The Roaring Fork Open 2013, which opened last week, has filled the Aspen Art Museum with some 125 works that represent the fullest range of artistic expression. The materials include ceramic and video, metal and fabric. There are landscapes and portraits, abstract work and functional pieces. The works have been made by full-time artists who are represented in galleries, people who have pursued their work seriously for decades, teachers whose primary job has been instructing others in creative expression, and those who are just beginning to work out their ideas in the visual arts. It makes for a telling group portrait — an examination of what is on the minds of the local art community, and just how many residents of the Roaring Fork Valley are seriously pursuing this process of putting themselves into the visual medium.
The exhibition opening, on Oct. 3, drew a reported 680 people to view the work and listen to observations by James Surls, the Missouri Heights artist who served as guest curator of the Roaring Fork Open. The exhibition runs through Oct. 27, and on Saturday afternoons, from 5-6 p.m., throughout the show, the Aspen Art Museum will host A Local Taste of Art, with chefs serving dishes inspired by the artwork.
Aspen Times arts editor Stewart Oksenhorn asked people connected with the local arts community to select one piece from the exhibition and discuss it. Here are their choices and what they had to say about what they saw.
“Twin Lakes,” mixed media, by Carrie Trippe
Selected by Annette Roberts-Gray, artist, whose piece “Quilt,” junk mail, fabric and thread, is in the Roaring Fork Open
Life throws things at us. I identified with the tumultuous water, the way she angled the horizon line — it was a different horizon line than you’d expect. It sparked a physical reaction for me. It has this powerful sense of movement — the foreground of the water, the texture of the water, the splashes. It almost looks like ocean waves, but it’s this lake that we all know, calm and peaceful. That was a head-twist.
I’m not sure how technically she achieved this — if something was taken away with a solvent or if she added something to the materials. But it’s interesting for me to know how she achieved the work. I think she was successful in achieving a physical reaction in the viewer.
Untitled photograph, by Don Stuber
Selected by Barbara Berger, art advisor and collector, member of the National Council of the Aspen Art Museum
It’s much credit to him as an artist that he did not use a traditional photo format presentation. Instead it’s a bold presentation — large photo paper, without glass, with what looks like painted wood or metal bars, top and bottom, and attached with these clips. The presentation stopped you, made you look at the piece.
But that’s not the main thing. It’s the energy, the excitement. The crispness is surreal — it has the feeling of “Starry Night,” van Gogh, a swirling energy. The structure of the picture plane is complex, with many circular patterns that bring out the energy of the snow and nature, these random patterns of the snow. It wasn’t just a landscape of trees and snow. It has this randomness of nature — which is what nature has. The romance of snow.
It expanded the limitations of photography in several ways.
“Mightier Than the Sword,” wood, 22-carat gold leaf and Ethiopian porcupine quills, by Wewer and Steve Keohane
Selected by Tony Prikryl, whose piece “Snow Chandelier #1,” photograph, is in the Roaring Fork Open
It’s an interesting take on the book: What is a book? A book is almost a relic, and it’s communication. It’s a petrified relic, with this higher vibrational take on communication. Words and writing don’t always communicate the best way. If you want the ancient knowledge, you have to communicate in different forms. This is not words, but it sings to me a little bit.
And what does a book mean in today’s world? I just got a Kindle — thousands of books on one tablet. And this is a book in a petrified state.
The use of materials is really interesting — wood, gold leaf, Ethiopian porcupine quills. The composition is really tranquil, almost Zen — three very sharp porcupine quills laid out on each page.
“Abstraction #81,” gesso, India ink, spray paint and oil on canvas, by Andrew Roberts-Gray
Selected by Jenene Nagy, artistic director of painting and printmaking and chair of visiting artists program at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center
I’m drawn to this piece because I feel like it talks about landscape without being a depiction of landscape. It talks more about the feeling of this place as opposed to being a picture of Maroon Bells, which a lot of artists around here do, for obvious reasons.
This captures the feeling of wild in terms of mark-making and materials. And it builds up a collision between the built environment and the natural environment, but doing that through the language of abstraction is a sophisticated choice.
The use of the raw canvas is nice, calling out the fact that it’s a painting. But it sets it up as a thing as well. There’s a conversation between image and object, an interesting dialogue.
“Unfinished Business: Skills,” video, by Emilie Trice
Selected by Michael Miracle, editor in chief, Aspen Sojourner magazine
I find it mesmerizing, really engaging. I first saw it during the exhibition opening, and in the crush and din of people, as soon as I put the headphones on, I was locked into the experience of the piece.
One of the main reasons being it is at once fluid and disjointed. It has this visual syncopation to it. It actually looks like she has some real soccer skills — she was probably a soccer player — but there’s the manipulation of the video, played backward in places, forward in others. It’s done so well that the manipulation is at once obvious and subtle. The ball seems to take on a life of its own and that happens unexpectedly, even though you’re aware it’s been manipulated.
I like the fairly forced incongruity of it — juggling a soccer ball, but in maybe typical gallery attire — high heels, dress. She looks like she’s doing something she’s good at in a place she probably shouldn’t be doing it. And the music has a playful quality, which makes it less cerebral, more enjoyable.
The part of people passing by the gallery adds a hint of being realistic, or uncontrived.
“Illusion,” photogravure, by Trace Nichols
Selected by Richard Carter, fine art painter and photographer
Very strong work, a rigorous visual essay that appears to be one thing at first and then you realize it’s quite something else. It’s an illusion for sure, but not in some slick, tricky manner. The juxtaposition of these creatures in museum diorama with the reflection of the photographer (perhaps the photographer?) hovering in frame … could be a visual metaphor for man’s intrusion into the lives of these animals, at least some of which are endangered or moving towards extinction. A strong message in a beautiful package. Small scale, big impact.
“Balance,” wax, ink and charcoal, by Marcia Howell Fusaro
Selected by Mike Otte, artist, whose piece “#48 Diezmo Viejo,” oil on canvas, is in the Roaring Fork Open
I think the workmanship was done really, really well, to get all the different shades — not an easy thing to do.
For me, there’s a femininity to the form because it’s a vessel, and those lines, those nice round lines of the female form. And the juxtaposition of shadows and light — that piece uses the play of dark on light and light on dark well. But not photorealistically — there’s atmosphere and emotions to it. It has a mystery somehow, the atmospheric element.
I think that piece could say a lot of different things to a lot of different people. But all good. If you had it on your wall and looked at it every day, I don’t think you’d get tired of it. Over time you’d see a lot of different things in it.
“Silver Sage Saloon,” palladium print, by Teri Havens
Selected by Stewart Oksenhorn, arts editor, The Aspen Times
This image — ancient storefronts with faded painted signs, and a saloon — hits that button of old, small-town America so strongly. It’s iconic and familiar and brings up numerous memories of similar places and the feeling of being in those places. It’s a feeling of things fading away, even as they stand and exist before you.
The photograph captures that feeling wonderfully — you see nothing but the facades of these buildings, as if they are two-dimensional, fragile, somehow artificial and already on their way out. Like a movie set — not real places, or they won’t be for long.
The pick-up truck outside the saloon is relatively modern, adding an intriguing sense of time. The one vehicle, the dark tone, the absence of people and other buildings lends a loneliness. The light coming down from that one street light is so painterly, my favorite part. I could go on and on.