EAGLE – Dressed in a black shirt, black tie and large white sunglasses, artist Luke Vivio feverishly punches holes into leather straps using an old sewing machine. Over-sized rusty scissors and other eerie rudimentary tools lay around him. A woman standing behind a black cloak showing nothing more than the tips of her pink Doc Martins draws spectators closer to the scene, which resembles that of a mad seamster preparing for S&M Fashion Week.”Where am I?” I thought to myself. Oh, yeah – Eagle.The sleepy little downvalley town seems like the least likely place to host an art battle, despite the many artists who live there. But the urban-esque event attracted all types of valley life in numbers to watch 10 artists, working in different media, create art live in a vacant office building next to Capitol Theatre.
“Finally,” Vail Symposium Director Fraidy Aber said of her initial reaction to the event. “I was so proud of the valley when I read they were having something like this.”280 Studios Vail produced the event. Started by a group of working artists and art students in Grand Rapids, Mich., 280 Studios is an art collective that promotes events where local artists can gain exposure. Saturday night’s art battle celebrated the grand opening of 280 Studios Vail, launched by original members Dustin Zentz and Anthony Juarez, who have lived in the valley several years now. In addition to Michigan, other original members have opened 280 branches in Boston, New York, Atlanta and most recently London.”It fills a need in the area,” Zentz said. “There are a lot of artists here, and a lot of artists don’t get representation here because the galleries sell landscapes.”The artists battling were diverse, making the competition much more engaging than if just a handful of painters were working their canvases. In one of the stark white rooms, one could watch Bren Kleinfelder decoupage digital images of naked women on the wall right next to Edward Alpi, who was using his array of power tools to build a wood and glass sculpture. Next door, Jeff Grzywinski mixed concrete as Caroline Blaker painted with a turkey baster, and on a table outside, Justin Gill blew glass into marbles and pendants.
Most of the art was visually driven, not to mention progressive, but some artists incorporated performance. Vivio and his woman behind the curtain, for example, built a noticeable amount of anticipation among the crowd, and no one left until she was unveiled.”Usually, an artist is a guy alone in his studio, and there’ s no outside influence other than what’s inside his head,” Juarez said. “I like the audience being a part of it, yelling out something they want to see. In turn, they become part of the art.”The audience is free to question artists as they work, but at times it’s intimidating, and spectators find themselves more like a fly on the wall of their studios, watching as the piece began, evolved and flowed to the point of no return. “Fear is here,” said Blaker, who was painting but has a degree in ceramics. “(The audience) is in a wonderous state outside looking in. It’s almost like I’m in my own snow dome.”
When it was time for the public to weigh in on their favorite artist, they chose painter Nathan Hadley to win the $500. His working area was popular all night, as everyone could watch his painting transform right before their eyes.”I’m used to thinking too long about a painting,” Hadley said when asked how he knows when a painting is complete. “It’s nice to have a time limit.” ——————————————————————
And the winners are …First place: Nathan HadleySecond place: Luke VivioThird place: The Gnarbots and Joseph Arellano
——————————————————————Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 748-2938 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado