Sometimes it's not enough to fully appreciate an artist through art alone; you've got to know who's behind it. Gary
McVean is just such an artist.
The venerable Durango jeweler, painter and general busybody opens a new exhibit today at the Desert Pearl Gallery in
Cortez, and it's well worth the hour drive just to meet the man and see what he's been up to.
He's a workaholic. Looking at these pieces you can see that," said Carla Weatherly, a longtime friend of McVean's who
works at Desert Pearl and was instrumental in bringing McVean's work to Cortez.
With some artists we don't always fill up the space, but we don't have that problem with Gary's show, so I'm really
pleased with it," she said.
McVean is probably best-known as a jeweler, and has owned his own store, Lanka Blue, for 21 years on Main Avenue in
Durango. The Desert Pearl exhibit will include a sampling of his jewelry, most set in gold and silver, but the bulk of
it will focus on about 30 of McVean's uniquely recognizable paintings. An ever-evolving artist, McVean's recent
paintings are a study in color, composition and attention to detail that belies the artist's laid-back demeanor.
The easiest description of his work is abstract, but McVean blurs that line by incorporating tangible images in his own
unique style. Examples in this show include images of the mythological Crow Mother and a 4-foot by 5-foot painting of
lichen on which McVean spent three months.
I call it a landscape because it's something you can go out and see. It's alive, or organic anyway, but I guess it's
still kind of abstract," McVean said.
Another of McVean's enjoyable quirks is his refusal to title his paintings, regardless of what they portray. Instead,he assigns numbers to each, but he doesn't really keep track of which is which. Yet, he's able to quickly recall each
by description, and he is ready to explain the creative process behind every painting. It's really quite
I got tired of titling things because it influences what people are thinking or looking for before they even see it.
I'd rather they draw their own conclusions," he said.
While McVean's reputation as a painter is well-established - he took home Best of Show honors last summer at the
Durango Arts Center's 33rd annual Juried Show - he describes himself as a jeweler who paints" and puts most of his
vocational efforts into his jewelry craft.
That's because he prefers the autonomy of his own shop to dealing with art gallery owners, many of whom rub him the
Fortunately, Desert Pearl owner Marilyn Cooke isn't one of them.
It's easier to make a living as a jeweler because you don't have to kiss so much butt. And they're not the kinds of
people whose butts I want to kiss anyway," he said.