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Basalt exhibit: In the eyes of women

Heidi Rice
Special to the Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Contributed photo"Musical Apocalypse," an acrylic painting by Langford Barksdale, is part of "Women's History Through Art," on display at the Basalt Regional Library through the end of April.
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BASALT – Laura Carmichael Smith was at a low point in her life when she went for a brief stay to reflect at Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey – a Benedictine Monastery in the small mountain village of Pecos, N.M., nestled in the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

She ended up staying for two years.

During that time, she discovered herself as a potter. A practicing therapist from Old Snowmass since 1983 and a counselor at Yampah Mountain School in Glenwood Springs, Smith incorporated her experience as a woman, mother, daughter, wife and adventurer into her work.

“I took my practice and archetypal images from antiquity to represent different things in women’s lives now,” Smith said, who is one of 12 Roaring Fork Valley women who are sharing their pottery, painting, photography and sculpture in the “Women’s History Through Art” exhibit that opens Friday at the Basalt Regional Library.

The show’s theme, “Our History is Our Strength,” is in keeping with National Women’s History Month being celebrated in April.

“This is the first time we’ve done this and we decided to showcase a little bit of everything with 18 pieces by 12 artists,” said Cristina Gair, co-curator of the exhibit. “The interpretation that we’re taking is that we wanted to recognize women in general in the community and in our own lives – their strengths and how important that is to acknowledge. My co-curator, Carrie Marsh, and I wanted to create a show and venue to recognize women’s history and bring together women artists at an accessible venue.”

Gair is one of the exhibiting artists; she is showing a painting she calls “Layers.”

“Painting is new to me, I do mostly photography. But the idea was that women have a lot of layers and I was trying to embrace my own layers,” she said.

Smith’s pieces include her seven “Goddess Cups,” which encompass seven of the Greek goddesses: Athena, goddess of war and wisdom; Artemia, goddess of nature and birth; Aphrodite, goddess of love; Persephone, goddess of the underworld; Hestia, goddess of the hearth and home; Demeter, goddess of the harvest; and Hera, goddess of marriage and birth.

“In the cups is the intention,” Smith said. “With the cups, you can activate that intention. For me, it was a way to refill, restore, rejuvenate and reflect on the theme while making the cups. What’s so beautiful about goddesses is that they have strengths and weaknesses like all of us.”

Smith also works with the Aspen Hope Center, which will receive a portion of the proceeds from “Women’s History Through Art.”

The Aspen Hope Center, at 99 Midland Ave., was founded in June 2010 by Gair and is dedicated to enhancing the accessibility, quality and knowledge of mental health services to people living in the Roaring Fork Valley. It offers a crisis line and referral services, a mobile crisis team and intensive outpatient program for those who are in crisis, but in a safe situation.

“We keep them in the valley and see them once a day for five to seven days, depending on their issues. “We also do a lot of community outreach and education.” said Marsh, who works with the center and has her own piece in the exhibit titled “Grey.”

“On a personal level, I’d been dealing with black and white thinking as opposed to thinking in the gray,” Marsh said candidly. “But as I get older, it’s not black and white spray paint – I can now see in gray.”

Proceeds from the sales of the art will also go toward a new women’s support group at the center, which offers an outlet for talking about issues that women are facing.

“The Hope Center is one of the best things to happen in this valley,” said Janet Gordon, a licensed therapist and group leader of the support group. “This group is different. It’s a place where women can discuss their lives and their challenges. Where women can get support for all the things we all go through. Women’s lives are complicated and dynamic. This is a place where women can work on building their self-esteem and get healthier.”

“Women’s History Through Art” continues through April and also features the work of Langford Barksdale, Dasa Bausova, Isa Catto, Nicole Kinsler, Pola Oginski, Mitzi Rapkin, Jill Sabella, Laura Speck and Kathy Stover.


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