Nature’s dance |

Nature’s dance

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO, Colorado
HL Susan Kaemmerlen PU 7-10-08

Looking at Susan Kaemmerlen’s paintings is like joining her for an alpine hike. She chronicles her romps along Vail Valley trails with renderings of wild flowers, gurgling creeks and snow-peaked mountains.

“I see a lot of dance in nature, when the flowers are blooming and waving in the wind,” she said while sifting through paintings in her Vail townhome.

That’s why it made sense to Kaemmerlen to donate a portion of the profits from her upcoming art show to the Vail International Dance Festival. A longtime dance fan, Kaemmerlen looks forward to this summer’s festival, which is set for July 27 through Aug. 9.

“Coming to see the dance and seeing what they offer, to me, what they do is incredible and the concentration of world-class dancers and the dance companies is something that I could never expect to see anywhere else in the world,” Kaemmerlen said.

The show kicks off with an opening reception Wednesday night at the Vail Library and remains on display through July 31. “Nature’s Dance” includes 35 landscapes in oil and acrylic. Paintings sell for $200 to $1,400.

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Kaemmerlen, 63, lives in Connecticut but spends her summers in Vail, where she has cultivated a love of hiking. Whether she is taking in the scenery at Booth Creek in East Vail or screeching to a halt during a drive to Utah to photograph wildflowers, the artist is acutely aware of her surroundings. Those images go through a sort of mental filter, and emerge as straight landscapes or more abstract paintings, Kaemmerlen says.

“This is one of the more hip hop pictures, if you will,” she says, holding up a mildly psychedelic painting of wildflowers in Utah.

The fact that Kaemmerlen is holding an art show would come as a surprise to her younger self. She recalls a dark moment in grade school when teachers picked all the students’ work to hang in the art annual show ” except hers.

“It’s unfortunate the message that you get but I just never tried to be an artist or wanted to,” she said.

Kaemmerlen studied art history in college and frequented galleries but never summoned the courage to take her first watercolor class until about 15 years ago.

The class inspired Kaemmerlen to dabble in watercolors in Key West, Fla., where she spends a lot of time.

“I’d go out and paint a house. I’d see a house that I liked, and then I’d knock on the door and say, ‘Do you like this?’ and they would buy it,” she recalled with a laugh.

Kaemmerlen then joined a group of women called the Pink House Painters who hone their craft in a Connecticut studio.

In those days, watercolor served Kaemmerlen well but when she started painting Vail scenes, watercolor no longer felt right.

“I think watercolor is more appropriate for you know, Florida, the beach. You do great scenes,” she said. “But you come up here ” this is very masculine up here, these mountains, the ruggedness, rocks, the huge spruce trees so I use acrylic or oil, whatever works best.”

Kaemmerlen has held two shows at the Vail Library, but this will be her first contribution to the dance festival. She doesn’t have a set goal for how much money she wants to raise. A portion of the funds will flow to the Vail Valley Foundation, which relies on community support to fund its programs.

“The Vail Valley Foundation relies so heavily on support from the community for everything we do,” said Matt Spencer, the foundation’s vice president of development. “The generosity of Ms. Kaemmerlen in partnering with the dance festival is another great example of the support this community shows for the arts. It’s wonderful to see the visual arts and the performing arts coming together in this way. This event will be a true celebration of culture in the Valley.”

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or

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