Guest commentary: One artist’s perspective of the Aspen Art Museum |

Guest commentary: One artist’s perspective of the Aspen Art Museum

Stanley Bell
Guest Commentary

I would like to express my gratitude to Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson and the hardworking staff of the Aspen Art Museum. In the 10 years I’ve lived here, the support the museum has given me has helped me in my development as an artist. Unlike most museum directors, Heidi has always taken time to answer questions about my art and my career.

Now that I have visited the museum, in my opinion, Heidi and the staff of the museum should add artist to their resumes. They have created a living, breathing work of art. A creation that can generate such passionate and personal response is the point of making art in the first place. It is what art is supposed to do. It’s in your face, challenging you, taking you out of your comfort zone and forcing you to question your beliefs. The Aspen Art Museum will attract a new type of visitor to Aspen. These are the same people who go to London to visit the Tate Modern or New York City to see the Museum of Modern Art.

Contemporary art is more than a pretty picture; it is a display of original thought and critical thinking. Contemporary art influences all aspects of our daily lives, whether it is innovations in the business world, the economy, fashion, technology, etc. It’s original thinkers breaking from the norm, testing the limits and creating what no one has seen before.

Steve Jobs is a great example. Influenced by art and design, he directly inspired Apple as a company from the design of the offices to the message and style that Apple represents. It’s often never literal, but it can remind the viewer how small we are in this world. Love it or hate it, it is a portal to the human condition at its very core.

It is so easy to go through life, getting into a routine. It reminds us that life is short and you must be open to new ideas. Contemporary art is the reason I became an artist. When I am confronted with a work of art that is something I’ve never seen before, I get inspired. Contemporary art has the ability to hit all of the senses at once. To be conscious, accepting, and aware of the world around us. To explore and experience life to the fullest, learn from the pain and relish in the good.

Art comes from the very depths of the soul. Once it leaves the artist and is put out in the world, it takes on a whole new meaning. Without a place like the Aspen Art Museum, these artworks would never be seen. It is amazing to me that something so personal, so expressive, so true to oneself can have an effect on others and possibly make a difference in one’s life, to open the eyes and to establish a cultural vocabulary. It is a reminder that we should never stop learning and evolving.

The reason we visit or live in Aspen is that very same concept: It is a unique and beautiful place that reminds us to pause and take in the moment, to stop and breathe. Art museums also have this potential.

I feel the negativity for the museum is based on a fear. Aspen often claims that it is a forward-thinking society, so why not evolve and embrace change? The Aspen Art Museum represents that very same principle. It invokes inspiration, knowledge, growth and awareness. Both Aspen and the museum teach us to see beyond what is there in front of us.

We are so lucky to have this center of cultural knowledge in our backyard. Doesn’t this fall in line with the anti-establishment idea that so many of you Aspenites claim to live by? That gonzo mentality that makes this place so unique? Do you think the miners and pioneers instantly embraced the ski industry that took this town from a quiet, small town to a place visited by so many people? Or how do you think the down-to-earth ski pioneers felt about the glitz and glamour of the ’80s attracting the wealthiest people in the world? These were drastic changes over the years. The birth of the new museum is the next leap in history of this town.

The Aspen Art Museum is not going anywhere, so I find it a waste of energy to distance yourself from it. Innovators like Heidi are not the evil people you make them out to be. They are part of the fabric of the evolution of Aspen, just like Klaus Obermeyer, Hunter S. Thompson, Bob Braudis and Harley Baldwin.

History is unfolding right before your eyes. Why fight it? Open your mind, and see the good that it will do for Aspen. Be friends with the museum — I guarantee you will be rewarded. Maybe “The revolution will not be televised” should change to “The evolution will not be televised; the evolution will be live.”

Stanley Bell is a painter at the artist collective Studio for Arts and Works in Carbondale. He also lives in Carbondale.