Telluride Arts' Art Walk: Horsing Around, Budnik, Ah Haa & More
Telluride Arts’ First Thursday Art Walk is a festive celebration of the art scene in downtown Telluride for art lovers, community, and friends. Participating venues host receptions from 5 –8 p.m. to introduce new exhibits. Complimentary gallery guides, available at all the venues, offer a self-guided tour.
Highlights of the February 2018 Art Walk include Nancy B. Frank‘s paintings of horses at Telluride Arts’s Gallery 81435 seen “Up Close & Personal”; rare photographs by Dan Budnik at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art; and Ah Haa’s juried group show, “Body of Work.”
Nancy B. Frank, “Up Close & Personal,” Gallery 81435:
Diablo was a wild mustang, the victim of a misguided show highlighting mustang adoption. When she first saw him, a trainer was working the horse, who was not at all happy. The demonstration was done indoors; the horse’s eyes reflect the fluorescent lighting of the unwelcomed enclosure.
Derby is a three-day-old foal so named because he was born the day of the last Kentucky Derby. The horse is unique because of his blue “watch eyes.” Derby arrived with a “beard,” which he ultimately outgrew.
The artist met The Thinker in Portugal in 2009 at the annual Golega horse feria, an event where horsemen gather annually to show off their stock.
“One hundred Lusitano stallions parade around a ring at the same time in traditional tack while their riders wear the traditional dress. I was attracted to this horse because of his kind eye,” said the artist.
Then there is Nancy B’s own horse, Silver Lining, a domestically bred Kiger Mustang and a rescue, who was abusively started by the Charros in Mexican Dancing.
“My latest horse was saved at age seven, but then not used for four lonely years. He just sat in a run in before finally being put to work ponying racehorses at a track. I found him on the Internet and took a chance. He arrived during a full moon. That first night when I looked out at him, his white coat glowed in the moonlight. It was as if there were a huge magical Unicorn in my yard. The animal totem of my mom and best friend who had died recently? My new horse was a rescue who had never had a person. I was a person in mourning who needed rescuing. I just knew my mother approved. Which is why the name Silver Lining.”
Diablo, Rodeo, Derby, The Thinker, and Silver Lining are among a group of 12 paintings of horses Nancy B. Frank has on display in February at Telluride Arts’ Gallery 81435 in a show entitled “Up Close & Personal.” And because artists tend to depict aspects of themselves in their work – portraits obviously, but landscapes, even abstractions too – Nancy B.’s sensually brushed horses are powerful creatures, beautifully articulated with great attention to detail. Dignity and intelligence shine through their soulful eyes.
The multi-talented Nancy B. is a larger-than-life personality whose larger-than-life equine images don’t just rinse the eye with equine grace and majesty. We are treated to a full bath. So move over George Stubbs. A dark horse is closing in on your lead and really feeling her, ahem, oats. The path she took to her persistent muses may have been winding, but once this gifted artist hit her stride, Nancy B. was – and remains – unstoppable in the genre.
When she was a girl, Nancy B. did not just love horses, she thought she was a horse.
“My best friend Peggy and I galloped around my dining room table on our hands and knees. We galloped with scarves sticking out of our pants to look like tails.”
The artist – who holds an M.F.A. in photo-printmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a B.F.A. in painting from Ohio Wesleyan University – has lived in Telluride since 1989.
Out of the gate, Nancy B. has worked successfully in a variety of mediums: jewelry, sculptured cakes, painted furniture, faux painting and photography. In fact, her whimsical, over-the-top cakes landed her a feature in The New Yorker’s popular “Talk of the Town” column.
Back then, however, when she painted, Frank’s subject matter was, frankly, all across the metaphorical map: planets, pearls, birds, and bats galore. While decorative and technically proficient, these early works amounted to lots of hustle, no flow.
And despite her childhood passion for equines, fact is Frank had routinely shied away from horses as a suitable subject matter.
The explanation is as simple as it is complex: horse painting has a long and storied history. Just think about the Parthenon frieze; the equestrian portraits of Verrochio and Donatello; the regal equines of Peter Paul Rubens; Degas’s horses at the racetrack; and Picasso’s “Guernica.” And, in the 18th century, the aforementioned Stubbs (1724-1806), the go-to guy when it came to horse images. (To this day, the man is widely considered the best horse painter who ever lived.)
Nancy B. knew that history and had swallowed the standard rap on horse and “sporting” art in general: holier-than-thou critics, even other painters, have historically looked down on animaliers, those who painted only animals: they were minor artists who produced work for the amusement of the leisure class only. That was true even in the 18th century, the Age of the Horse.
“So many people like me love the power and grace of a horse, but for years I felt trying to capture that majesty on canvas was such a cliché.”
Those feelings changed when Nancy B. began doing equestrian travel to different countries and cultures. Because of digital photography, she was able to paint from her original color photographs. Nancy B. found herself painting horses from the strength of her photographer’s eye – and the heart of a person who loves them.
Nancy B. never liked empty spaces on canvas, so she photographed her horses to fill the screen and, subsequently, the picture plane, with haunches and heads, manes and tails, glossy coats, bits, and reins in extreme close-up.
And in doing what she does in the unique way she does it, Nancy B. reigns supreme: her horse images are fraught with the dynamic tension embodied by these powerful, proud creatures, bound up with tack, yes, but only superficially submissive. Inside – and just like the artist herself – they will always remain unbridled.
As the show at Gallery 81435 proves, Nancy B.’s horses mark the moment the artist came into her power, the result of finding her natural subject and creating work that is very very good – and honoring that fact of her life.
Nowadays, when it comes to painting horses, Frank owns the finish line.
“My horse paintings mark the first time in my life as an artist that I managed to marry my love of color with a subject I know and love. When I paint horses, I am out of my head, working from my heart. There is good reason that ‘art’ is embedded in ‘heart.’”
All that said, in addition to her signature horse images and over the same period of time she created them, Nancy B. has been riding a parallel track, creating abstractions based on, again, an up close and personal view of the architecture of the places she visited and loved. Horses, abstractions really boil down to a singular passion: no matter the subject, for the former printmaker, Nancy B., it all comes down to color and texture which fills the surfaces of her images – paintings and photographs – north, south, east and west. To prove the point, first look at her horse paintings, then squint:
The truth of Nancy B.’s close cropped style will out.
Lara Branca at Telluride Arts HQ:
Through her art, Lara Branca explores the limitless potential of the abstracted equine figures which occupy the vast landscapes of her imagination. Multiple horizons, shifting perspectives, and translucent forms shape the dream-like feeling of her large canvases.
The artist begins by making small, in situ paintings of landscapes, recreating the land, light, and colors, from memory; the marks that identify her horses take shape spontaneously.
“I strive to create work that connects the viewer with a mystical world inhabited by sentient, silent, communicative and graceful beings. I invite viewers to take a walk in these landscapes to experience Wind of Heaven through the movements and forms of the horses.”
Lara Branca is a native Coloradoan, who was born in Denver. Her city upbringing was contrasted by summers spent at Girl Scout camp where she developed a deep and abiding love for wilderness, land, and horses. Her life has been shaped by travel and living in wild places; the artist came to interpret those experiences through dance and visual art.
Branca received her BA in Painting with honors from Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO in 2006. She earned an MFA in Painting from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in 2016. Branca currently lives and works in rural Southwest Colorado, where she pursues her painting.
Dan Budnik at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art:
Acclaimed photographer Dan Budnik captured American history during his time working for Magnum Photos. In fact, he was standing right behind Martin Luther King in Washington, D.C. when King delivered his iconic ‘I Have A Dream” speech. Budnik’s rare original silver gelatin photographs from two bodies of work,”Marching to the Freedom Dream: Civil Rights Movement 1950-1960s” and “Picturing Artists: Artists in Their Studios 1950-1970s,” are currently on display at Telluride Gallery.
Budnik is no stranger to Telluride. In years past, the Gallery mounted shows featuring his extraordinary perspective of the Civil Rights movement, images date back to the early 1950s, when he was a student at the Art Students’ League in New York. This documentation of the Civil Rights Marches in Selma, Montgomery and Washington DC provides an intimate look at the participants and supporters.
“I was on my way to Paris to study with Cartier Bresson’s teacher Andre Lhote, but first I had to stop in New York to get a passport. The bureaucrats wouldn’t give me the document without a letter from my draft board, because of America’s so-called ‘involvement’ in Korea. (We were not yet officially at war.) Frustrated at being denied, I kicked a can up 57th Street. The can landed in front of the Art Student’s League. The next morning I signed up for classes,” Budnik explained in a past interview.
Right after WWII, New York City, no longer Paris, became the center of the art world, and a (largely) boy’s club known as the Abstract Expressionists became superstars. In 2015, the Telluride Gallery exhibited color photographs from the “Picturing Artists” series, highlighting unique darkroom prints that capture a behind-the-scenes perspective of some of America’s most famous Abstract Expressionists.
“Dan Budnik’s portraits of fine artists intrigued me. I became motivated to dig deeper into their work and learn more about art history,” said Baerbel Hacke, director, Telluride Gallery of Fine Art.
Ah Haa School for the Arts’ “Body of Work”:
The human body is one of the most enduring themes in visual arts. Over millennia, artists interpreted the human form as a means of understanding identity, as portraits and expressions of the self, in imaginative shapes, and they did so in humorous ways, or as a way to communicate and connect with the viewer.
This year, the Ah Haa School’s annual regional exhibition celebrates the human body. The juried exhibition, “Body of Work,” highlights work across that reflects all interpretations of the human form.
Regional artists located within 150 miles of Telluride were invited to submit works in all mediums: painting, ceramics, sculpture, printing, fiber, metals, photography and other, that interpret or celebrate the human form.
Submitted works had to embrace the form, figure, function, or face of the human body.
Four cash prizes are scheduled to be awarded: $500 for 1st place, $250 for 2nd place, $100 for 3rd place and People’s Choice Award.
Jurors are Baerbel Hacke, Julie McNair and David Holbrooke.
Art Walk venues, February 2018:
Ah Haa School for the Arts
Baked in Telluride
La Cocina de Luz
MIXX projects + atelier
Slate Gray Gallery
Telluride Arts HQ Gallery
Telluride Gallery of Fine Art
Telluride Music Co.
The Turquoise Door Gallery
Tony Newlin Gallery
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