An art gallery and a museum
The major difference between an art gallery and a museum, other than size, is that the art at a gallery is for sale to the general public. Aside from that, museums usually have armed guards, roped off areas, a souvenir shop and an eatery somewhere within.
When you browse through the two levels and several alcoves of the Claggett/Rey gallery in Vail Village, you might have the feeling you are visiting a museum, but without the security measures, eatery or souvenir shop.
The quality of painting and sculpture throughout the space is representative of some of the finest art in the valley.
If Western themes are your predilection, you will see some extraordinary examples of traditional and contemporary styles hanging on the walls and gracing the pedestals.
Claggett/Rey is easily recognized by the Dave McGary larger-than-life bronze sculptures outside, including his “Blessing the Bear” and “Memories of Homer.” In fact, if you see no one else at the gallery, I recommend studying the almost 20 McGary pieces inside. In addition to the detailed handling of the figure’s features, clothing and postures, the remarkable hand-painted elements take on a life of their own. Tiny beads and feathers are meticulously colored, adding a realism and preciousness to each piece.
McGary’s “Star Gazers” captures the love and spirituality between a Native American woman and her papoose. Walk around to the other side and discover his unique treatment of the blanket enveloping both figures.
Established in the valley for 15 years, owner Bill Rey has put together a portfolio of artists that is quite enviable.
If you enjoy bronze sculptures, the work of Joe Beeler is not to be missed. His portrayal of Native Americans is superbly crafted, and many include strands of wire-thin bronze as part of the figure’s costume. His “Where Have All My People Gone” speaks volumes about the lost tribes and nations in its stance and facial expression.
Gordon Snidow is an artist whose bronze sculptures are also decorated with hand-painted details. A large-scale figure, “Crazy Quilt,” is so skillfully handled that you are forced to look closer and perhaps touch the surface of the coverlet to determine if it is fabric rather than bronze. Snidow also paints using gouache and brings the same talented eye to this medium, exhibiting a rare crossover skill.
Particularly noteworthy is the Cowboy Artists of America 2003 Gold Medal winning painting by John Moyers, “Gathering Storm.” Although not in Moyers’ typical style, the large oil depicts a moment in the Mexican Revolution that will envelop the viewer as if they too were among the horses and riders preparing to do battle.
Claggett/Rey also represents Terri Kelly Moyers, John Moyers’ wife. She is a practitioner of the plein air school, and incorporates cowgirls and horses in an illustrative manner. Husband and wife both paint landscapes, ranch scenes and wildlife of the West, yet each brings their own distinctive perspective to the results.
Although there are several more artists on display, too numerous to mention in detail, it’s worth noting the brilliantly colorful, impressionistic canvases of Walt Gonske. His semi-abstract landscapes exude excitement and are deliciously drenched in light.
For something a bit different, the oil paintings of Quang Ho are monochromatic in treatment. “Symphony in Red,” “Backstage in Violet” and “Late Summer” all portray their subjects in one predominantly focused hue. His brushwork is full of nervous energy and draws the viewer into the scene to ferret out the subjects within.
The watercolor paintings of David Halbach are so deftly handled that his treatment of the negative white space often becomes more realistic than the positive foreground. Through the absence of color, Halbach creates the mist on a river, remnants of a storm pooling on the ground, or an overcast sky.
There is an annex to the main gallery just across the plaza from the rear entry, and it houses additional work by Snidow, smaller paintings by Joyce Lee and canvases of European locales by Bill Berra. Included among these are other impressionistic works by Walt Gonske.
Visit Claggett/Rey to discover some of the other world-class artists on display, you will find the time well spent.
Stew Mosberg is a freelance writer and recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is the author of two books on design and can be reached at WrtrF@aol.com