At Raitman Art Galleries in Vail, ‘beautiful imperfection’ |

At Raitman Art Galleries in Vail, ‘beautiful imperfection’

Rolinda Stotts shares her art, live, in Vail Village

"Fast Track," by Rolinda Stotts, oil on canvas with wooden frame, 36" x 36", Raitman Art Galleries.
Raitman Art Galleries/Courtesy image
“Starlight Dreams,” by Rolinda Stotts, oil on canvas with wooden frame, 60″ x 46″, Raitman Art Galleries.
Courtesy image, Raitman Art Galleries

For Rolinda Stotts, beauty lies in imperfection. That’s why she describes her pieces as bella rotta, Italian for “beautifully imperfect.”

Within the concept of bella rotta dwells Stotts’ brilliance. While traveling in Italy as a 22-year-old with her husband, she noticed that most of the revered works of art, from paintings to architecture, are cracked.

“It spoke to my whole passion and love with this sense of old and aging,” she said, explaining how she grew up on a dairy farm in Eastern Oregon in a peeling, old farmhouse regularly visiting older neighbors, all of whom her parents encouraged her to relate to as grandparents. “We’ve created age to be a bad thing, a fearful thing, but the reality is we are designed to age. We are designed to crack and get wrinkles, and the more we run from it, the scarier and harder it gets, but we also (revere) aged wine and even balsamic vinegar. (In the art world), what gives us comfort are these masters that have been preserved and have held up. Because it’s history, it grounds us, it gives us purpose, it makes sense. It helps us understand that we are so much more than our stories.”

Stotts’ practice of generating bella rotta previously involved breaking her completed paintings to create cracks, but now she fractures her bare canvases first, then secures them to wooden panels before applying oil paints — the medium in which she found her soul, she says. She then applies a seal that reveals the cracks, making the painting safe, and inviting, to physically touch and admire.

“I feel broken, just like all of us do. It’s this philosophy that when we have the right support, we feel safe, and that’s what makes it beautiful.” — Rolinda Stotts, artist

“The concept comes from a very emotional place. I feel broken, just like all of us do. It’s this philosophy that when we have the right support, we feel safe, and that’s what makes it beautiful,” she says, explaining her 10-step process, which includes cutting each canvas into custom sizes and shapes to match the box she creates to hold the canvas. “The canvas is fragile and will disintegrate, or fall apart, if not cared for and put into a wood box, or platform. I like to remind people that we are the canvas; when we’re in unsafe places, we fall apart, but when we have the backup and love and support of friends and family and community, we are beautiful because we can survive and thrive.”

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“Party Hat,” by Rolinda Stotts, oil on canvas with wooden frame, 18″ x 11″, Raitman Art Galleries.
Courtesy image, Raitman Art Galleries

Once the canvas and box become one, she adds an additional element, which also makes her paintings incredibly unique: She creates a “crust,” or an outer edge of the painting, through various mediums. The innovative “wooden crust” becomes yet another measure of protection for the canvas.

“Her process of incorporating wood into her work and tearing apart the (piece) to give the painting a fractured appearance has this earthy and imperfect element to it that speaks so well to what we see in the natural world,” says Brian Raitman, co-owner of Raitman Art Galleries. “She’s an impressionist with a technique that is entirely her own. Those elements combine to give her art a sense of timelessness while also feeling completely fresh and new. The unique quality of her art grabs you, and it doesn’t let go, like a great dream. Her paintings are imbued with the same lovely energy that she possesses as a human, too. They’re fun. They’re beautiful. And they’re different.” 

Raitman first saw Stotts’ work over a decade ago.

“The painting that caught my attention and stopped me in my tracks was of a wintery forest partially hidden in the clouds,” he recalls. “The colors and composition were great. The subject matter spoke to me. It was clear she loves painting landscapes. Her approach to doing so really stands out. She has an uncanny ability to make her paintings dreamlike.”

Nature acts as Stotts’ muse, from ski runs, mountain peaks and aspens in Vail and surrounding areas to orchids and other florals, or even game fish.

“I’m smitten by what Mother Nature and the world gives us,” she said.

She also finds inspiration in people, specifically those who commission pieces. Her ultimate satisfaction stems from making something for others, as she collaboratively works with homeowners and businesses to fill entire walls, or just create one special piece.

“It’s this process of listening to someone’s needs and their dreams and desires, and really, their requirements, if they have a big wall to fill, and doing it in a way that is them. They become my art teacher. That sounds funny to say, but I’m always learning from them because people will have very specific needs, like the color of the snow in the shadows or a specific mountain,” she says. “The painting becomes a legacy, a true expression of love — something that represents this family or this company. We talk about their passions, their loves and use their photos for reference, or they’ll pick a mountain or sky from my paintings (to incorporate). They get to create. They get to play with the ideas. As I listen to all of that, the painting takes on a life of its own. I call it this whole co-creative adventure.”

In this way, she leads clients on a four-phase, co-creative cycle, which includes: getting inspired, observing, acting on that which we must translate into art, and, finally, sharing, or distributing that art.

“When we step into the creative process, we feel alive. (When we distribute art), we inspire, and we might even inspire ourselves,” she says. “Sharing expands the creative process. To me, a painting isn’t finished until it finds a home.”

Learning about, and talking to people, as well as exploring “the adventure of what’s around the corner is what keeps me going,” she said.

Ultimately, she aims to instill a sense of peace through her paintings.

“I work really hard to get into a Zen state of peacefulness, because I feel I have an obligation to gift that to the world,” she said.

And, indeed, her work conveys not only rich layers, colors and textures, but also that deep sense of calm and connection to all things “imperfectly” beautiful.

Meet the Artist

Rolinda Stotts
Chat with the artist and watch her paint live
March 10-11, throughout the day
223 Gore Creek Dr,
Vail, CO 81657

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