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Rabbitbrush Rambler: Seeing art

Posted: Tuesday, Dec 11th, 2012

Two art exhibitions are running concurrently on the Adams State University campus. Each has special appeal here, although they are quite different from one another, and I greatly enjoyed what I saw.

I have to admit that I am a philistine, sometimes perplexed about what is in vogue in modern art museums and about what the artists are trying to say. Sometimes I just give up.

There was no such struggle for me at “Art for the Endangered Landscape,” which opened at Community Partnerships on November 30 with a reception, music, film, spoken word, and refreshments.

Running through December 29 during regular hours, this exhibition is benefitting the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, with sales from the present exhibit helping to support SLVEC.

David Montgomery, who organized and mounted the large exhibit, with the assistance of Cynthia Cutts, deserves our thanks. The images emphasized the San Francisco Creek area particularly and elsewhere in the San Luis Valley as well.

With the work of about 30 artists being featured, it drew a crowd, and I enjoyed mingling with so many friendly artists and guests. But I decided to return again the next week at a quieter time to take a closer look at the images. That is how I like to look at art, with more time and space to cogitate.

With “Endangered Landscape,” the cumulative message was: “Look at these beautiful landscapes and close views of nature, and treasure them, as we artists do lest they disappear.” The messages were deeply personal to the artists and viewers alike.

The concentration of so much artwork in one room at a gallery made a powerful impact, with a counterpoint being some large canvases by well-known Denver artist Joellyn Duesberry. She depicted scenes of destruction such as urban junkyards, an eye-popping statement about what we do to the environment.

Meanwhile, about a block away, “Mestizo Hybridity” had opened at ASU’s Art Department, featuring prints by Tony Ortega.

This show will be running through December 14 during regular weekday hours in the Cloyde Snook Gallery, so hurry before it closes.

Ortega is a nationally-known, contemporary Latino artist who is represented in major museum collections in New York, the West Coast, New Mexico, and Mexico City. He is an associate professor at Regis in Denver and has visited public schools.

He offers programs that educate public school kids about art. Another activity is the creation of murals, a form of public art that is reaching out to communities.

At ASU he presented a lecture attended by the art department’s students, and he has worked at Ventero Open Press, a vital part of creative life at San Luis. Other artists in this installation were Professor Eugene Schilling, Randy Pijoan, and Matt Capell, as well as Evelyn Mclean of Dallas. (No, not Evalyn Walsh McLean of Hope Diamond fame.)

Ortega’s subjects and techniques were quite different from “Endangered Landscape” but equally interesting to me. Ortega’s prints showed Latino traditions from the viewpoint of a native of rural New Mexico and resident of urban Colorado — its culture, current political and social issues, and vivid color. Some subjects had a bite and others humor, like his Warhohl-esque can of pozole.

Interestingly, he does not include faces of people. I had to stop and think about what was Ortega saying with his faceless images and his other subjects.

For me, his images became a first-class lesson about the possibilities of printmaking, employing old and new techniques.

His may be silkscreen or monotype/silkscreen or those plus watercolor or relief or hand-colored lithography or solar etching. In his hands, there seem to be few limits.

The exhibit at Community Partnerships also revealed the great variety of materials used by our talented artists in the San Luis Valley. Oil and watercolor, of course, but also gouache, acrylic, pastel, crayon, pencil, ink, prismacolor, photography, clay, and some stunning bronzes.

About 500 artists live in the Valley, I am told, and ASU has students and guest exhibitors at its respected art department, so we can enjoy many opportunities to see artwork here. Take a look, a close one.

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