Jill Beathard

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October 2, 2012
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Art for all, by all

The Anderson Ranch Arts Center is showcasing its annual staff art exhibit once again, and while the usual suspects (the studio coordinators, the artistic directors) are participating, a few staff members you might not expect have pieces on display as well.

Like Bradley Walters: His full-time position at the Ranch is facilities manager, but you can find him in the studio working on pottery on nights and weekends.

"It's kind of like having two jobs. It is having two careers," he said, although he says the pottery is his "real career."

Walters was an artist in residence at the center from 1993-95. He went to school from 1995-97, and afterward came back to the Ranch to take the full-time job he still holds. He said the educational mission of the Ranch was part of what made him stay.

"A lot of people make their living selling ceramics," Walters said. "I have a real dear place in my heart for the Ranch. ... There's an important role for places like this not only in our world, but in our country. I feel it's an important role to keep the system aflow."

Walters has been creating art since he was 18, and eventually became focused on sculpting hexagonal and pentagonal vessels, such as his "Teapot" on display in the exhibit.

"(It's) trying to take some geometrics into the round shapes and vessel forms ... building things with a lot harder lines," he said.

A newer member of the staff, Johanna Mueller, submitted engravings from a series she's been working on that deals with the mandala shape.

"The mandala is the name for kind of a mazelike or circular form that in most societies becomes a point of meditation," said Mueller, who recently joined the staff as studio coordinator of painting, drawing and printmaking. "I work with it in kind of a more modern way."

Her works in the gallery deal with life cycles.

"In one piece there's the bird with the fish inside it and that's all about finding new life as other things are dying," she said. "The bird appears to be kind of stagnant or almost dead but there's this fish kind of blowing air or new life through the mouth."

While the mandala is often associated with Buddhism, Mueller drew from her experience working with Native Americans in the piece as well. The line coming from the bird's mouth refers to an animal's "spirit line," she said.

The mandalas in the exhibit include some hand-painted gold touches as well, which give them a Western feel, but also have some allusions to Mueller's Roman Catholic upbringing, she says.

"So there's really interesting references that I get to play with as an artist," she said.

The gold also makes the pieces one-of-a-kind, since the black ink was printed multiple times from an engraving Mueller made by hand.

Executive Assistant Jessica Cerise is another Anderson Ranch employee who still pursues her passion for art. Cerise, who grew up in Carbondale, returned to the valley after studying art at Fort Lewis College and got a job in the hospitality industry.

"Then the ranch needed somebody with hospitality and art, so it was like the perfect blend for me," Cerise said. "(It's) a way to apply my background and interest and passion for art and still get to live in the resort area."

Cerise got serious about watercolor painting in college, when she had an adviser who practiced it heavily. Her piece in the show, "August Morning," is part of a study on a series of prints and paintings that she wants to do.

"It's kind of a test," she said. "It was planned, but it's sort of like an experiment to take away what I learned from this painting tot apply to the prints I want to do and to the paintings that I'm going to work on next."

Cerise said her watercoloring often gets grouped in with abstract painting. And working with watercolor means not always being in control, such as how the blue in "August Morning" dried.

"Happy accidents occur," she said. "I count on it to be unpredictable, and I know that I'm going to get something that's beautiful."

Ceramics Studio Coordinator Ralph Scala says experimenting can help an artist learn and improve his work. He didn't like the way his bowl-shaped pieces came out after high-firing them in a wood kiln, so he added a low-fire glaze to them.

"You can learn so much from your failure," he said. "Someone who's really clued into their work can really learn from that."

Scala joined the Ranch staff in 2005.

"I'm lucky to not have to have a job other than something that I do," he said. "I don't think any of the studio coordinators are completely bound to our mediums. We have the most amazing facilities. ... It's worse than a kid in a candy shop."


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The Aspen Times Updated Oct 2, 2012 05:43PM Published Oct 2, 2012 05:39PM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.