Snowdown's all about Da Nile this year, but Karyn Gabaldon and three other artists have jumped into the seasonal fray with a show of landscape paintings and pastels, most of which deal with rivers closer to home. Like the Animas.Nonetheless, Gabaldon, who is also the gallery owner hosting the exhibit in her Main Avenue gallery, has chosen to call the show "Along the Nile." She'll throw a party there tonight with what she says are "Egyptian munchies" and encourages guests to give their Snowdown costumes a first airing.
Pastels are wrongly named or perhaps the advance of technology has caused that condition to slip up on them. Pastels have come to mean pale colors, but the pictures in this exhibit show that artists using pastels can come up with hues so vibrant they grab your attention from across the room.
Another virtue of pastels is they allow artists to execute squiggly lines and dots that are particularly useful in depicting water.
I'm thinking particularly of Lorraine Trenholm's rafting series. Her line work in white is persuasive in capturing the fast-moving water.
In "Pink Spring," Trenholm moves back to the subtlety of the title color, showing it off as it appears in rocks. While in "The Flow," she brightens her palette with brilliant, zowie greens.
Trenholm, Rebecca Koeppen and Maureen May all work in pastels here while Gabaldon sticks to her acrylics.
Just a note about the prolific artists exhibiting in this show: May also has a one-woman show of prints upstairs at Durango Arts Center and Koeppen also has a painting in the La Plata Open Space Conservancy show at Bank of Colorado.
Koeppen goes for subtlety in "Tree Shadows on the River," nicely dovetailing the rocks with the water's movement.
Gabaldon paints the transparency of water with thin acrylic washes in "Guiding Light." She manages to capture the light penetrating the transparent water all the way to the river's bed.
May concentrates on close-ups of water and nothing else. She tries this experiment both in pastels and oil, and, for me, the pastels are more effective in this ambitious undertaking.
The La Plata Open Space Conservancy show is small this year. It will auction only seven pictures, along with the impressive spread of food and wine it plans to serve Thursday. The aesthetic is extremely conservative. The featured painting, "Crossing the Animas River," by John Cogan, is intricately executed, but the subject and colors remind me of the pictures that show up on the lids of jigsaw puzzles.
Gayles Lewis' "Bondad at Sunset" is striking. The similarity to the work of our great local landscape painter Stanton Englehart is pronounced.
As Snowdown opens, local art lovers can see one show that takes tradition and moves it on and another that just gives landscape painting another outing as it has long been done.
With the youthful, prankish energy that pervades the rest of Snowdown, it's surprising that we don't have more chances to see art that plays around audaciously with the boundaries of what we expect.
Maybe next year.