Aspen art insiders pick their favorites at Roaring Fork Open |

Aspen art insiders pick their favorites at Roaring Fork Open

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
"Leaving China," oil on canvas with paper map, by Jennine Hough.

ASPEN – The Aspen Art Museum’s Roaring Fork Open opened last week, and it’s a lot to wrap your mind around: More than 120 local artists contributing one work apiece, in sculpture, photography, painting, ceramics and more.

The Aspen Times asked a handful of local arts insiders to choose a piece from the show on which to comment.

The Roaring Fork Open runs through Nov. 29. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition is a series of performance events – dance, poetry, theater and more – with programs selected by local performers. For a schedule, go to

– selected by Carol Loewenstern, co-director of the Aspen Chapel Gallery, whose “Listen,” watercolor gouache, is in the Roaring Fork Open.

This work, although very small, immediately catches the eye for its very other-worldly feeling.

The girl in the center who seems to be looking out at the viewer is both confrontational and sad. Does she want to escape or to draw us in? Is she a memory or is she real?

There is a feeling of timelessness in the landscape and the clouds and in the way a kind of darkness encircles the photograph. The piece in its entirety has a surreal feel, like the feeling of awakening from a strange and disturbing dream.

– selected by Joel Soroka, owner of the Joel Soroka Gallery.

I was happy to see that there are so many creative souls in the valley. Of the photographs in the show, I liked several. The image “Beautiful Women” by Kathy Stover was delicate and reminded me of work from the ’30s. Karla Nicholson’s dance photo is a wonderfully rich print and also has a ’30s feel, a period I love. As usual, Peter Sahula made something dream-like and fascinating and Cliff Mohwinkel’s leaf is technically superb.

But the photo I will remember is the photo that made me smile today and would do so again tomorrow and that’s “Plastic Angst” by Joel Belmont. He’s a fine printer but the juxtaposition of the toy dinosaur with the classic nude torso shows inspiration which I admire. I’m always looking for something wonderful which I haven’t seen before and this image certainly qualifies. Plus his name is Joel.

– selected by Elisa Ahmer, artist.

Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote: “Art enables us to find and lose ourselves at the same time.” This seeking and surrendering of self can only be provided by deliberate time spent in silence. Could there be a refuge of silence in art? Yes. What’s needed is an antidote to “art” based on narcissistic whims, entertainment, and the easy decoration of surface eye candy. Roy Toma speaks about his work as a coalescence of light waves, matter and spirit. Lofty ideas that contrast and add to a beautifully simple image of the circular ripples of water on the surface of a quiet mountain lake. An obvious choice, but can a photographic water study be a guide to finding and losing ourselves in silence? It’s one way to start.

– selected by Debra Muzikar, executive director, Red Brick Center for the Arts.

I selected Jennine’s piece for several reasons. She is a very traditional artist with an unbelievable ability with detail – you actually do not see a lot of this – so although she is traditional she actually does not fit the mold of today’s artist. In this piece, she went even further with detail: The piece tells a story of several children, of a country, a past and a future. She also incorporated calligraphy – very hard – and so expanded her skills as an artist.

– selected by artist Stanley Bell, whose “On the Bright Side, it’s nice,” mixed media on wood, is in the Roaring Fork Open.

“Wrangle” by K. Rhynus Cesark is a piece that immediately caught my eye. The painting is a dream-like image of a child in a bird mask teasing several animated Hitchcock-esque ravens. The entire piece is screened over with a vibrant pink color that calls the viewer in. The images of the birds and the girl play off of each other giving us the relationship of wild figures with the lightness of childhood. I responded to the scene and that the piece invites the viewer to create a story that Cesark gives us to establish.

I love the mystery surrounding it and that the scene is not framed but simply flushed to the edge of the piece as if the story and the image continues off into space. “Wrangle” is a strong painting that captures the imagination in a fun and genuine way.

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