Carbondale’s Prestigious Art Around Town Showcases Six Local Artists
“The artists I know are attempting to understand a sense of place and living in the world,” muses Nancy Lovendahl. “My own career has been about a call and response, a sense of place and the landscape. I’m sure my art would be very different if I lived in New York or Beijing, which I did for awhile.”
Lovendahl, who now lives in Old Snowmass, is one of six locally-rooted sculptors whose works will grace Carbondale’s streets as part of Art Around Town, the annual outdoor public sculpture program presented by the Carbondale Public Arts Commission (CPAC). The 14 new works CPAC has chosen were presented in a public art walk on June 1, accompanied by many of the artists. While the exhibit has drawn artists from as far away as Hood River, Oregon, sculptors Nancy Lovendahl, Nathan Slape, Jack Brendlinger, James Surls, Charmaine Locke, and Alicia de Matesanz all have Roaring Fork Valley ties.
Lovendahl, originally a ceramicist, began sculpting stone after an instructor from the Marble Institute saw her work at a Denver gallery and exclaimed, “you just have to make these forms in marble!” That led to meeting with and learning from Madeline Weiner, who founded and directs the Marble Institute, 28 miles up the Crystal River from Carbondale. Today, Lovendahl’s work can be found in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., in Germany’s historic Keramikmuseum, and in many other art museums.
Lovendahl says that her piece bound for Carbondale was styled as a cairn, figuratively “guiding us through life’s journey.” To create Intercession 15, Ra, Lovendahl used 15 different cutting and grinding processes, diamond blades, hazmat suits, eye coverings, and “lots of protection” to free the final forms from the stone. But all that remains invisible. “My intent is for the method to be so complete you don’t even think about the process. You just see the form,” she says. “There are no tool marks to give away how it was made. It could have been a river rock that sprang out of the river fully formed.”
The work of Nathan Slape is also connected to the Marble Institute. Slape’s Textured Wave Loop #1, called TWL#1 for short, was hewn from Colorado Yule marble, quarried locally. Slape, who grew up in Grand Junction, says that he chose Carbondale’s annual Art Around Town exhibit over five other shows that accepted the piece because “Western Colorado is a part of me.”
An abstract and direct sculptor like Lovendahl, Slape works in a freeform style. Rather than creating a “mockette” and scaling it up, he selects an interesting piece of marble by looking at it in the rain, which wets down the stone and reveals how it will look when polished, and also by shining a flashlight into it at night. “How deep the light goes shows how the translucency will be,” he explains. “I prefer the lively stuff that works with light. What I see at night shows me how it will look in the daylight, with the sun behind it. The thinner areas will be lighted up.”
TWL#1, one of Slape’s largest pieces, was created at the Marble Symposium, where Slape has worked for years running. “I wanted a visual treat. I was playing with textures, the way they are affected by light and shadow. It’s an optical illusion. It looks like it’s moving.”
Motion also beckoned to Jack Brendlinger when he created Pirouette, the Giacometti-style ballet dancer that will be in this year’s show. Brendlinger designs in wax and then has his bronzes cast by Lands End Sculpture Center in Paonia. He says, “I’m quite interested in catching action and stopping it. Most of my sculptures are of that nature—trying to catch a moment and stop the action in perpetuity.” Brendlinger’s commissioned works often depict skiers, snowboarders, surfers, or climbers.
Along with his wife Marsha, Brendlinger, a fifth-generation Coloradan, built and operated Aspen’s Applejack Inn. After selling it in 1975, Jack handled marketing for Aspen Skiing Company and then later became a film and radio executive. He continued creating art all along the way.
Charmaine Locke, who lives in Missouri Heights and has an international reputation, will be represented in Art Around Town by Open Book, a bronze that symbolizes feminine gifts. Standing more than six feet high, the sculpture depicts a six-handed woman offering an egg, a lotus blossom, and a fish in each of her three right hands. Her three left hands offer a ring, a bowl, and a book. The hands were modeled from casts of the sculptress’ own hands.
Open Book, which was cast by the Shidoni Foundry in Santa Fe, is descended from a piece commissioned by the City of Corpus Christi for its Civic Center. Locke says the gifts offered by the woman are symbolic—for example, the fish indicates the Gulf of Mexico’s water—and the objects are food for the mind, body, and soul. The words “Why can’t we find the path to peace when it is right in front of our eyes?” flow in ribbons down the figure’s skirt and the phrase is repeated in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
Locals probably need no introduction to James Surls, who produced the well-known sculpture in Carbondale’s roundabout. Less well-known than his sculpture is the fact that he’s married to Charmaine Locke; the two met when Locke took a course from Surls in Texas. Of the Seven and Seven Hanging Flower that graces the CPAC show, Surls notes that he’s fascinated with natural patterns. “Nature has a mathematical language it can and does speak,” he says. “You have to actually take the time; you have to look deep. If you’re looking at a flower, a leaf, or even water on the river, you will find it. If you can hear the pattern, you get to speak to nature.”
For Seven and Seven, Surls collected 49 lower limbs shed by aspen trees, made forms, cast them in bronze, and configured them as petals on flowers. The piece was cast in 1999 at Anderson Ranch; at the time, Surls was working in the studio there and learning from Douglas Casebeer.
Alicia Matesanz de las Heras says that her featured piece Portal is about “opening doorways to the imagination and to the unknown.” The work is composed of two paired pieces of steel, both roughly 16 inches square and 71 inches high. To create her larger works, she begins by creating a scale model with a clay-like plastic material, exploring the form while making it. “Once I have the form that I am looking for, I scale it up and make a template out of wood,” she explains. The wooden form is then traced onto the steel, cut, and welded together.
Matesanz de las Heras, who was born in Spain, worked as a photojournalist for a Japanese newspaper and guided tourists on photo safaris in Kenya before coming to Aspen as a ski instructor. Nowadays, she’s a full-time artist, creating raku sculpture as well as painting in acrylics. She says that by participating in the Carbondale exhibition, she hopes to “inspire a dialogue.”
The new Art Around Town outdoor sculptures will remain on display on Carbondale’s streets for a year.