August 13, Salida, CO – At noon on a perfect Saturday with the sounds of Mo’Champipple and the Miso Horns filtering in from the Water Festival in Riverside Park, a band of local artists gathered to show their work at the Salida Scout Hut. Proceeds from the sale of their pieces went to benefit the planned renovation of the Hut, and selected works were on sale to support two local musicians who played throughout the day.
This was the brainstorm of John “Jace” Russell, one of the painters in attendance. For the many talents in the area who do not have their own gallery space, shows like this are wonderful opportunities to connect with the public, and for the public to discover the variety of vibrant handiwork in progress around town. Salida Sunrise Rotary Club and the City of Salida provided sponsorship and space, and our artists organize through the Salida Council for the Arts. Within an independent and charitable event like this, there was the opportunity to collect great art at very reasonable prices and support our landmark Hut. It was an honor for our young magazine to be able to chat with some of the artists, as our mission is so much in harmony with this show; to bring a forum for our creative people to connect with the public.
What seemed to unify the work on display here was a love and appreciation for the outdoors, especially our Ark Valley environs, and a respect for nature, found materials, and pristine places.
John Russell is a landscape painter who retired to Salida with his wife Julie a few years ago. He and Julie lived in the Flourissant area and both have worked with the outdoors in kind. The comaraderie of Salida’s arts and our scenery make this home for them. Russell’s work shows a luxurious, textured world of brushed vistas and creatures.
The plein air painter Laura Barton is full of the energy it takes to find magical, out of the way places and paint for hours. Laura explained to me her love of showing her take on settings that many of us either pass by without exploring, or never venture out to discover. Many of the works she showed today were landscapes that really speak of freedom from human manipulation. She has reconnected with natural places in the Ark Valley after having left a paved-over Pennsylvania some years ago. The moods of light and shadow she nimbly locks into paint demonstrate a very accomplished plein air technique. The lines of a graphic artist give her work an emblematic quality. She also spoke of some recent paintings where she focuses on human places that are being reclaimed by nature, like a dilapidated shack. Laura is also showing work at the SteamPlant Gallery.
Also finding magical places where the forces of nature dominate our human sensibilities is photographer Carol Cartwright. I was immediately drawn to Carol’s rusty old 50’s pickup trucks standing proudly as sunlight blasts through steel and both rust and foliage extend their grasps. These machines are so representative to me of central Colorado, that we used one for our “Ark” in our magazine logo. Unlike the imposing fiberglass spaceships of today’s trucks, these steel beasts seem at home in the mountains and valleys, like bison herds. Carol uses many such subjects. She still retains a few pieces left from her time on the Ponderosa, a place which drew her Cartwright bloodline. She manipulates her photos skillfully with multiple exposures and digital techniques that pull out the wildness and illusion of the weather itself. Carol has mostly retired from the grind of producing prints for sale, so I was delighted to be able to take home some of the last pieces of her work for sale. If you can find her showing again in town, it is an opportunity not to be missed.
In the corner of the room, behind a smart, neatly welded architectural desk was a woman that I had contacted for a glimpse of her work before the show. Tammy Grubisha, is also known as Mz Allaneus, due to the wild inventiveness and variety of techniques she uses to produce functional art. Though I tried, I couldn’t nail down what direction Tammy is headed artistically. I am sure that’s the way she prefers it. She is currently working on ceramic panels, with a dimensionality that comes from an 8 layered glazing and composition technique. After she builds the edges and colors up inside these layers, she sands the conglomeration back down to excavate a somewhat unpredictable and organic form. Like her desk and pedestal birdbaths, or the light fixtures she assembles from weathered and reclaimed materials and fashions into something sturdy and twice again useful, she harnesses the forces of nature. In her multimedia shop, she is hard at work on commissioned functional pieces. Original Mz Allaneus work will put Salida soul into any home.
I caught Dave LaVercombe bouncing around the room like the Colorado clouds he portrays in many of his recent paintings. He shows impressionistic paintings of some familiar Salida scenes, and many you will see if you take the time to lie on your back and gaze at the water collecting in thin air. Dave has produced multi media and sculpture, but finds himself expressing his love for painting as he moves along his artistic career. His carefully chosen photographic subjects are transformed into brushstrokes, because, as he puts it, “I’m a redhead.” He’d rather not tolerate the long stretches under the sun that the plein air painters endure, though he loves being outdoors, so he paints from his photos. He takes his hat off to the plein air artists, but his keen eye for settings right about town sets him on his own merit.
Although I did not get the pleasure of chatting with a few other Salida artists that showed here, their work was evidence of a similar love for earth, nature and the soul of Salida. Maverick Potter Mark Rittman seemed to be back and forth to his ceramic shop, which is winding down a busy summer season. His earthenware was on display and helped the show realize a goal of supporting our Scout Hut project and our local art scene. I hope to be able to bring discussions with all of these artists to you in future articles, as well as chat with Jimmy Sellars, the leader behind Salida Council for the Arts and the Art Walk every month. – Jamie Wolkenbreit