Before she established herself as one of the Four Corners' most celebrated artists, Sonja Horoshko spent her early years far from the desert and forest landscapes that would become an inextricable element of her paintings.
"When I was a child growing up in Denver, we never went to the mountains because of economic circumstance," Horoshko said on Wednesday, preparing for the opening of her latest exhibit.
"Afterimage.2" opens Saturday at the Desert Pearl Gallery in Horoshko's adopted hometown of Cortez. The 27 paintings in the exhibit are a follow-up to her 2006 Aspen Guard Station artist-in-residency tenure, which she said produced the warmest response to her paintings in the 17 years she's lived
"We have the largest aspen grove in the world in Colorado, and a big percentage of the population doesn't experience the landscape outside of the city. This is one way to bring the forest to the people," Horoshko said.
Horoshko's talents aren't limited to the canvas, and her studio extends far from the mountain forests into the vast Southwestern landscape of the Navajo Nation. She's written for numerous publications about the art, culture and social conditions of Native American reservation life and has had countless showings of her artwork at galleries and museums throughout the Four Corners and the country. But "Afterimage.2" marks a historic personal first for Horoshko.
"This is the first time I've had a solo exhibit in Cortez, where I live," she said.
"We finally have a top-flight gallery in Cortez, and it's a privilege to show in such a professional space as Desert Pearl."
Desert Pearl owner Marilyn Cook opened the Main Street gallery earlier this year. Horoshko has profiled several of Cook's featured artists in print articles and helps with promotions, but in an e-mail Cook said her friend has been much quieter as opening day for "Afterimage.2" approaches.
"She does not cover her own visual art, and although it is award-winning, she rarely focuses attention on herself. Therefore, I am extraordinarily proud and pleased to be the gallery finally providing her with a solo exhibition," Cook wrote.
When "Afterimage.2" ends its Cortez run in October, Horoshko said she hopes to take the exhibit on the road to the Denver-metro area, whose residents she most wants to see inspired. One of her paintings was selected earlier this summer to hang at Denver International Airport and in the Capitol Building, but Horoshko has loftier aspirations.
"If I could repeat these images on one wall installed in the (Capitol) lobby permanently, that would be bringing the forest to the city," she said.
"Poverty demands that you do the same work every day, and a lot of what I do is directed in a subtle way to push that envelope so people become more conscious of how we fit together in these beautiful places."