New landscapes at Vail International Gallery

Kimberly Nicoletti, Special to the Daily
Artist Topher Straus beside "Teton."
Courtesy photo
MEET THE ARTIST What: Topher Straus opening reception for “The Parks” exhibit When: July 2, 5-8 p.m. Exhibition dates: July 2-30 Where: Vail International Gallery More info: ARTIST TALK When: July 3, 2-4 p.m. Where: The Hythe More info:

Filmmakers are storytellers. And though he left a career in filmmaking to create fine art, Topher Straus never stopped telling stories. The artist’s exhibition, “The Parks,” will be featured at Vail International Gallery during the month of July. The entire back gallery will be hung with roughly 30 pieces, a mix of originals and limited-edition works. The event kicks off with an artist reception at the gallery July 2 from 5-8 p.m.

Straus has innovated the traditional medium of landscapes through technology. His digital renderings of national parks and other iconic environments bring a fresh, modern, stylized statement to his art. He begins with a photo, then isolates colors, depth, perspective and emotion — digitally. Thoughtfully, methodically, he identifies gradations of tone and hue with clean contour lines that highlight horizontal, diagonal and vertical aspects of the landscape.

“Each virtual paint stroke with the stylus requires specific and deliberate concentration as he selects intuitively from infinite color options just as a traditional oil painter would,” said Marc LeVarn, co-owner of Vail International Gallery.

Topher sublimates his 30” x 60” limited editions of 25 to recycled aluminum and coats them with a glossy resin. The expansive pieces, as well as his 45” x 90” originals, create a cinematic perspective inspired by a decade of making narrative and documentary films in Hollywood previous to launching his fine art career.

“I want people to be immersed in my landscapes, to almost feel as if they are in a movie,” Straus said.

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The artworks’ reflective qualities have a personal feel, varying as the light changes throughout the day.

“Biscayne National Park” by Topher Straus
Courtesy image

Straus bases his work off photos, collages and his experience within the landscape. For example, his rendition of Haleakala National Park in Maui incorporates the lines, motion and momentum of his bike ride from sea level to the tallest peak at 10,023 feet. Meanwhile, Mount Rainier National Park blends concepts of masculine and feminine qualities.

“The adventure itself helps shape my interpretation,” said the native Coloradan, who grew up hiking and skiing.

Straus’ first major artistic focus began with the national parks. He is committed to depicting all 63. So far, he’s finished 35; pieces sometimes take nine months to complete.

“Teton” by Topher Straus
Courtesy image

“Our parks are our nation’s greatest resource. They’re a symbol of our freedom and a gift we hope we can pass on to generations,” he said. “I want to inspire people to get outside. A lot of people look at my work and want to grab a backpack and get out there. It’s bringing nature inside and encouraging people to get outside. I also want to reiterate the importance of these parks, almost like a call to action.”

He hopes to emphasize the shared responsibility of protecting America’s natural beauty.

“It’s one more way of giving back, a very important value in my life,” he explained. “Our responsibility as humans is to give back and have a purpose.”

“The national parks are one of America’s crown jewels,” said LeVarn. “And Topher is expressing his love for it.”

The sort of people who are drawn to the beauty of Vail are drawn to the naturalism within Straus’ work.

“The naturalism is very normal for us,” LeVarn continued. “Visitors from other parts of the country see it, and it’s like a breath of fresh air.”

Straus’ knack for capturing nature with vibrant colors and immersive experiences attracts both younger and older generations. Companies like Marriott Luxury Collection Hotels showcase his work; Marriott recently opened the Topher Straus Art Walk at its new Hythe Hotel in Vail.

“With Topher, there’s a fresh approach that people look at and intuitively understand that they’re seeing something they haven’t seen in a landscape and yet they recognize the landscape. It’s a very difficult thing to achieve artistically, because so many artists look to the past for inspiration. Topher looks to the future, and he’s not afraid to embrace new technology. Through that medium, he has expanded what landscape art is. He’s an innovator,” LeVarn said. “Topher Straus’ stunning compositions combine technology and artistry, re-invigorating our vision of the American landscape as we move forward into the 21st century.”

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