A dozen artists in a tiny mountain hamlet who for one weekend a year will let you tromp through their personal space — either their homes or art studios, which in some instances are one in the same — and see what they’ve been creating the past year. You can only find this scenario in Red Cliff. And this happens to be the weekend.
The 16th annual Red Cliff Studio Tour takes place today and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The tour is one of the longest-running sustained art events in the county.
On average, between 350 and 500 people attend the tour, according to one of the event organizers, Barb Bomier.
“We do see a lot of repeat faces,” said Bomier, who is also one of a dozen artists participating this year. “Each of us has collectors. We see new faces every year. It’s fun to see people come back and it’s also fun for people to run into one another. Locals who haven’t seen each other in a while have fun running into friends. It’s like ‘old home weekend.’”
Bomier is a plein air painter who takes advantage of the views from the backyard of her Red Cliff home on Monument Street and paints scenes like “Aspen Shadows,” a soft painting of a hillside awash in yellow aspens during autumn’s splendor.
“This hillside is above the high road in Red Cliff, which blesses us with ever-changing and beautiful scenes year round, which includes elk from time to time,” Bomier said. “I love the diagonal shadows late in the day. Living in Red Cliff is like living in a vertical garden.”
Another event founder, painter Joan Norris, is inspired by nature, especially in the summertime.
“Flowers begin my summer painting,” Norris said. “First the poppies, then peonies, daisies and delphiniums. Mid-summer begins my search for hollyhocks. I love the shapes, the wanderings in local gardens but most of all the color.”
You can find Norris and her husband, photographer Jim Lamont, in the couple’s studio on Spruce Street. Along with Norris’ colorful paintings and photographs from Lamont’s recent travels, attendees will be treated to live music at the couples studio during the tour.
A new face
There is one new face on the tour this year: Helen Hiebert, a well-known paper artist who has written four books and done some large installations.
“We’re very excited to have her,” Bomier said. “She’s a big deal.”
Along with five other studio tour artists, Hiebert’s work will be displayed at 400 Pine Street in the old school house.
Most recently Hiebert has been working on a giant dandelion sculpture called “The Wish.”
“Three hundred disks will form the seeds of a dandelion and will symbolize private wishes, yet the piece as a whole serves as a metaphor for human connectedness: we all begin as a seed, we are all connected, and each of us travels far and wide throughout our lives like a dandelion seed carried on the wind,” Hiebert said. “My personal dream for “The Wish” is that the individual seeds will travel to all corners of the earth, representing a connection across borders, over seas, and through wars.”
Hiebert makes all of the materials she uses to construct her artwork. Take her piece “The Hydrogen Bomb,” for example.
“These handmade paper disks are made from a non-fruitbearing banana plant that I process in a Hollander beater and form into sheets using traditional tools that were used to make paper by hand in the 1600s,” she said. “When the sheets of paper are formed, I sandwich pieces of string in between two wet sheets, which I then press and allow to air dry. During the process the sheets morph into these lily-pad like forms, transforming from flat into sculptural forms. I’ve used these disks in several installations; this shows a detail of ‘The Hydrogen Bond’ installation, which literally represents the chemical reaction that occurs when a sheet of paper is made and metaphorically symbolizes the myriad connections in our lives.”
A returning face
Penelope Salcido is taking part in the tour after a hiatus. The first time she participated was in 2006, she said. She’s been traveling overseas the last few years during the tour, which has prevented her from taking part. Salcido creates large-scale abstract paintings, furniture and sculptural design pieces that incorporate found, reclaimed and recycled materials that generally combine wood with metal.
“My focus is to create living pieces that move with you yet evoke grounding in the space,” Salcido wrote on her website. “I’ve created everything from a kitchen pot hangar made from old bicycle rims, a bar from the front end of a 1957 Chevy, to a chandelier made from recycled fencing, coral and gem stones. My sculptures are earth based and made from metal and wood combinations.”
A piece that recently sold was a 5-foot-by-5-foot egg shaped structure made of small metal pieces leftover from a garage door manufacturing company.
At the tour this weekend, she’ll showcase a few older paintings from 2006, as well as one new large painting she finished a few days ago. There’s also a sculptural lighting piece made from wood and metal, and a few in-progress paintings and sculptures.