Early 2017 has been mild here in Colorado (no snow or ice to speak of in and around town this week). But even though the ground is dry, the light in the image below still says winter to me. One of the reasons Colorado’s cultural scene is less developed than those on the coasts, I think, is because the sunshine here motivates you to get outdoors and explore.
One of my favorite trails right now is Flatirons Vista located on the west side of Highway 93 just south of Boulder. It has two concentric loops that cover grassy and wooded terrain. I like it because it’s less crowded than some of Boulder’s other trails, and because the trees smell great. I also love the variety of views.
Look east to see a gravel mining operation and its industrial, sculptural forms. Look west for mountainous views. Also, there’s a lot of pleasing texture between the grass and trees which I find kind of mesmerizing.
Anyway, while it’s a treat to be able to get out and hike trails that’d typically be covered with ice this time of year, there’s a relentless quality to the early heat and activity that has me feeling stretched.
Betsy Gill is a painter and maker of found object art pieces. She has a knack for producing interesting and cohesive shows of her own work in alternative spaces. Her current show, Reclaiming Orange, is on view by appointment at her studio in downtown Boulder, Colorado. Betsy chatted with me about Reclaiming Orange and the self-produced art show last week. What follows is a little of what she had to say.
What is Reclaiming Orange? How did your idea for this show come about and evolve?
I was contemplating the idea of a show based on the color orange and thinking it would be fun to create what I saw as a 3-dimensional collage of orange in my studio. I realized, in light of current events, there were some negative associations with orange, but didn’t want that to deter me. Thus, the title Reclaiming Orange was born and I decided to donate a portion of sales to Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center and Planned Parenthood.
My starting point was a couple of large orange canvas paintings and found art I had already done. I then created a new collection of found art pieces with the theme in mind and started collecting anything I had that was orange — cards, books, furniture, accessories, etc. A friend described it as “your life in orange.”
What does the color orange represent to you?
The color orange represents vibrancy, vitality, creativity and passion to me, all of which I feel are especially important now. The show was a way to celebrate all those things in community with others. I also created an interactive art project on one wall in the studio where people could write what orange means to them.
You had a terrific crowd at your opening. What are some of the things you did to market the show?
I’ve built a mailing list over many years of people who’ve been to my shows in the past and/or expressed an interest in my work who I sent postcards to. I also have an email list I sent the show announcement to. I am new to using social media, so for the first time created an event on Facebook.
What is the best thing and the worst thing about producing a show of your own work?
The best thing about producing a show of my own work is being able to shape it and bring it to fruition in the way I envision. The hard part is being responsible for every aspect of it — creating the work itself, hanging the show, planning and implementing the marketing, hosting the reception — all of which take time and money.
What advice do you have for artists seeking to self-produce a show in an alternative space?
A lot of work goes into something that may be limited to a short span of time and a limited audience. I hope to extend the reach of the show through social media.
Here are a few images from Artists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, a 1974 exhibition catalog of botanical illustration. I’ll be honest. In another era, not that long ago, I’d have found this book of black and white portraits and botanical plates a bit of a snooze. But . . .
Today I’m finding the Hunt Institute’s effort charming because its portraits of artists – visual and written – suggest a care for art and the humanities that is in short supply these days.
Behold the story of Mordecai Cubitt Cooke.
M.C. Cooke’s early interest in botany derived from his mother, with whom he spent many hours collecting flowers. An early interest in botany did not turn toward a specialization in fungi until 1847. Before gaining recognition as a mycologist, he had served as an assistant in a drapery firm, taught for some time in a national school, and was a lawyers clerk. In 1861, he became an assistant in the India Museum. In 1880, the museum was dissolved and the collections were sent to the Royal Gardens at Kew . . .
Here’s another profile, short but sweet, about Victoria Gordon. “Her media, in order of preference, include pencil, water color, oil, and pen and ink.”
But my favorite image is this dust jacket design by John Hutchinson, below. Jumbled, asymmetric compositions almost always appeal to me. But it’s the nugget of white space at the top of the page that makes the whole piece sing.
Dr. Hutchinson served the Royal Botanic Gardens from 1907 until his retirement in 1948. Initially an apprentice, in 1936 he ws appointed Keeper of the Musuem of Botany. His reputation as a botanist, monographer of the genus Rhododendron, and a specialist on African flora is international . . .
Chaotic times call for calm enjoyment. I’m hooked on Gilmore Girls this week, in part because of this bit on This American Life, Just What I Wanted, and am finding it just my speed.
How about you? What are you enjoying these days?
A little over a week ago I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the opening of When Heaven and Nature Sing at Palette Contemporary Art & Craft. Albuquerque is a high elevation city set in a geologic bowl. It is bordered by the Sandia Mountains to the east and a row of defunct volcanoes to the west. The city has an old town, and a downtown populated by mid to tall-rise buildings, but its creative heart feels spread out among its many square miles of low-lying strip malls and residential neighborhoods.
Palette Contemporary Art & Craft, located at 7400 Montgomery Blvd. NE in Albuquerque, has the hallmarks of a coastal urban gallery – white walls, high ceilings, polished floors – minus the big city attitude. Gallery directer Kurt Nelson is as personable as they come and his assistant, Ariana, will chat football with you as easily as she’ll chat about the art.
The aesthetic at Palette is modern and bright.
And the gallery is strong on art glass, a lot of which has a retro-futurist look and feel.
Surprise! Kurt commissioned a local bakery to make a batch of frosted cookies in the shape of “Sun Pop” for the opening.
Call or email Kurt and Ariana to ask about Sun Pop or any other painting in the show.
Here are few images from a new series of monotypes.
Monotypes are one-off prints with a painterly quality. (I think of them as a print/paint hybrids.) The process for making them is immediate and cathartic.
My palette for these is minimal, mostly indigo, plus some black, sepia and a few other colors.
See these and more at the Fifth Annual Petite Holiday Fair at my studio this Saturday, December 10th! Join me from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, 1650 Yellow Pine Avenue, Boulder, CO.
While not much of a churchgoer, I do attend a service at my neighborhood church on Christmas Eve to sing the old songs by candlelight. Joy to the World, is a regular on the roster. The refrain, “and heaven and nature sing,” always gets me wondering . . . What is the relationship between heaven and nature in the song? Can you explain it using color?
One Hundred Flowers is a series of paintings based on botanical subjects where I aim to balance abandon with order by putting loose, gesture drawings of organic, botanical forms through a series of refining steps.
Within each individual piece, I tend to go for analogous or tonal colors. My goal is to arrive at a finished piece where the original subject is distilled to an essence, clarified, and transformed.
But the series as a whole contains a mix of analogous and complementary hues. The thirty-six pieces below are available at Palette starting today through the end of the month. Call or email gallery director Kurt Nelson for more information.
I know it seems dark, but I’ve taken to reading Chris Hedges in the last year. Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and activist. His views about the future are apocalyptic. I like him because he writes about things that interest me – the environment, the absence of the sacred in modern life, and women’s rights – in a sober voice that doesn’t sugar-coat. Why are people so angry? His take, as I see it, is that there’s a spiritual crisis at the heart of American discontent. The old Horatio-Alger-type stories people have told about the U.S. for generations no longer ring true, and a coherent, new story about who we are has yet to form. This idea excites me because it acknowledges spirit. And because it points to art and culture as a possible way forward. If you’re just getting started with Hedges I recommend Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt illustrated by Joe Sacco. Here is a preview.
Here’s a short bite from Hedges on the role of art in rebellion.
There is a ton of Chris Hedges stuff on YouTube and he has a regular column at TruthDig. If you’re like me (left-leaning with an interest in storytelling) some of it will inspire you. Alas, some of it will probably also drive you nuts. I take it in because his words sound real to me in an era when a lot of communication feels manipulative or superficial.
“We are going to need those transcendent disciplines that remind us of who we are, why we are struggling, and what life is ultimately about.”
– Chris Hedges
How about you? What have you read or watched in the last week that made sense to you?
The way I feel about my work changes over time. For example, this piece, Shangri-La, made me uncomfortable when I made it. But I kept it anyway and today I am into it.
Shangri-La is the mythical land depicted by James Hilton in his novel, Lost Horizon. Here’s a clip from the film adaptation (which I like very much) that gets at the essence of the place:
I am on pins and needles with the election happening this week.
I foresaw a time when man exalting in the technique of murder, would rage so hotly over the world, that every book, every treasure would be doomed to destruction. This vision was so vivid and so moving that I determined to gather together all things of beauty and culture that I could and preserve them here against the doom toward which the world is rushing.
― James Hilton, Lost Horizon