Aspen Times Weekly: Self, Land & Enrique Martinez Celaya | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Times Weekly: Self, Land & Enrique Martinez Celaya

"The Angel (or Looking Back)," Enrique Martinez Celaya.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: ‘Self and Land,’ by Enrique Martinez Celaya

Where: Baldwin Gallery, Aspen

When: Thursday, June 23 through July 24; opening reception June 23, 6 to 8 p.m.

More info: www.baldwingallery.com

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What: Chairman’s Choice Presentation by Enrique Martinez Celaya

Where: Schermer Meeting Hall, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Snowmass Village

When: Thursday, June 30, 12:30 p.m.

How much: Free

More info: www.andersonranch.org

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What: Critical Dialogue: ‘Alternatives,’ workshop with Enrique Martinez Celaya

Where: Schermer Meeting Hall, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Snowmass Village

When: Saturday, July 2, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

How much: $150

Registration and more info: www.andersonranch.org

Painter Enrique Martinez Celaya has long been a familiar face in these parts. The Los Angeles-based artist has been visiting Anderson Ranch for more than a decade as a teacher, artist advisor and boardmember. Last year he published “On Art and Mindfulness: Notes From Anderson Ranch” — a luminous collection of thoughts on living as an artist. He’s back on the ranch for a few weeks now, teaching an advanced painting class, mentoring artists, offering a public lecture (June 30) and the public workshop “Alternatives” (July 2) while he’s here.

Since 1997 Celaya also has shown his work regularly at Aspen’s Baldwin Gallery, where his exhibition “Self and Land” will be on view Thursday through July 24.

Celaya, 52, often grapples with the collisions between man and nature in his work, often using literature and philosophy as a touchstone (science makes its way in occasionally as well: Celaya studied applied physics at Cornell University and began doctoral studies in quantum electronics before pursuing art). “Self and Land” juxtaposes portraits of figures like Edvard Munch and Ernest Hemingway against depictions of nature.

“This is my first exhibition of things that can be thought of as portraits,” Celaya says. “Though I myself think of them not really as portraits. They’re studies or considerations of the human condition, of people whose work I’m interested in and admire.”

Making them over the past year, Celaya didn’t work from photographs of his subjects, but instead based his work on his memory of images he’s seen of them. More importantly, he studied their lives and their work — hoping to find in his paintings something more than a physical semblance of his subjects.

“That’s the point,” he explains. “Portraiture is not the goal here.”

The “land” part of “Self and Land” provides a counterpoint to that humanity.

“There’s something about figures of people that can stress too much the presence of the individual,” he says. “I wanted to emphasize the transitory nature of our human experience.”

The Baldwin Gallery show is one of two parts – the other, “Self and Sea,” which opened last month at London’s Parafin, juxtaposes similar portraits against images of the sea.

Likewise, the subjects there are thinkers and artists whose work is of personal importance to Celaya.

“These are people who I have a deep relationship with their work and have thought about how their work intersects with their life,” he says.

Though best known as a painter, Celaya also has worked in sculpture and immersive installation. His rambunctious mind doesn’t allowed him to settle into a predictable style — the past year or so has seen him investigating portraiture in an impressionistic style, but the next project isn’t likely to look much like “Self and Land” or “Self and Sea.”

“It becomes self-contained investigation — the next thing has nothing to do with it,” he says. “There’s an immediacy to it. I’m not an artist with a certain branding from work to work.”

Celaya also teaches at Dartmouth College, but Anderson Ranch has become something like a summer artistic home for the Cuba-born painter.

“There’s no place like the ranch,” he says. “It allows for artists — any kind of artists — to be involved in the making. And that includes people who are just starting out and people who are really experienced. People who can come there and fail.”

Celaya is particularly excited about his upcoming public workshop, titled “Alternatives.” Unlike his other classes (and most with artists of his caliber) it is open for pubic registration and doesn’t require a portfolio review or any of the usual barriers to entry. He is hoping that locals and visitors who are simply curious about the artistic process will come out.

“It’s not intended only for people in the arts, but looking at different ways of being in the world,” he says. “And that’s open to anyone, not just artists.”

The workshop, he suggested, is the kind of open-minded exploratory program that’s drawn him to Anderson Ranch, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer.

“I think there’s a tendency in the art world and in academia for artists to be very jaded — everybody feels like they know everything,” he says. “One of the great things about the Ranch is that people go there with a lot of excitement, not jaded in that way. And they go because they love it. That makes the ranch a very special place.”

atravers@aspentimes.com


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