Aspen artist Patrick Semple opens ‘Polarity’ in Snowmass Village |

Aspen artist Patrick Semple opens ‘Polarity’ in Snowmass Village

Catherine Lutz
Special to The Aspen Times


WHAT: Polarity, Patrick Semple

WHERE: The Collective, Snowmass Village

WHEN: Opening reception Saturday, Dec. 21, 5-9 p.m., hors d’oeuvres by mix6 and music by Knutsen Hoff. Exhibition runs through Jan. 31


Emerging Aspen artist Patrick Semple isn’t just influenced by place; the place becomes his work. Literally.

Semple, whose solo show “Polarity” is on view at The Collective in Snowmass Village, makes his own milk-based paint. One of the six pieces in the show, titled “Ashcroft,” incorporates local earth and sediment; the frame is built with reclaimed lumber. “The Crystal Ship” includes a collage of old newspapers he found rotting in an Aspen alley.

The 29-year-old artist also likes to use crushed minerals he finds in the wild, like pyrite and turquoise, sprinkling them over his work for a unique textured finish. These searches can bring their own challenges — a hike this fall to find minerals in the upper reaches of the Hunter Creek Valley was interrupted by a family of moose.

“It’s made with the dirt and blood and guts of Aspen,” Semple said of his recent work. “Wherever I go, I always make it a point to immerse myself and absorb the sights and smells, and in some cases handfuls of the earth, to include in my work.”

Aspen isn’t the only influence in Semple’s work, although it’s the original one. Born in Seattle, Semple grew up in Aspen. He credits the art programs and his teachers at the Aspen public schools and Aspen Community School with nurturing his art, which, he said, “is one of the only things I’ve ever cared about consistently.”

Semple’s abstract painting evolved out of his background in local landscape painting.

“I felt compelled to the scenery here,” he said. “It’s all encompassing; it’s part of who I am.”

But attending Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, a school that he describes as experimental and interdisciplinary, “helped me loosen up from rigid forms of thinking. I learned how to have a discourse and expound on my own ideas while listening to and absorbing others’.”

The wet, rainy Pacific Northwest climate influenced his artistic journey, too. Besides spending a lot of time indoors honing his craft, wandering its lush forests when he could taught Semple “to work more intuitively and learn how to let chance and surprise to take place,” he said. “And I think our most informative and refreshing work happens when we surprise ourselves.”

Most recently, a winter and spring spent in Los Angeles opened Semple’s eyes to an art scene driven by young, amateur artists — a scene he fell in love with.

“They made it more accessible and affordable to participate in the art scene there,” he said. “And that’s something Straight Line Studio is bringing to the table here. It’s sort of a cutting-edge gallery model for Aspen in that it values inclusivity in emerging local talent.”

Like most of his peers, making art is not Semple’s only job. He delivers pizza for New York Pizza, works for his dad’s two businesses, renting ski clothes for Suit Yourself and mowing lawns in the summer — he is the son of Aspen Daily News columnist Lorenzo “Lo” Semple, grandson of screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. and nephew of author Maria Semple — and maintains kids’ ski trails for Aspen Skiing Company on Buttermilk.

This immersion in Aspen’s service industry is another major influence. It’s made Semple realize the importance of having a creative outlet — of remaining true to goals and continuing to nurture one’s talents, something that can easily get lost in the often exhausting, frenzied seasonal cycles of the resort industry.

This concept also gave rise to the title and theme of Semple’s show. His six works in the exhibition are about the things that go unexpressed beneath the public surface, he said. His black and white pieces show that most clearly — representing the “joys and woes we feel day to day, and that one can’t exist without the other,” he said. “In our lives we’re trying to strike a balance between the two; I wanted to paint a picture of all those things existing together in harmony.”

And in “The Crystal Ship,” one of his most colorful works, Semple was processing some angst, anger and confusion. You can’t control those kind of emotions, he said, but just have to work through them — and sometimes what comes out on the other end is something beautiful and bright.

“This work is all about finding the key to that interior self and remembering who you are beneath all those layers of who people expect you to be,” he said.


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