Art of the Valley Gallery in Avon announces featured artists for February |

Art of the Valley Gallery in Avon announces featured artists for February

Daily staff report
"Symbiotic Relationship," by Butch Mazzuca. Mazzuca and his wife, Bobbi Bryson, have travelled back to Africa seven times since their first trip to Botswana in 2008.
Butch Mazzuca | Special to the Daily |

If you go …

What: Vail Valley Art Guild featured artists.

When: Through March 13; gallery hours are 11:30 to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, except on powder days (Art of the Valley is wholly staffed by volunteers).

Where: Art of the Valley Gallery, 240 Chapel Place, Suite B119, Avon.

Cost: Admission is free; artwork is priced at $2,000 or less.

More information: Visit or

AVON — The Vail Valley Art Guild has more than 150 members, including painters, photographers, ceramic artists and members working in various mediums. The Art Guild is entering its third year in the valley and will present five featured artists in the Art of the Valley Gallery in Avon, with their work displayed through March 13.

“This is the first featured artist exhibit, so we asked for members to sign up if they were interested,” said Christine Sena, co-manager of the Art of the Valley Gallery and a member of the Executive Board of the Vail Valley Art Guild, explaining how the five artists were chosen for the exhibit.

“We have been open now for about 2 1/2 months, so we are still getting our feet wet. We have planned an exhibit schedule through next January.”


• Butch Mazzuca, photographer — Mazzuca developed his passion for photography after a trip to Botswana in 2008. His images have appeared on the Audubon Society’s website, at the Wildlife Experience Museum in Parker Colorado and in Shutter Bug, Travel Africa and Africa Geographic Magazines.

“The African Bush is unlike any place on earth — it is magical, primal and wondrous,” he said. “It cannot be described, only experienced, as its authenticity washes over you in ways you couldn’t imagine.”

Mazzuca has taught photography at Colorado Mountain College and at the Alpine Arts Center in Edwards and was recently chosen to be the photographer-in-residence at the Enaidura Safari Camp in the Maasai Mara Kenya in 2016.

• Raymond Bleesz, photographer — Bleesz is interested in documenting historical and cultural motifs, which includes photographing people, places, events and things. In his youth, he was well traveled and had access to cameras. He is self-taught and developed an early interest in photography when, in 1958, his French Alsacian parents purchased a Leica 111g in Germany, which he still has and uses on occasion.

After teaching photography to high school students as an elective long ago, he started his own photographic career in earnest in 1976. Prior to arriving in Eagle County, he lived in Georgetown and documented that Victorian town, as well as working with the State Historical Society.

Bleesz is now applying that same photographic vision to Eagle County, which is somewhat similar, historically, with mining, railroads, Victorian buildings, ranching and natural beauty. Since 1976, he has been a member of the Colorado Center Of Photographic Arts (Denver) and a founding member of the Vail Valley Arts Guild Photographers Group.

• Irene McConnaughty, photographer — The mountains of Colorado and the wonders of nature inspired McConnaughty to delve into her passion in outdoor photography. She began photographing wildlife, fall color and wildflowers 12 years ago and has continued during that time to develop knowledge and experience.

During the past few years, she became interested in landscape photography. It has been an exciting and challenging endeavor for her, with so much to learn. There is no better place, in her opinion, to improve her landscape photography than in Colorado. Through her photographs, she tries to capture the very essence of our mountain environment. She feels blessed to be able to share the beauty of our environment with others.

Painting, mixed media

• Lew Thatcher, painter — Thatcher paints in a realist genre. Working in oil, pastel and oil pastel media, his art is detailed, focused and believable. Thatcher has taken workshops with Daniel E. Greene, Christensen, Bill Davidson and Alan Flattman and has shown his work at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia; the Studio Gallery in Kilmarnock, Virginia, and the Art of the Valley Gallery in Avon.

After 30 years of professional experience in graphic art, including publications design and production, Thatcher now concentrates on producing fine art in Vail and on the Virginia shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

• Nate Smith, mixed media — Smith, a native of Wisconsin, has an interesting and colorful body of work. He uses mixed media to present vibrant images of Native American traditions, flowers and local sports. Smith feels this artwork represents his vivid, colorful, abstract style. His non-traditional interpretations combine realism with imaginative geometric shapes, and he tries to embed symbolism in all his vibrant visions.

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