Aspen artist hanging with Modern Masters
December 8, 2006
The Hubert Gallery in New York City is home to a blend of Modern Masters, such as Picasso and Matisse, and emerging contemporary artists, including American painter Geoffrey Johnson.Add to the list Shelly Safir Marolt. Marolt is an artist in residence at the Red Brick Center for the Arts located in Aspen’s core.On a recent trip to her hometown of New York City, Marolt took her sister to the Hubert Gallery to see an artist whose work she admires. While at the gallery, her sister told her she should tell the director about her own art.As an emerging artist herself, Marolt is modest about her own work and told her sister she had no portfolio and wasn’t ready to solicit galleries.But her comments fell on deaf ears, she said, and her sister proclaimed loudly, “My sister is an artist!”
And so began Marolt’s relationship with The Hubert Gallery.The pieces that impressed gallery director Kristina Huntington are paintings of stills from old family movies.Marolt adopted the style after taking a class at Anderson Ranch where the instructor planted the idea of working from video stills.”That totally changed my art,” she said. “It opens up a whole new world when you’re not looking for a photograph. It really becomes your own when it’s a movie.”She chose her father’s childhood home movies. The footage, filmed between 1928 and 1936, captures her family’s memorable moments in familiar settings like New York City, Coney Island at Atlantic City. The films convey a nostalgia that is a slice of Americana in its own right.
In her paintings, Marolt transfers the feel of the film to canvas, preserving a piece of her family’s history in a style that could speak to a nation.”Because I choose not to put any features on the subject’s faces, they could be any family, anytime, anywhere,” her bio says. “My work is about family, friends and a forgotten time.”Closer to home, Marolt used the same technique to capture a piece of Aspen history, the patriarch of her family by marriage, Max Marolt. She couldn’t find film of Max, so she worked from photographs of him skiing. But, she achieves the same effect. Marolt also came across a video titled “Before the Lifts” that depicts an early period in Aspen’s ski history, which inspired more paintings in the same style.Marolt employs subtle colors in her predominantly black-and-while paintings to elicit the feel of old stills. Her use of warm sage tones evokes the sense of vitality that moving pictures can emanate but photos cannot.Marolt began her professional career in the New York fashion industry, but in a New York moment, she was inspired to move to the mountains.
“I was standing in the middle of Times Square, and in a gust of wind, soot blew up, and I thought, ‘This could be snow,'” she said. The epiphany spurred her to say her goodbyes to the city, as she thought to herself, “New York, I love you, but I’ve got to go to the mountains.”Nearly two decades later, Marolt is grateful to have graduated from working in her home to her studio at the Red Brick, but hearing from the director of a New York gallery sparked a new level of excitement for the developing artist.”I tried to act cool, but really, this is the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me,” she said.She jokes she doesn’t think her paintings will go for as much as a Picasso, but, donning a girlish smile, she expresses her satisfaction over just being displayed in such close proximity.”I’ve made it,” she said. “Sort of.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is email@example.comThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.