Knowing I would be unable to go to Art Crush this year due to other commitments, I sought out instead the multitude of events the week before. They all cram into what is fast becoming known as “art week.” The extravaganza that is the Aspen Art Museum’s annual fundraiser, with its feted cocktails, dinner and dance amid a hugely profitable silent and live art auction, is the culmination, of course, but there’s lots of cool stuff that pops up before.

Kicking off at the Aspen Ice Garden, the local and regional galleries, which come to Art Aspen to exhibit as one large indoor art show separate from the outdoor show the week before, can be counted on to provide incredible diversity. Home-spun galleries take part, too, exposing their wares to a visitor base that may not have yet discovered them in their brick-and-mortar locations.

Manolo Valdez’s outdoor wire horse sculptures, presented by Opera Galley, stood out at the entry, and I liked them as much after seeing everything else and revisiting them on the way out. I would never get sick of seeing them at home, and the curb appeal would be amazing. This, of course, is lotto-winning spendy art, but it’s good to carve out your taste.

I loved the offerings too from UNIX, a New York gallery that brought pieces from Pablo Dona, an artist new to me whose stuff will stay on my radar. His pastel 3D sculptures, on first approach, appear to be ice cream dots but are, in fact, hundreds of Japanese erasers, the kind that kids collect, and I was just taken with the lightness, the fun, the color and confections. The work perfectly complements that of Brooklyn-based sculptor Peter Anton, whose dark bar ice-cream confection, a piece that I actually bought from this show some years ago, continues to wow people from my kitchen wall. New pieces by Anton include some insanely fabulous macaroons and his well-loved doughnuts sculptures hung next to Dona’s. Food sculptures just make me giggle guilty-pleasure giggles, as if I’ve eaten the missing doughnuts from the box myself, although sometimes there’s a deeper message, like the destructive nature of sugar addiction.

Occasionally there are private views around town; usually a personal invite is needed, and sometimes you run into just the right person at the right time. That’s how I got to enjoy the “exploded Mickey Mouse” studies and larger triptych painted by New Mexico-based artist Paul Pascarella, who showed some old and new pieces that felt organically collected lining the walls at a private home. Look him up. Neat stuff.

I also found myself at more than one trunk show, and before I knew it, the theme was jewelry. I met artist David Heston at the Hyman Avenue fountain, where his doggie and mine were stopped for a drink. He marched me back to Kemo Sabe to show me the leather-and-diamond wrist adornments and solid sculptural smart-casual unisex offerings. The fine jewelry aesthetic had somehow fused with lashings of leather from a gentleman’s ranch. Casual but sculptural enough for a formal look. A whole front counter jewel case filled with his adornments fit the Kemo Sabe personality perfectly.

Sisters Jackie and Jeannie Greenberg hosted a preview of Karl Fritsch rings (he’s one of the designers at their New York gallery-store Salon94 Design) at Jeannie’s Aspen home, and I fell in love with the chunkiest of them all. The medieval roughness and raw oxidized finishes (especially of a huge raw diamond chunk) were just really sexy. The New Zealand-based artist uses modern messages, like “I am awesome” inscriptions and Yoda and ET imagery, mixing high and low everything. Culture, gemstones, found objects. Some pieces are available in the Aspen Art Museum store, with the rest from Salon94 Design. Check them out in New York. 

We’re such an artist-appreciation town, I thought for the umpteenth time, and so current.  Sipping on a glass of wine, totally absorbed in the red glossy mouths of Marylin Minter’s work at Baldwin Gallery, it just solidified it for me – what with Ai Weiwei’s visit last month and all the other recent Anderson Ranch offerings. We have the goods. Period.