Carbondale’s Wilderness Workshop draws artists |

Carbondale’s Wilderness Workshop draws artists

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

Artists long have drawn on their natural surroundings for inspiration.

Now, Carbondale’s Wilderness Workshop is drawing artists from around the country and the globe and sending them into the outdoors to practice their craft.

The Artist in Wilderness program, now in its third year, offers one or two residencies annually, allowing participants to make works inspired by the lands the conservation organization works to protect. They receive a stipend to spend creative time in the local backcountry, providing Wilderness Workshop with a piece of art that will be auctioned off when a sufficient collection has been amassed – possibly this winter.

Last week, local sculptor Nancy Lovendahl took her turn, finding inspiration on the 1,800-acre Harvey Ranch in Old Snowmass, bordering the Maroon Bells-

Snowmass Wilderness. Also participating this year are Steuart Bremner and Terry Talty, a husband-and-wife team from Denver.

The program honors the memory of Dottie Fox, according to Dave Reed, Wilderness Workshop director of development and communications. Fox was a watercolorist and well-known local wilderness advocate who co-founded Wilderness Workshop. After her death in 2006, the organization received contributions in her memory that were set aside for a worthy endeavor.

The group and members of Fox’s family kicked around ideas on how best to use the money in keeping with her spirit and came up with Artist in Wilderness, Reed said.

“It was kind of a way to link Dottie’s two passions – art and wilderness,” he said.

Proceeds from the auction will replenish the fund, creating a self-sustaining program that brings a continual rotation of artists to the Roaring Fork Valley.

“It’s produced some pretty interesting art,” Reed said.

Participants are chosen by a jury of regional artists and collectors.

This is the first year the program has involved artists who work in three dimensions. Four artists were chosen in this year’s judging cycle – two who are doing their residencies this fall (Lovendahl and the team of Bremner and Talty) and two who will participate early next summer.

Lovendahl spent last week in a cabin on Connie Harvey’s ranch, wandering a landscape transformed by autumn’s breathtaking palette. She had an idea in mind but found herself creating multiple installations, including nests made of decaying bark, lashed to branches and suspended from trees with cord. An oval rock – the egg – rested inside.

Elsewhere, she constructed a large nest of interwoven branches around the base of an aspen tree. It was as though the tree sprang from the nest.

A stone carver who also works in wood and ceramics, Lovendahl often incorporates the egg shape into her forms.

A nest-and-egg piece can be auctioned more readily than the creation she envisioned before her arrival – a spiral created in the grass. What began as bunches of grass to outline a spiral that matches the exacting geometric proportions found in nature (think a nautilus shell) was “a complete failure” she said, until an all-day hike inspired Lovendahl to lay gold aspen leaves in the spiral form, much as they lined the trail she was walking.

Another artist might have painted the scenery outside Lovendahl’s doorstep, but she jumped at the chance to work with the landscape itself, though she photographed the spiral.

“Any way we can become more steeped in nature, we’re going to love it more and protect it,” she reasoned.

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