Local artists gain much-needed display space | AspenTimes.com

Local artists gain much-needed display space

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times |

Photographer Norm Clasen is gratified to be the first artist to be featured in a showing at the Bank of Colorado in Basalt. He’s even more grateful that Roaring Fork artists have gained a new venue.

Bank officials created a prominent “Art Wall” when they remodeled the Basalt branch last fall, nearly 18 years after opening in the town. Former branch President Jeff Johnson, who oversaw the remodel, included the display space because he “understands how important art is in this valley,” said Bill Deter, current branch president. “We understand the tremendous pool of talent we are so fortunate to have right here in our backyard.”

Poss Architects incorporated the Art Wall into the design of the remodeled bank. It’s at a prominent spot right as customers enter the bank.

It will feature the work of new artists every six to nine months. The artists’ biography is displayed, along with their contact information in case someone wants to buy a piece.

“I would love this valley to be known more for all its great artists.”
Norm Clasen
Basalt photographer

Deter said Clasen was the first artist selected because he is well-known for his photography and his volunteer efforts.

“It’s mind-boggling how much talent is in this valley,” Clasen said. “There are very few places for them to show.

“I would love this valley to be known more for all its great artists.”

The Art Wall is 24 feet long and 12 feet high, featuring alder wood stained in a rich espresso color. It creates a perfect backdrop for 11 large prints of Clasen’s photographs of horses and Roaring Fork Valley landscape images.

“They wanted something indicative of the West,” he said.

The images were printed on canvas and stretched. It would have been “too busy” if they were hung using different frames, Clasen said, and using a common black frame for them all would have been too dull.

The centerpiece of Clasen’s show is an image called “Cliff Jumpers,” featuring several horses headed down a low embankment. Clasen captured the image near Riverton, Wyo., just outside an Indian reservation.

Clasen became an expert at western U.S. imagery as a photographer for 12 years for Marlboro. Many of the images of the Marlboro Man were his. It’s ironic that it was such a big part of his career, he said, because he never smoked himself.

He has continued pursuing Western-themed photography and equine images in particular because he believes they are such majestic animals. He works with ranch hands that are experts on horse behavior to help capture the images.

Another compelling piece in his show features a horse drive down to a river in Montana. Among his local landscape images, one featuring the alpenglow and the scrub brush of the Crown in the midvalley stands out.

Bryan Chochon, branch manager at the bank, said the images capture the attention of customers as they are leaving the teller area or when they are waiting to meet with someone in the bank.

“They’re enjoying the artwork and not casing the joint,” he quipped.

Clasen said he has sold four pieces because of the display.

“You don’t get that opportunity very often,” he said.

The display will turn over in May to feature photos Clasen has taken in places such as Burma, Africa and India while teaching photography through his company, Wanderlust Expeditions.

It will feature different perspectives of the people and places he has encountered in trips around the globe.

“I don’t do typical shots of the Taj Mahal,” Clasen said. “I can’t think of another word than edgy.”

Artists’ inquires about a showing will be welcomed, Chochon said, and bank officials will rely on help from artists such as Clasen to determine whom to show. Clasen said everything from sculpture to painting to photography to eclectic art would be considered.

“There’s incredible art out there, and no one’s seeing it,” he said.

Bank of Colorado is helping that change.