Local artists shine in annual Red Brick and Chapel Gallery shows
Two recently opened art shows focus on Aspen area-based artists and their most recent work, offering an informal survey of what’s new and who’s who on the local scene.
The Aspen Chapel Gallery’s 14th annual “Small Wonders” show opened Nov. 17. Among the most popular art events in town, the show challenges artists to make affordable art measuring no larger than 12-by-12 inches.
Each artist makes at least eight works for the show, and many do sell out as the show has grown into a must-stop for local holiday shopping – a rare budget-friendly, hyper-local, high-quality art show in Aspen that launches the Christmas shopping season here. This year’s rendition features 32 local artists.
Following in the footsteps of the “Small Wonders” tradition, the Red Brick Center for the Arts started, in 2019, to do its own holiday-timed exhibition showcasing the latest works by its 12 resident artists.
Four artists have work in both shows this year, among them ceramicist Michael Bonds, who works out of a Red Brick studio and co-directs the Chapel Gallery.
Bonds marveled at the combination of the two shows and the breadth of local work that they showcase.
“Over the COVID period, everybody branched out a lot,” Bonds said. “It’s really showing a lot of different work in these shows. And it’s fun to see all the different growth all these artists have had.”
At both shows, you can see different work by Bonds – who is debuting a new aspen leaf pattern on vessels and plates at “Small Wonders” and showing a new landscape tile series at the Red Brick – and variations on the abstract porcelain sculptures by Molly Peaccock, along with the latest entrancing nature photographs by the great Art Burrows.
A walk through the Red Brick – which at the early November opening hosted a party on its porch for pandemic-safe socializing over wine, hot chocolate and snacks while masked patrons browsed the art inside – offers a fascinating cross-section of local working artists and the new ground they’ve been breaking during the pandemic.
You can get lost in Nancy Kullgren’s rich oil paintings and dreamscapes, marvel at Liz Heller’s digitally fabricated ceramics and her new collaborations with metalsmith Kate Flynn. There’s new sterling silver belt buckles and mountain designs from the popular jeweler Caitlin Dunn and beautiful still lifes form Lorraine Davis. There are the worlds and stories that emerge out of Jessie Chaney’s incisive photographs of abandoned spaces like her “Gate to the Heart,” and a fascinating new series of collages from Michael McConnell.
His new pieces, a departure from the mixed media pieces he’s made in recent years, signal a new urgency and an eye on history in the making. A representative work shows a series of footprints, as if from a dancing guide book, labeled “throw over to right” and “throw over to left” beside a torn news clip from the January 2020 insurrection in Washington, D.C..
“This past year I feel like I produced a body of work that is really cohesive,” McConnell said at the opening. “I anticipate I’d like to do more like that.”
And, as always at the Red Brick, there are variations on landscapes and mountainscapes, including new work by Tammie Lane and a deepening exploration of aspen trees from painter Emily Chaplin, who jointed the Red Brick ranks during the pandemic as her painting hobby evolved into something more.
Out at the roundabout for “Small Wonders” – which is produced in partnership with the adopt-a-family Holiday Baskets program (you can sign up to take part and donate in the gallery) – the gallery is overflowing with new work as varied as Sheila Babbie’s surrealist paintings, Curt Carpenter’s signature woodcuts and Louise Deroualle’s hanging ceramics.
Want to know what’s happening in local art? Go see these two shows and you can see the latest from 40-plus Aspen artists.
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