Aviks and crew reach far beyond Durango

Southwest Life

Ann Butler

Current Columnist

Email: abutler@durangoherald.com

Phone Number: (970) 375-4584

Aviks and crew reach far beyond Durango

Guest Curator Ilze Aviks and artist Clare Verstegen carefully switch labels on Verstegen’s works after realizing the two pieces were mislabeled during the Benefactors Reception for the Textiles Today: Redefining the Medium exhibit at the Durango Arts Center on April 26. The piece shown is titled Atmospheric Patterns, and the other is called Cloud Cover.
Well-known as a textile artist herself, Ilze Aviks, right, guest curated “Textiles Today: Redefining the Medium,” which opened at the Durango Arts Center last week. Clare Verstegen, who attended the Benefactors Reception at the DAC, has two pieces in the show.

Making a list and checking it twice – no, that’s not Santa, it’s Ilze Aviks and the committee of Textiles Today: Redefining the Medium, which opened at the Durango Arts Center last week.

They made a list of the 20 artists working on textiles today who they think are the most influential and important contributors to the field and invited them to participate in the exhibit.

Everyone said yes, which is pretty amazing considering they are all top artists known nationally and internationally, but even more cool, many created new works just for this show.

I don’t want to write one more word without giving credit to an incredible group of people who put in more than a year of work organizing this show. It’s nothing less than stunning and of remarkable caliber for a town of this size.

(Students and lovers of the textile arts already are making detours to Durango to visit it. Talk about the arts as an economic driver.)

Ann Norris served as the chairwoman – she’s a textile artist herself. Other members of the committee were J.M. Jones, Sandra Mapel, Leah Pahlmeyer, Peggy Zemach, Jeanne Brako, Mary Puller, Jenny Vierling and Becky Surmeier.

Brako, who is the curator at the Center of Southwest Studies and has mounted more than a few memorable shows herself, brought Jack Townes into the project. He’s a professional installer who’s currently redoing the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe – not just installing a show, redoing the museum. This was a tricky show to hang, and Townes did it with panache.

Name a textile technique – knitting, quilting, embroidery, felting, stitching, beading ... these artists have used them and more. There are amazing pieces that are equal parts high technology and hands-on, age-old techniques, pieces that are hand-woven and machine-woven. I’m glad it’s up to my colleague Judith Reynolds to write the actual review of the show, because I was left speechless more than once. (Her review will run Tuesday in the Arts & Entertainment section of The Durango Herald.)

I was a lucky duck and was invited to the Benefactors Reception on April 26, so I got a sneak peek before it officially opened. (This job as the Neighbors columnist definitely has its privileges.)

As one can imagine, an exhibit at this level is expensive to produce. Maynes, Bradford, Shipps & Sheftel; the Downtown Durango Business Improvement District; and TOP, the annual fashion show where artists design clothes and accessories starting with a blank shirt, are the name sponsors, but 20 generous individuals, couples and businesses sponsored the artists as well.

Kirk Komick and Diane Wildfang opened the lobby of the Rochester Hotel for the reception before we all trooped down to the Barbara Conrad Gallery at the arts center for the show. (No food or drink allowed in the gallery for this show – textiles are too vulnerable.)

The folks at The Yellow Carrot catered a delicious menu, and I want to give kudos for making sandwiches available. They’re real food, instead of just appetizers, and easy to eat at a stand-up reception.

The menu included a variety of sushi rolls with ingredients such as lemon-basil poached shrimp, black soy-seared saku tuna, smoked coho salmon, lotus root, truffled asparagus, sesame cucumbers, wasabi avocado and carrot spaghetti. The housemade black bean chorizo and bok choy-ginger potstickers with a red pepper thread-chili-garlic sauce were a hit, as were the sweet potato-and-Parmesan chicken-confit lollipops with grilled black cardamom pineapple.

The assorted sliders included three types all served on The Yellow Carrot’s housemade black sesame-and-Parmesan brioche. They were a roasted red-and-yellow-beet Napoleon with horseradish-cheddar salsa, Colorado goat cheese and daikon sprouts; the huge Cuban, with oven-roasted turkey breast, grilled five spice pork belly, dill pickles, yellow mustard and basil mayonnaise; and the Italian chicken salad sandwich with lemon-thyme marinated chicken breast with artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, red globe grapes and Parmesan-Reggianito in basil-tarragon cream.

Of course, Yellow Carrot owner Sari Brown is known for her desserts, and this reception was no exception. Guests enjoyed butterscotch-caramel-fudge-torte and satin lemon-cream truffles, white chocolate-vanilla bean mousse-filled chocolate cups and macadamia-peanut butter cream cups.

Kudos to her, her chef de cuisine Ginny DeJong and general manager/event specialist Jessica Lovelace for a delicious and lovely spread.

Clare Verstegen, a professor at Arizona State University in Tempe, has two pieces in the show, and came for the event. She has recently been fascinated by atmospheric forces and how they parallel emotional forces.

She and Aviks shared some fun facts about some of the creative forces behind the work.

Mark Newport, who’s head of the Fiber Department at the renowned Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, knits superhero suits, with a wide variety of stitches and patterns. He started with the ones we all know, such as Batman and Superman, but now creates his own, often creating stories to go with the suit. And he’s been known to don one of his suits on campus. Newport uses only acrylic yarn, because that’s what his grandmother used, and he likes the connection to her and his family history in textiles.

Ed Lambert, whose intricate stitchery has to be seen to be believed, died before the exhibit was mounted, but his widow lent the DAC his most recent work.

Bhakti Ziek’s magnificent woven wall hanging, created just for this show, was funded by grants from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Vermont State Arts Council.

This show is missing just one thing: a piece or two by Aviks. I asked Verstegen if Aviks hadn’t been guest curating the show, would she have been one of the 20 artists invited? She said, “Without a doubt.”

It’s easy to take our local artists for granted, but Aviks is one artist who has put Durango on the international textile-arts map.

I urge everyone to take some time to visit this extraordinary show.

And just in case Santa is checking his list for some early Christmas shopping, I absolutely covet Sally Sellers’ “Approximating Pi,” and I promise to be nice for the rest of the year. Wow.


Enjoying gorgeous May birthdays are Laura Lewis Marchino, Kenya Mills, Sophie Ragsdale, Jesse Sheldon, Evan Krispin, Kenzie Nielson, Bob Barnhardt, Shirley Gale, Dolores Jaye, Ryan Smith, Collin Jackson, Deon Mertz, Nick Skahill, Frank Anesi, Kim Buffalo, Jerry Hanes, McKenzie James, Phyllis Tucker, Nicholas Unkovskoy, Travis Von Tersch, James Zink, Talisker Kautter, Makayla Safran, Isabell Walt, Ayden Guion, Janelle Meyer, Ray Wilson, Darlene Cheesewright, Sandy Beebe, William Crouch, Donnie Wince, Jane Marentette, Chris Larson, Clarice Huckins, Hillary Wolfe, Sherri Libby, Carl Hotter, Rollie Roth, Rinda Slack, Ann Norris, Jeanne Brako, Kris Ryall and David Kidd.


One of the great ladies of La Plata County is poised to celebrate her 95th birthday, and I know she would appreciate hearing from her friends.

Emma Horvath’s big day is May 10, and her address is Senior Life Country Residence, 3689 County Road 131, Hesperus, CO 81326. Drop her a card or stop by and visit. Or call her at (505) 215-8661.

Born a Paulek, her story is the story of the southwest region of the county. Her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Lithuania and built a life through hard work and persistence, values she has demonstrated in her own life in spades.

When she was 90, Horvath sat down to write her autobiography with her son Roy Horvath, and it’s an entertaining and informative read. Not only is she related to a lot of the residents on the west side of the county, she taught most of the the rest. Happy birthday, Mrs. Horvath!


It was a perfect melding of function and mission when TOP co-sponsored the Textiles Today exhibit at the Durango Arts Center. TOP’s main fundraiser is the juried exhibit, fashion show and auction that challenges local artists to come up with something fabulous using the T-shirts or fabric it provides, so both this exhibit and the fundraiser are textile-related.

TOP, which is put on by New Face Productions, has a clear mission statement: to benefit cutting edge adult programming at the DAC, which Textiles Today clearly is.

Before I forget, today and June 1 and 2 are the remaining days to pick up the blank “canvases,” also known as shirts and fabric, for the 2012 event. Get them at There’s No Place Like Home, 820 Main Ave. The deadline for completed items is Aug. 25, and the big evening for the fashion show and auction is Sept. 21. Entry fees are required, with reduced rates for students.

More information is available by calling Regina Hogan at 385-4989 or emailing top.nfp@gmail.com. A prospectus is online at www.durangoarts.org.

I’m even more jazzed for the TOP event after seeing “Bill Cunningham New York” at the Back Space Theatre on Thursday. The film, with two screenings sponsored by TOP, follows New York Times photojournalist Bill Cunningham through his frenetic days and nights. Cunningham writes Evening Hours and On the Street for the Sunday Times every week.

Evening Hours is somewhat similar to Neighbors in that it chronicles the philanthropy scene in the Big Apple, although I don’t have Astors, Trumps or Basses in my column, and thankfully, I don’t have to worry about who people are wearing. But like me, Cunningham looks for the charities that do the most good with no concern as to who is on the guest list. He gets a lot more excited by what guests are wearing, and his invitation list is 20 times larger than mine, but I completely empathized. In the daytime, he rides his bicycle on the streets of Manhattan, with his camera ever ready to catch the latest fashion trends.

Cunningham’s belief that fashion is the “armor that allows us to survive day-to-day reality,” makes it feel OK to love fashion again.

In homage to Cunningham, Durango photographers Kyla Jenkinson and Wesley Sebern did their own version of On the Street in Durango, which was shown before the film. The ladies of Photo Divine definitely showed how we rock jeans, T-shirts and comfortable clothes, but we can look pretty sharp, too. And for people who weren’t riding a bike or walking their dogs – Durango’s most popular accessories – hats seemed to be the ultimate fashion statement.

Seach for “TOP This Durango” to check out their slideshow.

In the last week, I’ve seen two women looking stunning in pieces they bought at last year’s TOP auction. Carol Salomon wore a jacket created by Ann Norris to the “Bill Cunningham New York” screening, and Rochelle Mann wore the most-talked-about piece from last fall, the multimedia, for lack of a better word, jacket created by Barbara Belanger at a party earlier in the week. (I’ll have more about that event in my next column.)

I guess I do care who people are wearing – if it’s a local designer.

Clearly, TOP is where all of Durango’s most fashionable women shop.


The trees are in bloom for the anniversaries of Paul and Monica Broderick, Fred and Fran Rusk, Kevin Jones and Donna Suggs, Mike and Mandy Gardner, Rob and Maria Kolter and Vance and Carrie Thurman.


Here’s how to reach me: neighbors@durangoherald.com; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk.

Please include contact information for all items.

Aviks and crew reach far beyond Durango

Guest Curator Ilze Aviks and artist Clare Verstegen carefully switch labels on Verstegen’s works after realizing the two pieces were mislabeled during the Benefactors Reception for the Textiles Today: Redefining the Medium exhibit at the Durango Arts Center on April 26. The piece shown is titled Atmospheric Patterns, and the other is called Cloud Cover.
Well-known as a textile artist herself, Ilze Aviks, right, guest curated “Textiles Today: Redefining the Medium,” which opened at the Durango Arts Center last week. Clare Verstegen, who attended the Benefactors Reception at the DAC, has two pieces in the show.
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