Regional artists contribute a variety of work to regional juried
|Two raku-fired pots by Louden Kiracofe
are displayed in the foreground at the Durango Arts Center’s
Juried Exhibit. The show, featuring local and regional artists,
runs through June 30./Photo by Todd Newcomer.
From whimsical to somber, dreamy to vibrant, abstract to detailed,
the Durango Arts Center once again is presenting its annual Juried
Art Show, a selection of works from regional and local artists.
According to Arts Center Executive Director Brian Wagner, the
juried show is one of the center's most popular among artists
and viewers. It also is one of the most unpredictable, given
the array of art submitted as well as the fact that exhibit pieces
are chosen based upon the discretion of a single juror.
"The juried show is broadly representative of the strengths
of our artists, the community and what we represent," Wagner
said. "It encompasses the diversity of views of the community."
This year's juror was Charles Parson, a university-level teacher
of art for 30 years and chairman of the Sculpture Department
at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver. Aside
from an interest in landscape painting, Parson also recently
published a book on contemporary sculpture.
Wagner said Parson's varied interests, as well as a unique interest
in the community, served the show well.
"Before the show, he came to Durango and just walked the streets," he
said. "He made an effort to know who we are as a community. It
shows a very thoughtful juror."
Wagner said based on the observations Parson made, he whittled
the field from 165 pieces to 65.
"Parson chose the strongest of the works and what was most representative
of our community," he said.
And while the exhibit is heavy on landscape paintings (Parson
is a landscape painter), there is enough variety to please all
palettes with a handful of photographs; digitally produced pieces;
a mobile made with recycled objects; as well as pottery and sculpture.
|Maureen May’s piece, “NO Matthew
5:8 (A Geography Lesson)” won the
exhibit’s “Best of Show“ award and has
raised discussion over its political content. /Photo by Todd
Taking home "Best of Show" honors was Durango artist Maureen
May's multi-media mural, "NO Matthew 5:9 (A Geography Lesson)." In
addition to winning the top prize, the overtly political piece
also has generated a flurry of comments - both good and bad.
"I actually have heard feedback about the winning piece - most
of it positive, all of it recognizing the artist's artistic strength," Wagner
said. "But some people have reacted negatively to the political
In a scene reminiscent one of Michelangelo's paintings in the
Sistine Chapel, "Matthew 5:9" depicts George Bush flanked by
his administration while overlooking a map of the Middle East.
There are various targets placed on the map, meant to signify
Bush's "Axis of Evil," as well as a red laser emanating from
his eye toward Baghdad and another from his finger at Kabul.
Next to the mural on the floor is a small stool on which sits
the Holy Bible.
May, who is a regular participant in the juried show, said she
was surprised the piece even made it into the show, let alone
won, given its content.
"I was quite surprised," she said. "I didn't think it would
get into the show. I didn't know what to expect of the juror."
Jules Masterjohn, program and exhibit director, said Parson
chose the piece because of its complexity.
"He described it as revealing itself on many levels," she said. "As
you looked at it longer and longer, there were more and more
subtleties, which he felt a good piece of art should have."
May said she had plenty of time to develop the work's various
layers. She embarked on it in September 2001, in response to
the U.S. retaliation for the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I got the idea for the piece on the day it was announced by
the administration that the war in Afghanistan would be called 'Operation
Infinite Justice,'" she said. "I immediately thought, 'Bush just
declared himself God.'"
Although the name was later changed to "Operation Enduring Freedom," May
said in her mind, the principle remained the same.
"As far as I'm concerned, (Operation Infinite Justice) is still
the goal," she said. 4
The huge map, which forms the backdrop for May's piece, was
found during a going-out-of-business sale at the Community of
Learners charter school.
"I found it in a back room under furniture," she said. "I said, 'This
is where I'm going to do my image.'"
|Katherine Barr’s black-and-white
“Stinson Beach.”/Photo by Todd Newcomer.
Over the next few years, May worked on the piece periodically,
adding to it as new developments unfolded, such as the war in
"As I worked on it, more things came to light, more came out
to the general public," she said.
May said she finally decided to get the piece ready for exhibition
at the behest of friend and fellow artist, Karen Pittman.
"Karen Pittman kept pushing me. She was a big impetus to me
finishing," she said.
However, May is careful to point out that the word "finishing" is
used figuratively. Like the situation the piece is based on,
the piece keeps evolving.
"Hopefully, I won't have to add to it," she said. "But I don't
know. That's not for me to determine."
Nor is the interpretation of the piece, she added.
"I know I pissed people off, and others appreciated it," May
said. "I think it's important for people to see the piece and
get what they can out of it. Some may see it as something very
positive about the administration. I welcome any interpretation."
Wagner echoed this, saying that such varied interpretation is
one of the most enriching aspects of art.
"Art, for many, is that which is beautiful, and it also is a
tool for helping us think about life around us," he said. "A
piece like this causes dialogue in our community."
He and May also were quick to point out that May's piece was
but one of many in a show as varied as the region from which
it drew upon for artists.
"Maureen's piece is one of 65 in a show that speaks to a broader
community perspective," he said.
Standing in stark contrast to May's piece were the other award
winners: Jan Goldman's pastel, "Guardian of Trout Lake" which
earned the Juror's Choice Award; and Ed Kruse's "Winter Valley
Sunset," another pastel that won the Merit Award.
Wagner said what drew most people to Kruse's piece was the fact
that rather than work around telephone lines, he incorporated
them into the image - with success.
"He kept the telephone poles in, which most artists wouldn't
have done," he said.
Other noteworthy pieces include Katherine Barr's black and white
photograph "Stinson Beach" of a dock on calm water, shrouded
in morning mist; Krista Harris' oil "One Cloud," a well-crafted
painting done in a naive, almost childlike perspective of a
lone horse standing beneath the only cloud in an otherwise empty,
orange sky; and Anne Strawn's mixed-media "The Secret Place," a
surreal full-moon winterscape in cool tones that send shivers
down the spine even in the midst of summer.
|Noah Lindgren’s electronic image,
Breaking from tradition is Noah Lindgren's electronic image, "Still," an
almost three-dimensional geometric image of a man in repose,
with the determination of whether he is down for a nap, a night's
sleep or the big sleep left entirely up to the individual. Deborah
Gorton's mixed-media assemblage, "Ancient Bundles" is a three-dimensional
piece based on three similar small wooden blocks that, upon closer
inspection, reveal distinct and separate personalities. Fort
Lewis College student Anna Vrook Ward submitted her pair of otherworldly
clay sculptures, "Lil' Pucker" and "Salty Orb," which look simultaneously
as if they may have just crashed through the atmosphere but are
It is such variety that makes the annual juried show so popular,
said Wagner. And as controversial, thought-provoking or moving
a piece may be, Wagner points out every one is tied to the others
by one common community thread.
"We're a community arts center, and as such, we try to broadly
represent our community and its members," he said. "There is
something here that will appeal to everyone."