Anderson Ranch exhibit shows Snowmass artist’s evolution through project |

Anderson Ranch exhibit shows Snowmass artist’s evolution through project

Betsy Chaffin discusses pieces in her exhibit at Anderson Ranch Arts Center, titled "From There to Here'.
Jeremy Wallace/Snowmass Sun |

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“From There to Here”

Now through Nov. 30

Patton-Malott Gallery, Anderson Ranch Arts Center

Gallery hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday

For her first solo exhibit at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, longtime Snowmass Village resident Betsy Chaffin worked for about 15 months, exploring her way from a series of ink drawings to a collection of abstract paintings.

She started with the drawings last summer, completing the series of 40 in September and October 2014. Certain shapes repeat or are mimicked in the drawings, done with ink on pages out of her father’s old physics books and framed in pairs.

“The way that I do these drawings is a very intuitive, free-flowing process,” Chaffin said. “It really is markmaking. You could say markmaking is the process.”

She works quickly and immediately. When she gets a shape she likes, she repeats it, although with some variation: A pedestal form from an early drawing appears again scattered in pieces in another; a cloud shape repeats itself in outline form in a different frame.

Chaffin decided how to pair the drawings after they were completed, so while they are presented almost like diptychs, they weren’t really planned that way, she said. The drawings then became inspiration for the paintings, which she worked on in earnest at January Studio Concentration at the Ranch this year.

“Obviously there’s a layer of memory involved” with using pages from her father’s books, Chaffin said. But also, there’s an element of “the idea of science with art, that logic and order of science with counterpoint of intuitive, the randomness, the creativity of the markmaking,” she added. “That random order that is found in the drawings I think also presents itself in the paintings.”

A group of paintings hung opposite of 12 of the drawings in Chaffin’s exhibit were most influenced by the drawings, with some of the shapes that perpetuated on the pages taking form in color in the larger works.

“I wanted to get some of the same energy in the drawings to present itself in the paintings,” Chaffin said.

But once she started painting, the works took on a life of their own. The paintings began taking inspiration from one another, and so while some of the later works in the exhibit still reflect the early drawings, they also show an evolution of artistic progression that spanned over a year.

Also during that process, Chaffin painted a set of six works on smaller canvases. She timed herself, completing them all in under five minutes in an effort to make the painting mimic the process she undertook with the drawings.

The exhibit is called “From There to Here” to describe the evolutionary progress of the works. While it is her first solo exhibit at the Ranch, it is not her first rodeo. Chaffin and her family moved to Snowmass in 1978 and almost immediately joined the Ranch’s board of directors, becoming heavily involved in the arts center’s success and in its educational programs.

“It’s been absolutely one of the wonderful gifts of my life to be a part of this organization,” Chaffin said.

For Chaffin, who is now represented by J Costello Gallery in Hilton Head, South Carolina and had many shows this year, Anderson Ranch has been critical to her art education. She recalls a class she took with artist Alexis Smith as a turning point.

“I took that workshop and felt like I had crossed the desert and had a drink from a big well,” Chaffin said. “I really feel that in many ways Anderson Ranch is where I’ve gotten my MFA in art.”

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