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Art around town

Laura A. Ball
Special to the Daily "Wowahwa Tatanka," 54 by 54 inches, acrylic/oil on canvas, by Carrie Fell.
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Around the same time Luc Meyer orchestrated the last supper at the Left Bank in Vail, Libby Hart sat in her Costilla, N.M., studio delightfully relating the restaurant she once knew so well onto blank canvas. For 20 years, Hart lived, worked and breathed the Vail restaurant scene before letting go of her mortgage and picking up her life and her paint brushes and putting them down in the nothern New Mexican ghost town a decade ago. There she could afford to pursue her passion full time, founded in the town of “The Milagro Beanfield War,” with the crimsoned Sangre de Cristos on the horizon, Hart found herself in a world where abandoned adobes literally melted into the earth nearby a deserted ski hill that “could have been Vail” had it not sunk. Taos, the closest town, lay 50 miles south, and Alamosa, an hour north.”I thought I was moving to Vail,” the figurative artist said. “At first I was in love with seeing the stars at night, but the initial excitement wore off.” The portraitist, suddenly left to realize landscapes in her new surroundings, yearned to paint human subjects.When Hart told Vail International Gallery director Marc LeVarn of her struggle, he thought of the Left Bank closing, knowing a piece of her heart still and always would reside in her life here. LeVarn suggested she return for a visit and paint the people of her past. Hart thought it a brilliant idea.”For so many people of the early days in Vail, Luc’s retirement was considered a milestone, a landmark, an event,” she said. “Luc’s retiring was an end of an era for me.”The idea also thrilled Meyer, a partner in the gallery. Hart took her camera with her down memory lane and snapped up restaurant scenes that would eventually become her newest series. As Hart explored she decided to also paint scenes from Kelly Liken Restaurant. Although her collection took life from photographs, Hart doesn’t believe in reproducing the photo, rather reinterpreting it. The scenes capture a timeless emotional quality, one of everyday life where we get caught in the meditation of out work.It’s in those quiet moments where Hart finds her inspiration.”It’s always when I’m driving or on my way to an appointment when I see something that’s so beautiful that I’ve just got to stop and paint,” she said.

Carrie Fell paints a horse unlike any cowboy artist in the West. Full of wild colors and boldly abstract figures, her atypical images provide a window into her imaginative world where the West is a state of mind. To Fell, the cowboy is a metaphor “for the driving cowboys that’s inside all of us.” “I call them journeymen. They’re just human beings that move through life,” she said. “But everything they wore had a purpose and still does. They’re always prepared. They carry the exact tools they need to move from one place to another, and their faithful companion, the horse, is just a very intuitive soul.”Her collection, titled “The New Frontier,” is a reaction to the comments she gets when a new eye see her work for the first time. “It’s new and it’s fresh and its alive. It’s not something stagnant or lost in time,” she said, and she works hard to keep it that way.Fell believes as an artist, it is her obligation to be ever-changing in her work, that every show should be uniquely different, because she’s inspired by constant change in day to day and that’s the way life is. It’s crucial that her fans come with her, she said, so Fell gradually transcends her work even if it’s just a background color.A few months ago, Fell felt panic stricken in preparation for the upcoming show. She began to see rabbits all around her, a sighting that’s somewhat rare on the Front Range in early spring, she said. She deemed it a sign, so she began to research the Lakota’s meaning of the animal.”The rabbit, because of its nervous nature, is typically timid in their fast-paced lives, so it’s really about fear,” Fell said. The rabbit teaches you that you need to acquire patience and you will get the message when you get the message. You need to stop worrying and let nature take its course.”Inspired by the lesson, rabbits became her new subject. “It’s amazing, I let it go, and it just came.”Then she started to notice a yellow monarch fluttering by the window in her studio. The butterfly is the only animal that transforms itself three times, from caterpillar to cocoon to a creature with wings. The thought forced her to ponder what stage she was in.”The fluttering stage. It’s the time to show off,” she said. “I freed myself from all the objections that I had. It was time to be free and just go. It’s not about control. If we just let it go then everything happens it’s the control that gets us stuck.”News of the birth of a white buffalo in Colorado got to her next. The white buffalo, she found, signified to the Lakota’s the coming of the calf’s woman, who came back to repurify the earth and remind people to reconnect to the meaning of life, the value of spirituality, balance and harmony.The white buffalo, Fell said, really laid the groundwork for the show. “It’s simplifying what you already know and going back to the basics and reminding yourself,” she said.Fell did not want the show to be political, but she couldn’t help thinking of all the mudslinging that goes on in our country and the lack of unity therein. She doesn’t necessarily believe in the prophecies and teachings of the Lakota, but it inspires her to form her own beliefs.”And it’s important to believe in something,” she said. “With everything going on in the world, the world makes us afraid of it. With the Fourth of July coming, this is when we should believe in our country, making it better and hopefully in turn inspiring others.”

Wayne Wolfe paints the world as he sees it, taking his brushes and his palette into nature’s belly and hunting out a scene he thinks will make the perfect painting. “There are a lot of things that you see in nature that are very attractive, but if you don’t see a good design or you can’t make one out of it and if there’s not good light, it’s not worthwhile.”The self-taught artist and artist’s son, who was mentored by Robert Lougheed and Tom Lovell, doesn’t believe in painting a vividly beautiful Arizona sky either.”The sunset in Arizona is too beautiful to look real. You just try to find what’s believable like you’re introducing a martian to the planet and you want to show the believable not the odd and the bizarre.” he said.Wolfe cites “Art of Travel” author Alain de Botton, “he said you paint what you can pull off and you avoid that and turn your back to it if you can’t. You paint what you feel confident about and sometimes you still get fooled. Some of the things you think are home runs aren’t. But it isn’t what you do, it’s what you do. It isn’t what you paint and the pictures that you make, it’s the fact that you can paint.” He looks out his window every day and thinks himself a rich man when he sees the mountains, even on his worst days, and when he knows he paints them.”You go through hell, you tear up your canvas, you break your brushes, you curse, you make life miserable for everyone around you and then you say, at least I’m artist painting what I want to paint, these mountains,” he said.Best in show, Wolfe said. is “Napa Valley Light Show,” spring poppies and lupine and great oaks with a backlit sky, the edges of the clouds catching light. “Sometimes when you aren’t that familiar with a subject, you don’t do it justice. You get jaded, take them for granted. Familiarity breads contempt and you just don’t appreciate what it is you are looking at.” Wolfe said. “But sometimes, it’s a blessing.” Wolfe’s show represents a variety of places and inspirations to fill the canvases. He avoids themes like the plague, he said.”The minute someone suggests something to you it’s limiting,” he said. “You hear it, and you can’t get it out of your head. Artists always feel an obligation to please themselves and their clients, and if you dont have a client to please it’s better because you paint what you want. Artists are best left to their own devices without suggesting anything to them because it’s hard enough for artists to deal with themselves.”



Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached 748-2939 or laball@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado Vail, Colorado


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