When Studio & released its call for submissions for its annual juried exhibition, it challenged artists to think about the theme “Truth.”
The gallery selected local artist Shan Wells as the show’s juror. Wells was tasked with whittling a field of about 160 submissions down to the 24 pieces that will be on display through the end of the month at the gallery, 1027 Main Ave.
Wells said he received the submissions without many additional details, so he was able to focus primarily on the artwork. In keeping with the show’s theme, he said there was one important factor he was looking for in the pieces.
“The theme was ‘Truth,’ and for me, the way that I decided to interpret that theme was that the pieces needed to be inherently truthful to themselves,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of art that purported to be something that it wasn’t when you looked at it – it had some flowery title or it had some pretension to be something else, and when you looked at it, it was like, ‘Well, wow, that’s not really there at all.’ You have to read into it. So, I was looking for things that were self-contained, that were truthful to themselves, they weren’t trying to be something else.”
For him, the connection between the title of a piece and the work itself was the key to his first step of combing through the entires. He then had a second stage of judging the pieces that made it through his first round.
“When I went back and did my second round of judging, I was looking for pieces that were interesting. It’s like, ‘OK, this is inherently truthful, but is it a good piece of artwork? Does it speak to me, is it emotive, is it funny, is it powerful?’” he said, adding that his selections were from a vast group of artists. “I picked all up and down the spectrum: Some of the pieces were obviously done by amateurs, and that’s OK. They spoke to me, they had an emotive quality or they were funny. And some of them were obviously done by people who were doing it for a living, and that’s fine, too.
“Mostly, everybody just interpreted truth their own way and left it for me to kind of find it. That was a lot of fun.”
And for Wells, who grew up in Durango, this show, and Studio & in general, have shown how far Durango has come in its appreciation and encouragement of art.
“I’ve seen a real progression in the type of artwork that has become acceptable to be shown over the decades. It’s become much more sophisticated, it’s become much more varied and rich,” he said. “I think Studio & is a great example of how that progression is ongoing. Studio &’s really bringing in interesting stuff; we’re going to have spoken word, we’re going to have sculpture, we’re going to have paintings, we’re going to have all sorts of different types of work.
“(Studio) & creates this space where we can go and see work that you’d really need to go to a bigger city to see. I think that just enriches our community, it’s a great resource. The people there are doing yeoman’s work; they’re definitely doing the heavy lifting for us, and we owe them a lot.”