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Four Roaring Fork women bring original vision to Spring Renewal

Stewart Oksenhorn
Ceramic artist Sara Ransford is exhibiting her work at the Red Brick Center for the Arts. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox.
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Installing her oil paintings at the Red Brick Center for the Arts Monday morning, Elisa Ahmer is practically bouncing off the walls that hold her still lifes. Apart from a few student shows during her abbreviated studies at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Ill., the 41-year-old Ahmer has never exhibited her art.”It’s been a fantasy for half my life, to be a studio artist,” said Ahmer, whose artistic tendencies actually surfaced when she was in grade school. “And now I feel I’m getting started. This is my real work; everything before was just playing around.”Ahmer, who has made her living mainly doing decorative painting, can officially begin calling herself an exhibiting artist today, with the opening of the group show Spring Renewal at the Red Brick Center for the Arts. The exhibit – which also features fellow locals Jennine Hough, Cindy Hansen and Sara Ransford – has its opening reception today from 5-7 p.m.The years of contemplating an exhibit were well-spent by Ahmer. A devotee of the still life realm, Ahmer’s work is steps beyond the customary fruits and flowers. Her primary subject is rock cairns; the idea came from the cairn she has on her night stand. There are also paintings of broken egg shells and dried leaves. Beyond the subject matter are the muted, almost ghostly tones and the way her cairns have of nearly leaping off the canvas.The three women exhibiting side by side with Ahmer – all, like Ahmer, from the upper Roaring Fork Valley – bring more experience to the show. And like Ahmer, they bring original visions to the show.Aspenite Jennine Hough, who earned a masters of fine art from the University of North Carolina, has exhibited sill lifes and landscapes, oils and watercolors, for decades. Showing a series of large-scale oils in Santa Fe in 1998, featuring elements of that city’s landscape, she was taken by Santa Fe’s deep sense of religiosity. She began collecting religious icons and researching the histories behind them. Particularly fascinating were the Christian female saints, about whom, Hough was surprised to learn, quite a bit is known. Her latest series of oil paintings, on canvas and linen, features portraits of the saints; most of them are accompanied by the dress and settings particular to their period.Cindy Hansen’s work in the exhibit includes paintings on mylar, etchings, monoprints and monotypes. Her range of subject matter is equally broad. The small etchings are inspired by symbols of the garden; the paintings she calls “abstract urban landscapes.”Most striking are the large monoprint and monotypes, in which Hansen uses the diptych form to explore dichotomous relationships. “First Date,” for example, is autobiographical: the artistic teapots on top represent herself; the sparkplugs below are her mechanic husband. And the way the objects are depicted is also a statement: “I’m kind of calm and he’s kind of spinning,” she noted. “Picnic in L.A.” is likewise multi-faceted. The watermelons and chili peppers are items the artist associates with Los Angeles; she also sees the melons and peppers representing the female and male, respectively.Sara Ransford’s ceramic sculptures are inspired by the passing of time, and the natural shapes she sees in two places she frequents: the sea and the desert. Perhaps most intriguing about the pieces is how they draw viewers for a closer look. While most sculpture is one solid chunk best observed from some distance, Ransford’s forms have nooks and crevasses that reward close-up inspection.”I’m interested in creating spaces within the work that force the viewer to go in deeper,” said Ransford, who has studied recently at upstate New York’s Alfred University and Snowmass Village’s Anderson Ranch Arts Center. “All these forms hold their own secrets, just like how nature holds secrets – about process, places for things to hide and grow. And just like we hold all our secrets.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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