Michael Lewis and Jim Eppler are two of the more popular artists showing at Sorrel Sky in downtown Durango. The gallery has sold Lewis oil paintings for about the last two years and has featured Epplers bronze wildlife sculptures for even longer.
Oddly enough, however, the two men never have met. But theyll have to become fast friends tonight when Sorrel Sky hosts a two-man show with 14 new paintings by Lewis and a fresh selection of Epplers signature, spooky ravens.
I dont know Jim, but I think its a good match for a painter and a sculptor; I sure like his work, Lewis said.
Lewis style is realistic, which could explain the pairing, as Epplers renditions, especially the ravens, also are dead-ringers for their models. Theres nothing abstract in the work of either man. Lewis, who was born in Gallup and now lives in Grants, N.M., about an hour west of Albuquerque, calls himself a noun painter; his subjects are people, places and things.
I dont focus on one particular subject because the landscape in New Mexico and Colorado is so rich you never run out. The same is true of people, lobbies, hotel rooms and patios, so youll see a lot of variety in my work, he said.
Eppler hasnt spent as much time in Colorado Sorrel Sky owner Shanan Campbell Wells saw his work in a Santa Fe gallery and invited him to show here. But neither is it foreign ground, as hes captured much of the local fauna in bronze over the years. But its those ravens dead-eyed, pitch-black ravens that are the stars of all of Epplers shows. He didnt have any particular fascination with the birds himself, but after a photography trip to Wyoming, one of his raven sculptures struck a nerve with a Santa Fe collector.
The buyer wanted a companion, and it just snowballed from there, so Ive kept at it. Most people have a strong reaction one way or the other. Something about that critter is not neutral, Eppler said.
While neither artist lives particularly close to Durango, both appreciate the town as an emerging market for serious art collectors and are happy to be in on the ground floor.
I prefer it to places like Santa Fe or Scottsdale, Lewis said.
There may be more foot traffic in places that are known for their art scenes, but the competition is also greater. Durango has a lot of vitality, and there are really great opportunities to establish your name as an artist in places like that.