Developing an art habit
Tips for getting across the gallery’s threshold

John Cogan's acrylic painting. titled "Grazing Pals," hangs from the wall at the Karyn Gabaldon Fine Arts Gallery Monday afternoon.”/ Photo by Todd Newcomer.

by Jules Masterjohn

If you haven’t yet sworn off a bad habit for the coming year, how about adding an enriching one to life in 2006? I suggest developing an “art habit” by making regular visits to our many local art venues. This new addiction won’t have deleterious effects on your body or mind though it could lead to an exchange of some green stuff for some artfully arranged red, yellow and blue stuff. A word of warning to those uninitiated – visiting an art gallery can take some courage.

I have heard apprehension voiced by more than a few students attending the art appreciation classes I teach. Knowing this, the course is designed to introduce students to local galleries and offers a basic visual vocabulary from which to communicate. Not only intended to nurture the understanding of art, the curriculum fortifies the student with language, in the event that a gallery sales person should approach asking the dreaded question, “So what do you think?” As one student explained, he froze, unprepared to say anything but “Uh, it’s nice,” when a gallery representative posed the question. More timid art appreciators than he might completely swear off entering a gallery, remaining on the safety of the sidewalk and peering through a gallery’s plate glass window.

From those brave individuals that have ventured beyond the gallery threshold, I have learned that a gallery is more likely to be entered if it is stacked from floor to ceiling with many different kinds of expressions to take in, like Termar Trends on Main Avenue. With so much to see, one needs not stay too long in front of any one piece and can move quickly from one item to the next, dodging that eager sales person who is poised to ask the mortifying question.

Gallery owner Karyn Gabaldon has seen many hands and noses pressed to her gallery windows. The front of her Main Avenue space is almost all glass, allowing the art to be seen from the sidewalk. She has found that if she props her door open, art admirers are much more likely to come to see the “Zen Contemporary” paintings, sculpture, ceramic vessels and jewelry within. Open door or not, do venture inside this month to view the plein air paintings created by 14 local artists. The artworks, painted at outdoor locations, depict area landscapes and will be auctioned at the annual Snowdown Wine Tasting fund-raiser to benefit La Plata Open Space Conservancy.

If you decide to take up the art habit this year, experts say that it will take 30 days to get this new groove established. January is a great month for beginning an art routine, for there is much to see.

The Durango Arts Center (DAC) hosts two exhibits that open this Friday evening – one upstairs in the Art Library and the other in the main gallery as well as across the avenue at Steamworks. The 30th annual Juried Exhibit presents art chosen by a guest juror with a concurrent showing at the brewery. The “Salon des Refuses” at the brewpub is a display of works that were not selected by the juror. The alternate exhibit takes its name and concept from the 1863 Paris exhibit that showcased more than 1,200 artworks by the early modern artists. These artists’ innovative paintings and sculptures were shunned by the French Academy, so they created a historic and successful venue for their work outside the mainstream Parisian art market.

On the adjacent street corner to the DAC, the Open Shutter Gallery will be hosting a reception that same evening for the exhibit “Live With History: Photographs From 1862 to 2005,” a collection of images from the New York Times Photo Archives. Many celebrated images, like a 1911 photo of Orville Wright at the helm of a glider, are on display.

A stroll down to the corner of 9th Street and Main brings an enthusiast of Western and regional themes to the Sorrel Sky Gallery, a warm and inviting place divided into individual alcoves which display original paintings, sculptures and jewelry by emerging and established artists. Local artists such as Peter Campbell, Mike Desatnik and Ben Nighthorse Campbell share exhibit space with other nationally acclaimed artists such as Veryl Goodnight, Denny Haskew, Rory Wagner and Chuck Sabatino. The gallery also shows a growing collection of limited edition “giclees” – high-resolution, individually produced reproductions – that are nearly indistinguishable from the original work. The recent advancements in giclee (zhee-clay) technology have made these high-quality reproductions on canvas and fine-art papers an affordable choice for many collectors.

For those with nonregional tastes, the Ellis Crane Gallery is showing contemporary fine art and jewelry by mostly Durango-area artists. The gallery is hard to miss, its front window blazes with colorful art glass. The farther into the gallery one goes, the more it feels like a Soho loft, complete with its high ceiling, exposed duct system, and bared red brick walls displaying figurative, abstract and minimalist paintings by Krista Harris, Phyllis Stapler and Joan Levine Russell. Painters Judith D’Agostino and Cynthia DeBolt each offer their own unique visions of the landscape.

On the other side of Main Avenue and on the lighter side of art, Lime Berry carries the whimsical papier mache creatures by Amy Vaclav-Felker, Wild Hair Tribe dolls by Deborah Gorton, and vividly painted naïve canvases and wooden sculptures by Leland Holiday. While at Lime Berry, do stop next door into Rain Dance Gallery, where Bob Canning’s vibrantly colored cowboy paintings seem like they might gallop off the wall.

No tour of Durango galleries is complete without a visit into Toh-Atin Gallery, located just off Main on Ninth Street. Durango’s oldest gallery, Toh-Atin specializes in Native American jewelry, pottery, baskets, kachinas and Navajo weavings. Easily, hours can be spent exploring the different rooms within the gallery, marveling at the many art forms represented. For a really big art fix, engage gallery owner, Jackson Clark, in a conversation about two of his favorite topics: paintings by Durango artist Stanton Englehart and Navajo weavings. Listening to him speak can be habit-forming! •



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