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Vail Valley: Art that ‘pays for its space’

Caramie Schnellcschnell@vaildaily.comVail Valley, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyVail Valley sculptor Walt Horton works on one of his latest pieces entitled "Orphans" Wednesday at his new gallery and studio, Walt Horton Fine Art at Beaver Creek.
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VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – There’s a big block of clay being transformed in Beaver Creek right now. For the past three months sculptor Walt Horton has been revealing his latest sculpture, called “Orphans,” in front of curious passers-by in the newest gallery in town, Walt Horton Fine Art. “It’s a little Indian boy, who is the finest children’s piece I’ve ever done,” Horton said. “The little boy has found a den of orphan wolf pups and put them in a satchel draped over his shoulder.”The pups don’t have their eyes quite open yet, but that isn’t stopping them from squirming around, biting each other’s ears and crawling over each other. “It’s evoked the best smiles on people’s faces,” Horton said. The gallery opened the day before Thanksgiving, but grand opening events are taking place Friday and Saturday. Horton opened the gallery with managing partner Michael Paderewski. Beaver Creek seems to draw “family-oriented folks,” Horton said, people who in general seem to be drawn to Horton’s whimsical sculptures, many of which include animals and children. His most popular sculpture, and the one for which he is well known, is called “Repentance” and is of a small Indian boy and large grizzly bear in a scene where the boy is repenting by apologizing to the bear for shooting him in the hind quarters with an arrow.

Though Horton shows his work nationally, Beaver Creek has proved his “strongest market,” which is why he decided to open the gallery here. Horton also lives with his wife, Peggy, in Lake Creek, making for an easy commute. “I wanted a gallery where people could come and be educated in art, both sculpture and painting. I had a couple in today who said we want to start collecting art but we don’t know how to begin,” he said. “We want this to be a place for art education, a place where people can watch art happen and we want people to have fun. “When you buy a piece of art, it needs to evoke some kind of emotion, and if there isn’t any emotion there, and you put it in your house, it occupies real estate but it doesn’t pay for that space.”Walt designed the gallery so it’s also a working studio.”When people come in, they get to watch master painters and sculptors,” he said.The galley exhibits work by sculptors Lincoln Fox, Paul Rhymer and figurative sculptor Vala Ola, plus numerous painters, including Jeff Legg, Mark Eberhard, Douglas Aagard and many more. Subjects range from still lifes and landscapes to figurative and contemporary artists such as Angus Wilson. Horton is especially excited to represent Peter Wileman, the president of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in London. “Peter is a master of light, that’s his forte. He does these boats-at-low-tide type of thing. He’s so busy that by the time he’s even done painting a piece, it’s sold. I said, ‘Well Peter, don’t you want to be in a gallery in the United States?’ I told him he needed to share his gift with America.”Wileman recently sent Horton three paintings, which are on display. Jeff Legg, one of the artists who will be painting during the grand opening events, is one of the “premier still life painters in the world,” Horton said. Fox was Horton’s first art teacher and now, his best friend. “He’s the person I’m most excited about,” Horton said. “He’s just released a whole line of giant bronze fruit.”

Gallery guests will be able to see Horton and many of the other artists at work on a regular basis.Paderewski said it’s that accessibility to the artists that will set the gallery apart from the others dotting the area near the ice rink in Beaver Creek Village. “People do love to see the creative process,” Paderewski said.Once people meet Horton, they tend to be fans forever, Paderewski said. “He is such a personable and likable fellow. His collectors, well I’ve never seen anything like it. He just has this incredible following of people always adding to their collections.”As for “Orphans,” the piece is around 10 days away from being finished. After the last tendril of clay is shaved from the sculpture, Horton will send it to Black Hills, South Dakota to be cast in bronze. A limited edition of 75 will be available, seven of which have already sold. High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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