The Carbondale Public Arts Commission parades artists and art lovers around its latest exhibition.
What would it take to get more than 100 people to spend two hours on a Thursday evening walking around downtown Carbondale and gathering at 15 predetermined spots? The answer is art, of course. It seems that the little downvalley town with a huge heart and burgeoning populace of creative minds just keeps finding new ways to pique its collective consciousness.
The annual Art aRound Town Art Walk, administered by the Carbondale Public Arts Commission (CPAC), was by all accounts a rousing success, with a crowd so large it had trouble squeezing into some small spaces and at times flooded Main Street like an impromptu parade.
“This is the biggest group I’ve ever seen on any art walk, and I do a lot of programs across the state,” said artist Jade Windell, “so congratulations Carbondale.”
Emcee Heather Bryan explained that Art aRound Town is nationwide call put out by CPAC to all artists interested in displaying their work in the town. The art pieces are on loan with the town for one year and all pieces are for sale, which helps keep the commission going.
“The goal is to sell one or two or all of the pieces,” Bryan said. “We are a volunteer town-based commission that’s made possible through the town funding, generous tax-deductible donations and through the sales of all the art pieces.”
This year CPAC put out a call to local artists and Colorado artists, the result being that 12 of the 15 artists who participated are based in the state.
Zealous and prolific
Windell, who is based in Loveland but spends his summers as a member of the Marble Symposium staff, was introduced by Bryan as being “zealous and prolific.”
“I’ll have to look those words up,” he joked.
Windell called himself “a painter by trade” and explained that he’d been painting since he was 3 years old. But when an opportunity arrived in the form of a scholarship to the Marble Institute of Colorado, he took it.
“[The scholarship] had one condition — I had to do the dishes after dinner — so that was a no brainer,” he said. “But I fell in love with the 3D — being able to walk around something and see all sides of it. So when I got home and looked at my paintings — I think I was painting sculpture my whole life.”
Windell’s piece for the Carbondale exhibit is called “Protection” and he explained that it was inspired by his life-long fascination with totem poles and gargoyles.
“It’s kind of a protector of a dwelling from evil spirits,” he said. “I fell in love with the idea of a labyrinth, of the journey in and the journey out.”
The piece weighs about 800 pounds, and Windell jokingly offered the challenge that if anyone can pick it up and put in the back of their truck, without a machine, they can take it home. If not, they have to buy it.
Another artist on the Marble Symposium staff displaying his work in Carbondale this year is Nathan Slape who said he’s in Marble every summer from June until August, “throwing around stone and creating crazy things.
“I’m what you call a direct carver,” Slape said. “I never go after anything with any plan whatsoever, I just start tearing into the stone and it kind of leads me where I want to go. Marble has what’s called a bedding plane which is kind of like the layers in sandstone. The way that this bedding plane went was through at an angle, and that’s why I started working it [in that direction] because it was easier. The stone tends to dictate my design.”
He said his piece in this year’s exhibit, called “TWL #1,” was an experiment not only with textures but with light and shadow.
“If you look at this at different times of the day you’ll see something different every time — the way that the shapes and shadows play in the void.”
Slape conservatively estimated that it took him 200 hours to make the piece, because he said he obsesses over his finishes.
“I used mostly power tools [to make it], but when it comes to finishing it’s all by hand.”
From up on Missouri Heights
Two of the artists that give the Carbondale exhibit its local flavor this year are James Surls and Charmaine Locke who create their public art pieces at their studio in Missouri Heights.
Surls is best known locally for his sculpture, “Sewing the Future” that graces the Carbondale roundabout.
For the Art aRound Town exhibit this year, Surls designed a piece, called “Hanging Flower,” that he said was inspired by a walk through an aspen grove.
“One of the most amazing things about being in a forest is looking up through the canopy to the sky and seeing limbs that make patterns,” Surls said. “It’s very much like looking at the earth and conjuring images out of it, or like conjuring images out of clouds – you make something out of your vision.”
He explained his process of walking through the aspen grove and cutting small limbs off of the trees.
“Down at the bottom the limbs will die and turn dark and look very much like a drawn line in space,” Surls said. “So I took the limbs and made patterns, then molds, then waxes, then invested it, then burned it out, poured metal into it, then made it out of bronze, then welded them back together to a different shape.
“I operate under the premise that life is made up of art and science and philosophy, and mostly there is science, and hopefully there is a lot of creativity in it. There is also some philosophic message in there somewhere. Looking at limbs will always give you that.”
Locke’s piece, called “Open Book,” is of a woman who appears with open arms, and a welcoming stance.
“Her hands are holding universal symbols of giving, and nourishment for our ideas of mind, body and spirit,” she said. “When we have the elements here, why can’t we find the path to peace when it’s right in front of our eyes? Why does mankind have to squash other people to make their selves better, their lives better?”
Locke said that the calligraphy on the sculpture is in French, Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese, and she had friends help her translate it into those languages.
In response to a question about why the woman has multiple eyes, Locke said “It’s kind of like that saying we heard as children: Our mothers have eyes in the back of their heads. I like that sense of full awareness. They are fully aware of our surroundings, our internal being, and how we connect with other people.”
Artist Tiimo Mang says he creates furniture, functional art and sculpture in his Lakewood studio. His sculpture, called “Risen From the Ashes” grew from his education at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University which led him to create a series of sculptures that were based on birds with segmented bodies.
“The first ones I did were sandhill cranes, and I wanted to continue with that, so I did an origami crane with a segmented body. I started doing it just to do something different,” Mang said. “It came to mind to ask, what is the origami crane all about?”
Mang said that, through his research, he found out about a 2-year-old Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki, who had been one mile from Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was detonated in 1945. She survived the blast, but ten years later she died of radiation-induced leukemia. Through the process of her illness and her passing she tried to fold 1,000 origami cranes, which is supposed to bring good luck, health and healing to the body.
“She only made it to 644 when she passed, but the unintended consequence of her death was that it turned the origami crane into a symbol of world peace. This sculpture honors Sadako Sasaki because this is the second time she has risen from the ashes, and it also pays tribute to world peace.”
One of the few art pieces in the exhibit from an out-of-state artist – “Dude Ascending” by Joe Forrest Sackett of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was inspired, Sackett said, by the famous painting “Nude Descending a Staircase” by French artist Marcel Duchamp.
“I got the idea to transfer that into some sort of 3-dimensional idea,” Sackett said. “I first made a little model of this about 3 feet high so I could work out the geometry. I wanted to make something that was curvilinear out of entirely rectilinear stuff – so all the lines are straight, but the piece itself curves.”
He said it’s the biggest thing he’s ever made, “and it may well be the biggest thing I ever make because it was a lot of trouble.”
Sackett said that many of his neighbors in Albuquerque actually have his art pieces on their lawns, so they call it “Joe’s little wonderland.”
Carbondale artist Jack Brendlinger is well-known in Aspen as he, along with his wife Marsha, were the original owners of the Applejack Inn which featured Aspen’s first indoor swimming pool. The couple were also well-known pranksters, and, in fact, Brendlinger wrote a book called “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even – Stories of the Aspen practical joke years.”
“One of the things that we did when I first came to Aspen was get into a lot of trouble,” Brendlinger said. “But that changed rapidly when we found out that we knew all the policemen, so they wouldn’t throw us in jail. The things we did in those years would get us thrown in jail if we did them today.”
He said his sculpture for the Carbondale exhibit, called “Pirouette,” is one of his favorite sculptures.
“I have some 300 sculptures in my house, so it was difficult to choose just one for this display.”
Brendlinger said “Pirouette” is in the style of renowned Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti whose sculptures are very narrow and thin.
“I became a big fan of his early on and started trying to do something using that style.”
One of the challenges of creating sculptures so thin, he said, is that it requires him to sculpt over an armature to stabilize the piece.
“I sculpt in wax rather than clay, but even with the wax it would fall apart easily if it didn’t have an armature in there.”
One of Giacometti’s sculptures, called “Walking Man” sold for $104.3 million in 2010 – a new record for an art work at auction.
“So I’m very glad that I’m doing this kind of art,” Brendlinger said. “My price is quite a bit lower than that.”