Four locals will represent the valley arts community in a juried exhibition of Colorado artists, opening this week at the Arvada Center for Humanities.
The Arvada Center put out its call to artists from all media in every corner of the state last year. They received more than 1,600 entries from nearly 600 artists living and working in Colorado. Center curator Collin Parson, and Dean Sobel, director of the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, culled the selections down to 160 artists. Sobel is the former director of the Aspen Art Museum.
Among those selected for the statewide exhibit are Aspen’s Sara Ransford and Lara Whitley, and Glenwood Springs’ Lynette O’Kane and Andrew Roberts-Gray.
In recent days, the artists and center staffers have been hanging the show, “Art of the State: A Juried Exhibition of Colorado,” preparing for Thursday’s opening, which fills more than 10,000 square feet of gallery space in the museum.
“I don’t know what we were thinking,” laughed Parson on Friday, taking a break from the scramble to hang the massive show with scores of artists pouring in from around the state.
The diverse work in “Art of the State” includes mixed media, photography, printmaking, video, various modes of painting and sculpture — a catch-all of visual expression in Colorado.
“We said we wanted everything, and we got it,” Parson said. “The goal of the show is really to get a snapshot of what’s going on throughout the state. ... We found people in some very isolated places doing great work.”
The valley artists are likewise a diverse lot. O’Kane works in mixed media on canvas with a recent focus on elk and deer. Ransford does ceramic sculptures that echo shapes from the natural world. Roberts-Gray makes non-traditional landscape art, blending mountain portraits with contemporary collage. Whitley’s work selected for the show is a wire and encaustic sculpture.
The pieces were selected for their artistic merit, not on where the artists were from. Yet, the exhibition ended up representing all corners of the state, along with Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. The quartet of local artists all applied independently, and they don’t all know each other — though some have crossed paths in local classes and galleries.
While there may not be a common aesthetic thread running through the local artists’ work selected for “Art of the State,” they’ve all been nurtured by the local arts community.
“There is a community,” Whitley said. “And it’s based in pockets of learning — from Red Brick resident artists to Anderson Ranch and CMC [Colorado Mountain College] and the Carbondale Clay Center — and there are gallery points, like the Aspen Chapel, where local artists show. So people know each other by moving in those circles, whether it’s as a student or a teacher or as a fan of art.”
Roberts-Gray said like a lot of artists, he works alone in his home studio. But he ventures into workshops — like the immersive program at Anderson Ranch Arts Center, in which he’s currently enrolled — to meet artists and gain from their perspectives. And he solicits input on his work from local experts like Aspen Art Museum curator Jacob Proctor.
“I’ve been fortunate to use a lot of the resources in the valley,” said Roberts-Gray, whose work is frequently in Aspen art gallery Quintez & Co. “It’s just a great situation for an artist to have that breadth of support.”
Parson, from the Arvada Center, said they started “Art of the State” by reaching out to the arts communities throughout Colorado. Despite the spread-out nature of the Western Slope, he said they found gathering places and organizations for artists just about everywhere.
“It’s unique how there are these little oasises throughout the state like Aspen with the museum and the Anderson Ranch,” he said.
Growing up, Parson’s sculptor father often had to leave Colorado to show his work at large exhibitions. Running the Arvada Center, Parson wants to give Centennial State artists the opportunity to get the exposure of a big show in their home state. He said he had previously seen the work of about half of the “Art of the State” — and had exhibited Ransford’s twice before — but the other half were new discoveries for him.
While it’s been a huge undertaking, Parson said he hopes to do it again and make the statewide showcase a reoccurring event.
“The way the show is going I think maybe every three years we could do it and re-evaluate the state of the arts and see what’s new,” Parson said.