Artist brings local views home to Woody Creek
If You Go …
What: Michael Cleverly art opening
Where: Woody Creek Community Center
When: Wednesday, April 1, 5-7 p.m.
More info: www.woodyc3.org
Longtime local artist Michael Cleverly is returning home this week with a series of landscape paintings he has dubbed his “Dear John” letter to Woody Creek.
Cleverly lived in the Roaring Fork Valley from the early 1970s until last year, working as an artist and carving out a place as a singular local voice as an Aspen Times Weekly columnist and co-author – with Sheriff Bob Braudis – of “The Kitchen Readings: Untold Stories of Hunter S. Thompson.”
The new show, opening Wednesday at the Woody Creek Community Center, marks his first in the valley since leaving Woody Creek for Hotchkiss last spring.
The pieces in the new series are all of the view from Cleverly’s cabin on Woody Creek Road, overlooking the valley below and the historic Craig ranch, through all its seasonal transformations. They show the view in its summer glow (in what Cleverly deems “sappy” light), in crepuscular shadows, in the shimmering noontime, in snow-draped winter, and in one low visibility blizzard.
Cleverly painted them based on photographs that he took from his driveway over his last few years in Woody Creek.
“I’d just look out the window and say, ‘Oh, that’s pretty,’ and take a picture,” he explained. “I’d never hike a quarter-mile to take a pretty picture, but when it’s right out my door…”
He painted the series over the course of this winter, Cleverly said, during a productive creative season in Hotchkiss.
The charming landscapes may seem an unexpected nostalgic turn to those who know Cleverly for his transgressive nudes and “Skullilingus” series, which portrayed skeletons and women mid-coitus, or his sexually charged “Adventure Magazines” series, which reproduced titillating old illustrated magazine covers.
But representative landscapes, he said, have always been a part of his practice. And his career has included more sentimental bodies of work, like his series of cowboy posters.
“As an artist I’ve done landscapes here and there all of my career, and done erotic stuff here and there all through my career,” he said. “You do a series of this and a series of that and you move on. I’m really happy with these landscapes, but they won’t define me, as nothing else has defined me, as an artist.”
Bringing them home to Woody Creek, for an audience acquainted with the series’ subject, seemed appropriate to Cleverly.
“These are my neighbors and friends here, and this is a landscape they’re familiar with,” he said. “It’ll be nice for the Woody Creekers to see this stuff.”
The Woody Creek Community Center exhibition opens Wednesday, April 1 with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m.
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