Anderson Ranch hosts 14 artists from Miami’s Oolite Arts |

Anderson Ranch hosts 14 artists from Miami’s Oolite Arts

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times


What: Oolite Artists-in-Residence Open House

Where: Anderson Ranch Arts Center

When: Tuesday, March 3, 4:30 to 6 p.m.

How much: Free

More info: Pop-up dinner with guest chef David Wang begins at 6 p.m. (reservations required; $75);

A walk through the Anderson Ranch Arts Center studios in recent weeks revealed works from wildly different regions of the imagination — from avant-garde film to ceramics, paintings made from soot to woven fabrics, paper collage and metalworks.

But the 14 artists currently in residence on the Snowmass Village campus do have one thing in common. They’re all based in Miami, and they’re here together for a five-week residency through the Oolite Arts Home and Away program.

The Ranch will host an open house Tuesday, inviting the public to meet the artists and see them at work in the studios. Dennis Scholl, president and CEO of Oolite and a longtime Anderson Ranch supporter, will lead a guided tour of the open studios at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Home and Away has sent select Miami artists to residencies at locales including the Atlantic Center for the Arts and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation on Captiva Island.

Anderson Ranch was an ideal place for an Oolite residency, Scholl said.

“We brought all of these artists to Anderson Ranch because I think Anderson Ranch is one of the most important artist residencies in the world,” he said. “They don’t just give you a cabin in the woods and walk away. They give you access to things you’ve never had access to.”

Scholl noted the Ranch’s long-established, cross-disciplinary ethos and the creative breakthroughs it can lead to. Many of the Oolite residents have tried their hands at new media over the past few weeks, working and playing together in an environment resident artist Lauren Shapiro described as “summer camp vibes.”

Founded in 1984 and formerly known as ArtCenter/South Florida, Oolite supports Miami artists with classes and residencies in the city along with its juried Home and Away trips. It recently announced plans for a new campus in the Little River neighborhood, slated to open in 2022.

Scholl, a part-time Aspenite who in 2014 was honored with the Ranch’s Service to the Arts Award, joined Oolite with a mission to help give Miami artists a global reach.

“They can hang with any artists in the world,” he said. “We want to connect them to the international art world that I’ve been a part of for a long time — the artist, curators and collectors.”

Artists spoke of the creative, intellectual and professional growth they’ve felt during their stay here, working in a new environment and with new resources, given five weeks to focus on their work (a $2,500 Oolite stipend covering expenses like rent back home).

“I’m here to explore and hopefully grow,” painter Michael Vasquez said. “At home my studio is a warehouse with walls and lights. Here I can explore printmaking and ceramics and that’s what I’m here to do — to grow artistically and personally. For me the two are certainly connected.”

Cara Despain has spent the past year using burnt debris from wildfires for her artwork. The large-format canvases in the series are a deep and sooty black made from rubbing charred wood. Here she used material from California wildfires, etching the placenames from which she gathered wood into the ashy works: “Pacific Palisades” and “Reagan Library,” for instance.

“I think of them as landscape paintings of the new American West,” she explained. “They still smell like fire, they still shed ash. They’re kind of a mess. But it’s inherent to the work that they continue to fall apart. That’s the subject for the work.”

She began the series with debris from 2019 fires in Malibu and Paradise, California. Raised in Utah, Despain is planning to show some of the pieces at an upcoming solo exhibition in Cedar City. She also plans to gather material from the burn scar on Basalt Mountain to make a work memorializing the 2018 Lake Christine Fire here.

“Wherever I am I try to collect stuff or do research that is related to the immediate area,” she said. “I don’t hope for these wildfires so that I can keep making my art. But so long as they are burning, I am going to confront the viewer with that.”

During the residency Nicole Salcedo opened the solo exhibition “Most Beloved” — an installation of paper, fabric and drawing work — at the Art Base in Basalt. It is on view through March 19. Often taking inspiration from nature, Salcedo has used her time here to explore using natural materials in her work — mixing snow in her paint, drawing with sticks and stones she’s picks up around the Ranch.

“In the residency I’ve been gathering natural material like rocks and pine needles and I’m using them as mark-making tools,” she explained. “This has been an amazing experience, interacting with a different ecosystem and see what I can get out of it and how it affects my work. It’s been really exciting to experience a totally different environment.”

Filmmaker Edson Jean is learning to weld while he is at the Ranch. Jean’s main focus is a screenplay based on one of the more salacious Miami news stories of recent years: the so-called “Causeway Cannibal” incident in 2012 where a man bit off the face of another on the MacArthur Causeway. With news clippings covering the wall above his laptop in the studio, Jean explained that he is aiming to tell the deeper story that never made it into the tabloid headlines.

Stepping away from Miami has given him a fresh perspective on the project.

“I was interested in working on this idea outside of the physical place where it takes place, where there is so much physical influence,” he said. “I was curious what would happen being in such a different place.”

Painter William Osario, who working on pieces for a September gallery exhibition in Miami, turned his eye toward his fellow Oolite artists. He’s made portraits of all of his fellow residents.

Fellow painter Thomas Bils is working on photo-referential works that are slightly askew. Find him on Instagram and you’ll find a unique series he made here: he got a slew of parking tickets recently in Miami, so he is making sketch paintings on them and selling them on social media for the cost of the tickets.

For ceramicist Lauren Shapiro, the residency is a continuation of a creative inquiry she began last summer, when she took a digital mold-making workshop at the Ranch. She’s gotten key direction, she said, from curator visits with Helen Molesworth and Larry Ossei-Mensah, and has found the collaborative environment inspiring.

“It’s been great having the others here,” she said, “because we walk through each others’ spaces, give suggestions, and that’s been really helpful. Usually we are making art in a vacuum, so to get all these awesome suggestions is awesome.”

Shapiro’s neighbor in the ceramics studio is Kelly Breez, who is at work on a series of rugs and tapestries based on hyper-masculine advertising materials — old posters and print ads for tools and cars and the like. Her sun-drenched corner studio space, she noted, is a long way from the dank urban warehouse where she works in Miami, though it hasn’t nudged her away from her familiar subjects.

“I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll make something that’s nice and calm here,’” she said, adding with a laugh: “No, it’s still the muscles and hot chicks and drills and cars.”

Michael Loveland, a sculptor and multi-disciplinary artist, photographed a snowflake on the side of an ice machine while driving to Snowmass. The image has led to a range of multimedia work here, from silk screens to sculpture to collages inspired by ski trail maps of Snowmass.

The same maps are fodder for Alejandro Contreras, who has been piling up colorful and intricate collages during the residency, including many made with pieces of the trail maps. Contreras has found himself working around the clock here, experimenting with every new art toy and tool he can find on the Ranch campus.

“You’ve got to make these five weeks magical,” he said, “and make it feel like 10 months.”