Creativity, technical refinement and playfulness.
On Friday night, juror Chad Colby summarized his criteria for the 35th annual Juried Exhibit at the Durango Arts Center. Associate professor of art at Fort Lewis College, Colby is known for his semi-abstract paintings that often layer symbols and images in high-spirited patterns of color and texture. So it should be no surprise to anyone that he has a preference for visual delight.
The annual DAC show drew 190 entries, Colby said at the opening reception. Sixty works made the cut for a spare and inviting exhibition. That left 130 works, of which 34 are on display across the street at Steamworks Brewing Co. Once again, a sponsoring business has stepped forward, and the Salon de Refuses is an interesting extension of what youll see at DAC. Look closely, and youll see works by several artists in both locations.
Meanwhile, Colbys award choices underscore his penchant for play. He named one of Deborah Gortons tiny effigy figures Best of Show. Discombobulated is a miniature figure assembled on a metal rod. Little boxes, slightly askew, suggest a body and are covered with bits of text. A small ceramic head sprouting little copper springs tops the figure. This quirky persona stands in company with two cousins, Unlocking the Heart and I Can Handle It. The first has a caged heart with dangling arms and legs. The other sprouts an old door handle which must have triggered the ironic title. Gortons quirky universe radiates a sense of humor and confusion.
Colby gave the Merit Award to Chandler Wigtons large mixed-media work with its inscrutable title. An Infinite Complex of Surfaces is a jaunty, sprawling visual diary. A huge yellow lozenge dominates the center pierced and surrounded by spidery black lines, grids, empty cartoon balloons, floating spirals and flat blocks of color. The mind on holiday? The painter seems to spill out whatever pops into his mind.
Juanita Ainsleys lively monoprint won the honorable mention award. Quizzically called Fat Cat, Ainsleys work celebrates color and pattern within a loose but clear grid structure. Each discreet section is rough-edged and contains childlike evocations of animals, flowers and buildings, plus one dog. Everything is dominated by a large black-and-white cat whose sharp whiskers pierce its neighbors space. Overall, its a whimsical riot of color kept in check by a keen sense of design.
Given Colbys stated guidelines, the two Jurors Choice awards are a bit of an anomaly. Serenity, a pastel by Sonya Johnson, and Chorus of Lichens, a sandstone sculpture by Rez Dog, aka Rod Craig, are essentially serious in nature. Both suggest a pure aesthetic vision, and both demonstrate stunning technical facility.
Johnsons pastel is a mystery, partly because her title seems ironic. The image could be a stormy sea or turbulent clouds. Either way, it is not serene but extraordinarily beautiful. Johnsons technique aims at super realism. Stand at a distance, and youll think Serenity is a photograph.
Rez Dogs sandstone sculpture all but glows as a series of organic pods knitted together in an elegant abstract matrix.
In general, the exhibit illustrates Colbys aesthetic. There are some puzzling choices, but you wont find any political smoke, a video diatribe or cutting edge installations. You will find quiet beauty Nancy Conrads Open Weave,; superb craftsmanship Nick Blaisdells Carved Teapot; and colorful humor Mary Ellen Morrows Tres Amigas. Youll also find many landscape iterations and one particularly elegant still life. Dont miss Peter Campbells small but masterful oil painting, China Cup.
Colbys fourth guideline, he said, was to select a coherent show. That he did. And for what its worth, the Salon at Steamworks is almost a twin.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at email@example.com.