Though Presidents Day weekend smacks of red, white and blue, in Vail Valley’s galleries, it’s a celebration of every color in the spectrum. This weekend, several galleries host guest artists ranging from master European painters to pearl experts.
Paint the town
Don Sahli isn’t sure if he’s a skier who paints or a painter who skis — when he’s skiing, a blue shadow or glint of snow captures his attention, and he thinks he should be painting, yet when he’s painting, the snow begins calling him from his home in Evergreen to the mountains.
This weekend, he has the opportunity to indulge in both; during his residence at Paderewski Fine Art, he plans to paint en plein air, both in Beaver Creek Village and on the mountain. Between 4 and 8 p.m. Friday through Monday, he’ll work on a 48-inch-by-60-inch sunset painting in the gallery that is based on sketches he did at Piney Lake. One of his goals is to inspire people, just as the painter he apprenticed with at the Russian School of Painting, Sergei Bongart, captivated him.
“I like to show people in the gallery that it doesn’t take long to jump in,” he said, adding how important it is to work quickly when lighting and shadows are changing. “You just give it your all.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean simply splashing paint upon a canvas; he aims to reach beyond the image in order to evoke emotion within a viewer.
“It’s a very delicate, poetic thing,” he said, “but if it’s done correctly, it can be quite powerful.”
He likens his training in Russia to “pointing your skis downhill and going for it.” The style uses color, temperature and spontaneity to bring out the art in painting.
“It’s very quick and emotional,” he said.
Sahli’s style contrasts another artist coming to Beaver Creek: Antal Goldfinger. Goldfinger is a European master painter who has studied with masters, said C. Anthony Gallery art consultant Terese Coco. He uses the finest, most expensive linen to paint upon and constructs his own one- to two-hair brushes for the finishing touch.
His florals and other traditional stills employ thin layers of oils built up over time; the gallery showcases a 76-inch-by-44-inch painting that took about three years for Goldfinger to complete, Coco said.
“He paints in such a way that it looks like a photograph,” she said.
And she assures people that just because he’s a master painter doesn’t mean he’s stuffy — quite the opposite. Goldfinger is friendly and approachable; he loves talking about his technique.
Expressionist artist Troy Collins also comes to Beaver Creek’s Horton Fine Art. For him, painting is a celebratory dance. He layers his oils with a palette knife to create lively, three-dimensional textures. His landscapes portray his memories of nature — he especially loves aspens.
“(Aspens) are like people,” he said. “Each tree has a unique character. ... Aspens are as varied as snowflakes.”
Mitch Baird was scheduled to appear at Cogswell Gallery, but a medical condition prevented him from doing so. However, the gallery is still featuring his work because he’s one of the hottest plein-air artists out there right now, Cogswell owners said.
The national award-winning artist approaches painting as a celebration of life. Baird’s work echoes the traditions of late 19th century artists who emphasized light, color and design in figures and landscapes. He yearns to uplift viewers with his paintings, whether it’s a intimate setting or grandiose subject. In addition to his national recognition, he recently earned accolades by garnering two positions in the National Parks “Paint the Parks Top 100” exhibit.
Sculpt out some time
If three-dimensional art is more your style, a couple galleries allow you to get up-close-and-personal to sculptors.
Claggett/Rey Gallery in Vail Village features Gail Folwell. She created the monumental skier at Gondola One in the Mountain Plaza, titled “The Edge,” and the whimsical snowball fight piece behind Los Amigos, titled “Winter.” Her style conveys a love for life and sports. She hosts an informal meet-and-greet Saturday.
Bates Wilson uses reclaimed and recycled metal to sculpt the kind of fun most people associate with beaches: surf boards, fish and guitars. He believes that the more worn the metal is, the more interesting it becomes.
Wilson’s work is well-known in Vail and beyond; Vail International Gallery owners have shipped his art to every continent except Antarctica. His dramatic fish sculptures hang from wire, balancing as if they are swimming through air. The Vail gallery has become a virtual aquarium stocked with exotic, metal fish and fantastical surfboards.
“It’s a lot of work to turn the entire gallery into a display for one artist, but Bates Wilson’s work deserves this stage,” said gallery co-owner Marc LeVarn.
Though John Geldersma won’t appear in Vail, his wood carvings grace J. Cotter Gallery. He hand-carves his pieces from pecan and pine wood and is known for spirit poles, prayer shields and cairns, some of which measure more than 7 feet tall.
Get a little abstract
Abstract artists James Jensen and Ray Phillips are appearing in Vail, at Masters Gallery and Galerie Zuger, respectively.
Jensen trained as a classical painter, and though he still employs an old master color palette, his works are anything but traditional. He heavily layers his pieces until they are strong from afar, yet gentle up close.
“Sometimes just strong paintings can be a little fatiguing,” Jensen said. “(There is) a combination of materials that go into my paintings. I want my construction to convey a sense of depth which just stops you.”
This weekend, he showcases “Coming of Age,” a series of playful pieces, which harken back to youthful memories.
Pearls and more
Koji Kawamoto comes to Karats Friday through Monday. The pearl specialist brings samplings of every kind of pearl found throughout the world.
Karats invites people to bring in their pearls and ask Kawamoto questions about the origins. He’s also an expert at matching pearls to the right person, depending upon skin tone, personality and eye and hair color.
And, even when the weekend comes to a close, the art spectacular does not. J. Scott Jewelers hosts a trunk show of OMI jewelry, Tuesday and Wednesday.
So whether you’re feeling bold-colored and patriotic or more naturalistic and day-dreamy, Vail Valley galleries have plenty of shades of art to fill your weekend.