.
The man never tires of the views from his converted barn/studio in Ridgway, a place that allows him to observe firsthand the various moods and palettes of the seasons.
Over the years, Brown continues to show his appreciation for the subtleties and drama created by changing light, the through-line of his work, which depicts an idealized, somewhat (or entirely at times) abstracted, natural world, landscapes, and seascapes. Examples can be found in the permanent collection of the Denver Art Museum and the Forbes collection to name just two of the many prestigious institutions which have acquired the artist’s sublime work.
Quoting a recent article about Gil Bruvel:
“…Bruvel presents a series of meditating faces, sculpted from wood he calls ‘burn sticks.’ This involves a ritual process of building up layered profiles, bringing the assemblage together sculpturally, and then burning the wood…Additional surface treatment leaves the wood’s veins accentuated, the alchemy of the process serving as a reminder that we are all organic, ephemeral beings with a limited time in which to act…
“Bruvel speaks of our deep human history with wood, how trees adapt and survive, and how we have likewise adapted and survived through their use as a primary tool and material…
“…The pixelated outlines mimic our complex neural pathways, while his use of gradient color reinforces interconnectedness.”
“I would say as an overall view for my Masks/Pixelated Form Series, it is a representation of an inner life that is expressed via the meditative heads or faces. The colors are more of a representation of various emotional states,” explains the artist.
The abstract landscapes of Rebecca Crowell could easily be interpreted as soul-scapes, with their fluid balance between abstraction and deliberate, if obscured, references to the natural world she venerates. Plant life, earth, rocks and light show up in her canvases as ghost memories of magical moments, pushing one critic to describe Crowell’s paintings as “memory maps.”
Surprising though it may be in the face of the surface equanimity, the production of a Crowell painting is a physically demanding, sometimes violent, process. Using sharp tools, layers are scratched, eroded and dissolved to reflect what occurs naturally in rugged landscapes – while the artist still makes space for random, happy accidents. Regardless, in the end, Crowell’s spare, but dense images are tethered to the artist’s spirituality. Above all else she has learned to “trust the process.”
Quoting Slate Gray gallery director Krissy Kula:
“…David Davis forged his artistic career with fire, welding hundreds of pieces of steel into beautifully posed forms for his ‘Reflections’ series. A long-standing passion for figurative arts was the driving force behind the work which began almost four years ago. Each figure starts with the subject striking a pose. Davis then photographs and sketches the model, measures every inch of the body, and finally welds the pieces together shard by shard to recreate the model to scale…Many of his subjects are holding yoga poses, are deep in a meditative state, or taking time for reflection – embodying ideas of physical, mental, and spiritual self-betterment.”
“I suppose I see abstraction in everything in that everything can be questioned conceptually by various perspectives,” adds David. “So I feel that my work exists as a bridge between how we see ourselves as individual entities and the concepts that drive us and allow us to flourish. The fragmentation allows the forms to exist as we do, as our ideas do, in various facets, forever changing in relation to the perspective taken in the moment. We do not exist as one singular represented idea…”
Fluid, yet rustic and raw describes the work of California native and ceramicist Dana Flores.
The artist was initially influenced by everything she discovered in nature and history – volcanos, jungles, Mayan temples with ancient carvings, rough stoneware, rocks, leaves, seeds and flowers – on her travels through Central and South America and Japan and visits to Joshua Tree, the desert where she goes to replenish her soul.
As in Nature, each of Dana’s creations is one-of-a-kind, something you might like to take home with you to remember a point in your own journey:
“As I navigate through life I see and feel a sensuousness, a fluidity all around and, when I am working from this emotional place of beauty, the thoughts I express openly through my work are very raw. Most of my flowers have been dark or light, but I’m just now moving into color. Another reason I choose to focus on flowers is because they one of the things we ordinarily can’t keep with us.
Flowers don’t turn into fossils or crystallized gems or shells; they just go away. But I want flowers to last forever. Every dainty and delicate gifts I found in nature on my travels – little rocks, shells, seed pods and, of course, flowers – have stayed in my psyche and heart and are channeled in my creations…”
Entirely self-taught in the medium, Bruce Gomez has worked with pastels for about three decades. The creative process for the artist 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 luminous 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.
Artist, musician, husband, Cie Hoover lives in Ouray, Colorado. In addition to performing alongside his wife Karisa in the folk-rock duo, You Knew Me When, Cie has always had a passion for the visual arts. After working in the Nashville music industry for over a decade, then touring full-time for six and a half years throughout North America, credit the San Juan mountains for rekindling Cie’s love for creating original works with his own hands.
After buying and remodeling an old 1898 mining house, Cie discovered the versatility of wood as a medium and transformed his garage into a woodworking studio filled with routers, saws, and stains. Cie uses wood in nearly every aspect of the art he creates, from wooden canvases to carved sculptures.
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.”
Shades of modernists Milton Avery and Arthur Dove, Judy Kohin fills her new body of mixed-media work, these quiet but juicy canvases, with flattened planes, a mix of bright and muted colors, and pared-back compositions that capture close up and personal details of the majestic landscapes that surround her home, her playground. Those ever-changing views, that changing light, clearly sets her imagination on fire.
Collectively Judy’s work evokes the the natural world with spontaneity and honesty that underlines the notion of bucolic escape, both grand and serene. The work, in effect, liberates forms from trees, rivers, rocks, plants, birds, sky, wind and sun with a richness in the variety of shapes that informs and inspires the artist and lover of all things outdoors.
The work of Christopher Peter is often – and aptly – described as a celebration of color, movement, and light. His unique canvases focus on figures, florals, landscapes and abstractions, but the artist combines and blurs the boundaries between these distinctive genres to create a personal narrative around the viewer and the work and our wide-ranging responses to our surroundings.
“As an extension of this impulse, I often find myself using unconventional materials like handmade papers, marbled textiles, vintage roadmaps, and repurposed book pages in addition to acrylic and oil paints,” explains the artist, continuing:
“I’ve always found it really interesting to see how far I can push figuration in particular. A little aside here: my grandmother used to do this thing where she would have a family member sit down and then shine a light on their face and trace the shadow and cut out the tracing on paper. I have one of a cutout she made of my mom in second grade. As an adult making art I keep returning to that. The cross-pollination of ideas and the blurring of boundaries seems to come whether I intend it to or not!”
The artist statement of Silvio Porzionato is a wink and a nod to one of Shakespeare’s most quoted lines: “All the world’s a stage,/ And all the men and women merely players,” (from “As You Like It,” Act-II, Scene-VII).
“The world is a huge stage where the actors are free, but only free to play a role, just free inside the enclosure. They are able to move only in a specific area established by a creator, in this case, me. All my recent work is about theatre and opera; all my models are characters. My idea is to exercise (or exorcise) a thought with instinctive and quick brushstrokes as if it were a poetic act. In order to be freer and more gestural, I only use large canvases. What interests me most is telling a story,” explains Silvio.
Artists like J.M.W. Turner, Winslow Homers and others, 9including the aforementioned Bruce Gomez), years ago pulled off the same hat trick Slate Gray artist Gina Sarro manages now.
Gina’s art presents as realism, that is her paintings in her signature muted palette clearly read as landscapes. But, at second glance, the fuzzy outlines of sky, mountains, trees, water, tilt her work towards abstraction. The paintings are, according to the artist, landscapes from the interior. Memory pieces:
“The literal subject of my work is my surroundings. I paint vast, serene landscapes focussing on simplicity and calm, while simultaneously searching for how to document shared life moments.”
It was performing art, not fine art, that first captured Topher Straus’ heart and talent:
“I envisioned myself as a film director, but once I obtained that goal I realized it wasn’t what I wanted. The life just did not speak to me, nor would I ever be able to obtain my vision of success because there was always the next level. Enough would never be enough.”
But becoming a fine artist was the furthest thing from Topher’s young mind:
“I was forced into fine art. In high school, I was an athlete and a successful actor, having appeared in over 350 commercials and winning a Heartland Emmy. I wanted to be a filmmaker, but in order to study film at Syracuse University I had to take an art course during my freshman year.”
From that requirement, making art become something immensely personal for Topher, who would use the canvas to express things he did not know how to say with words alone; the tragedy of 9/11 and the gentrification in Africa among them.
At the end of the day, the art of Topher Straus comes down to minimal yet essential abbreviations of his worlds, natural and urban, devoid of clutter, frontiers of joy that open up vistas we may have looked at, but not really seen.
Kathryn Vinson Tatum is a painter of action. She capture the Rockies of Telluride and Taos, her two homes, in paintings that celebrate the emotional impact of being on top of the world above tree line. In short, “off-piste” describes Kathryn both as an artist and as a skier who regularly enjoys shooting the moon.
Humbled by the extreme above-tree-lined landscapes surrounding the Telluride ski area, Kathryn did not really know how to capture its respectable beauty – until recently:
“By applying a mixed-media approach to painting and combining the masculine strong rock faces of the lofty scene with the feminine quality soft white snow, I discovered the yin and yang of my work. If you look at these geometric interpretations of my favorite terrain standing slightly to the side of the paintings, you might see a black-and-white piece of art. However, viewed straight on, you might see the rocks sparkling with golden light or a bronze twinkle, which reminds me of the times clouds cover the sun and the landscape appear monochromatic. But when the clouds move and the sun is uncovered you see the colors sparkle and feel the heat. That is what I hope may work arouses in the viewer: a unique experience depending upon the light and time of the day. There are other hidden treasures I encourage everyone to discover for themselves, the variegated beauty of the mountains I am privileged to call home. The place where my twin passions, painting and skiing, come together.”
Maggie Taylor grew up in the 1960s/1970s, when social commentary was the name of game in the work of Pop artists such as Andy Warhol. Taylor’s images, however, are less social commentary and more personal statements, often, though not always, with a feminist cast.
In her studio, Taylor has drawers and shelves filled with all kinds of objects and pieces of text. She also collects and “recycles” Daguerreotype or Tin Type portraits of unknown subjects from the 19th-century. The artist choreographs this detritus of her life indoors before taking the items outside into her yard to photograph with an old view camera in natural light. An avid gardener, Taylor also finds inspiration – as well as actual material to scan – when outside. She builds stories around her subjects by combining her own photographs with scanned objects to create digital collages in Photoshop, using as many as – wait for it – 200 layers!
In Joseph Toney’s illustrative abstractions, majestic mountains are reduced to clean lines and testosterone-infused patterns. These contour studies summarize the richness and variety of the awesome shapes the artist has loved since his childhood growing up in Appalachia spitting distance from a ski mountain.
Like many of Picasso’s (a major influence) work in this genre, Toney’s images are “memory landscapes,” in other words, they are not painted plein air style on site.
Toney’s creative process begins when he is out ski touring, biking, or hiking, camera in tow. Photograph in hand, he initially executes his painting with freehand sketches, then finishes the work using a process he sums up as “device drawing,” a technique that involves the use of rulers, French curves, and a makeshift compass. The resulting pieces, executed in acrylic, resin and lately charcoal, are directly translated onto wood panels.
Fact: The dearly departed Jerry Uelsmann and the aforementioned Maggie Taylor are (or were in his case) photography world royalty. The work of these widely collected image-makers hangs in major museums around the globe, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The National Gallery of Art,Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum; the Royal Photographic Society and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
By the 1960s, Jerry was creating his dramatic photomontages, considered unsettling alternatives to the prevailing naturalism of the time.
A virtuoso in the darkroom, Jerry pioneered and perfected new developing techniques. On three or more of the eight enlargers in his Florida darkroom, he combined parts of all of two or more negatives, which he burned and dodged (exposed sections to more or less light) to make his final, seamless black-and-white, now legendary prints.
Jerry used to describe his unique way of working as “in- process” discovery or “post-visualization” in contrast to Ansel Adams’ “pre-visualization.” Adams taught photographers to see in their minds what they wanted to create at the moment of exposure. Jerry encouraged his colleagues to re-visualize an image at any point in the photographic process. Drawing an analogy to creative writing, he once told us: “Sometimes an idea which seems trite becomes your content. You don’t know until you start writing. I allow myself to wonder constantly what would happen if….”
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.
Goedele 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 offers 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 Goedele’s signature.
At first glance it is the overall compositional integrity, the solid geometry of rectangles, circles and hexagons, the repeating patterns, that satisfy our craving for order and symmetry. However, the feeling of serenity that comes from viewing Amy Van Winkle’s paintings goes beyond their solid architecture to her compositional elements: dense, layered images make the past present and the present richer.
Amy’s paintings, dialogues of opaque and transparent layers, are about connections too. Hers to the accumulated language of modern art. Hers to the places she has lived – Massachusetts, Chicago, Hong Kong, Santa Fe and Telluride. Ours to ourselves through associations to the numerous discrete element exposed through the heating and scraping of surfaces.
In Amy’s latest work layers seems to float to the foreground, then recede into memory. What was partially rubbed out, however, remains highly evocative.
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.