Basalt’s Art Base to open first exhibition in new downtown hub
Boulder artist Heather Cherry has inaugural show in new gallery
What: Heather Cherry, ‘A Light Within’
Where: The Art Base, Basalt (174 Midland Ave.)
When: May 28-June 26; opening reception Friday, 5-7 p.m.
More info: theartbase.org
May 28-June 26 Heather Cherry
July 2-30 Leah Potts
Aug. 6-21 10×10 Name Unseen Silent Auction
Sept. 3-Oct. 1 Vallee Noone
Talking about the subtle power and inner luminosity of the fiber-based artwork in her exhibition at the new Art Base in Basalt, artist Heather Cherry pointed back to her childhood in Iowa.
The Boulder-based artist, whose “A Light Within” opens the Art Base’s new downtown facility on Friday, traces the show’s soulful spirit to the rolling landscapes of her youth.
“The landscape there is filled with these wonderful textures and subtleties that really invite a closer look,” Cherry said this week from Boulder. “I remember walking across fields of green and gold toward this horizon that seemed endless. There is this extraordinary experience of life and space.”
The exhibition It includes 20 pieces – drawings and sculptures of clay and the hand-spun thread that has become her aesthetic signature. It’s those fiber-based works that caught the eye of Art Base curator Lissa Ballinger.
“Cherry’s contemplative artwork invites the viewer to pause and consider each work—not only the materiality, but the reverential, environmentally-inspired qualities of each piece,” Ballinger said when the show was announced.
When Cherry signed on for this show – her first in the Roaring Fork Valley – last spring, neither she nor Art Base leaders knew that this would be the first exhibition in the new nonprofit community art center’s new two-level 4,800-square-foot space.
The move to the new space from the Art Base’s most recent home in Lions Park developed quickly last summer as executive director Skye Skinner and the Art Base board abandoned plans to build a new riverfront headquarters and instead to buy the Three Bears Building on Midland Ave. for $1.7 million, remodel and move in.
A $3 million fundraising campaign to pay for the building and the nonprofit’s programming is ongoing as the organization — founded by Deborah Jones as the Wyly Community Art Center — is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The new building’s opening comes just ahead of the debut of the new Arts Campus at Willits, comprising a a new flowering of arts and culture in the midvalley.
The Art Base’s popular art classes for kids and adults will remain at its Lions Park facility through summer as the remodel of two upstairs classrooms continues.
The public will get its first look inside the building at Friday’s opening, which is also the first major event in town since this week’s revocation of its COVID-19-driven mask requirement and the easing of other public health restrictions.
Art Base leaders plan to host rotating exhibitions by local and regional artists in the main first;floor gallery (see sidebar) as well as a collection of works by local and regional artists in a second gallery separated by a moveable wall, though they’re still figuring out the best use of the building’s exhibition spaces.
“We’re going to learn by doing this year,” Ballinger said last month during a walkthrough of the in-progress new Art Base.
Cherry is excited to be the first artist to show in the space.
“I’m so honored,” she said. “I love the Art base and everything they’re doing. There is this wonderful believe in what’s possible and what art can do in everything happing there. It’s inspiring.”
After studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University in Boston, Cherry’s earliest works were large-scale installations. But making a series of paper dresses changed her perspective and her primary materials – drawing her into working with fibers. Over the past year and a half she has been hand-spinning thread and making the “field” works showcased in “A Light Within.”
“Over time I feel like the work has become more and more elemental,” she said. “Working with paper, actually hand-spinning each piece.”
Cherry wrote a poetic artist statement about the show attempting to capture her feelings about the work and how they relate to natural forces and phenomena like dawn in the forest and the natural rhythms of the world.
“My hope is to create a visual path composed of a series in which each element, and the space amidst, is carefully considered — a story, a poem, an inner topography,” she wrote. “Living the questions, through process, like the spinning of thread, and weaving of words; inviting you along, to share in these moments of quiet.”
She looked to nature’s stillness and seedpods as inspiration.
“I’m interested in the poetry of subtleties, and moments of quiet illumination. I’m moved by ideas of sustenance, daily rituals, and quiet acts of devotion,” Cherry wrote. “Through the language of drawing, sculpture, and fiber-based work, I hope to explore these questions, based on ways of knowing drawn from the natural world.”
The process of the making, Cherry explained, has become more important to her than the final product.
“It’s really art as a way of being,” she said, “a way of living and really trying to be as present as possible throughout the process.”
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