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2009 Artists’ Studio and Gallery Tour, final leg

 With my virtual tour almost over, I head east on Cascade Avenue from Pierre Mion’s studio to make my last three stops on the Pagosa Springs Arts Council’s 2009 Artists’ Studio and Gallery Tour. I reach Trujillo Road and turn right (south). In less than 6 miles, I reach the residence and studio of Jana Parkes. Here I know I will get to see Jana’s latest works in progress, and meet for the first time three other talented and creative women artists who gather to collectively demonstrate and discuss their art; Sueyel Grace, Jean Koenig and Lynnzie Sutton.

 Sueyel Grace, her home land Chile, is an artist whose talents lie in many mediums; she creates the cuddliest animals painted on rocks; she calls them her “Colorocko critters.” Very clever! When I look at them; foxes, raccoons; and deer; they appear to be the real thing curled up for an afternoon nap. Such life Sueyel captures in these rocks! Sueyel also creates brilliantly designed stained glass paintings, and paintings on canvas. Nonetheless, it is Sueyel’s woven Pine needle baskets that most intrigue me and draw me in for a conversation. You see, for every Pine needle basket that Sueyel sells, she donates 10% of the profit to “Feed the Children”. “I strongly believe that there is no reason a child should go hungry while others disregard the abundance they have everyday,” exclaims Sueyel.  She has an immense love for Pine needles; so I ask her why she has chosen her Pine needle baskets to be “ambassadors of her very personal crusade to assist in bringing child world hunger to an end”. To make a wonderfully rich story short, Sueyel explained to me that her father-in-law always said that the Pine trees know when it is Easter. I wondered what he meant, so I continue pressing. Sueyel told me, “Pine trees start their new growth in the weeks before Easter – if you look at the tops of the Pine trees two weeks before, you will see the yellow shoots. As the days get closer to Easter Sunday, the tallest shoot will branch off and form a cross.” Sueyel continues, “By the time Easter Sunday comes around, you will see that most of the Pine trees will have small yellow crosses on all of the tallest shoots.” I’ll have to pay close attention next spring. Sueyel also writes poetry, and shares Pagosa Springs with her beloved family and animals; six dogs, two horses, and three cats.

 I make my way over to meet Jean Koenig, who has been a student of local artist Betty Slade for three and a half years. Koenig tells me that the two of them met when Betty was teaching beginning watercolors at Wyndham Activities, where Jean works. Jean and Betty discovered they were neighbors in along the Lower Blanco and began meeting regularly, finding that they energized and inspired each other as they painted together. Koenig exclaims, “I’m drawn to the free-flowing movement that watercolors provide.” She adds that her work is more impressionistic, as she’s drawn to colors rather than compositions. “I have always wanted to express myself in others ways than just writing and journaling, as I have been doing since my 20s. Now I am finding a new-found love of art in general and personal creation in particular. What a blessing to have met Betty and started on this very satisfying journey.”  Jean’s works can also be seen at the Pagosa Artisans’ Co-op in Pagosa Springs.

 And here’s Jana! Jana Parkes’ acrylic paintings can inspire and take you to another world; quite literally. “My most recent paintings are cosmic … with stars, galaxies and nebulae,” expresses Parkes. She adds that some are inspired by space photographs, while others are created without reference. Parkes tells me that employing both techniques stretch her, “I not only learn from doing both, but I also apply what I learn from one to the other.” Jana paints both realistically and abstractly. Her abstract paintings are what she refers to as “energy expressions”. As Jana puts it, she feels like she is depicting various forms of energy; what is there, but not visible to the eye. She comments to me that nothing is really a solid; even a “solid” represents varying vibrations of energy. Quite true! Parkes’ work exudes her spirit, portraying and carrying “living energies”. I walk over to Jana’s “Cosmic Birth”, and lament that this painting appears to represent a white hole, which astrophysicists theorize as the theoretical time reversal of a black hole. Counter to a black hole, which draws in any matter crossing its event horizon, a white hole acts as a source that ejects matter from its event horizon. Parkes responded saying that she created this painting using a spatter technique. She uses what looks like a metal window screen material with a handle on it. “I paint the color I want onto the screen and then blow on it, causing the paint to “spatter” onto the canvas.” Jana’s works are “portals through which a loving universe radiates light and joy; healing our connection with all that is.” It is obvious to me that painting is something that Jana feels quite passionate about doing; I can see that it brings her great joy. “I feel such an inner desire to express what is within me, or what I feel needs to come through me, out into the world,” laments Parkes. To Jana, art is “food for the soul”. She thanks me again for visiting and wishes me her blessings. With that, I’m off to my next stop, the residence and studio of Chad Haspels.

 I head further out, another 12 miles on County Road 500 (Trujillo Road). I didn’t get the opportunity to visit Haspels’ studio last year, so I’m really looking forward to my visit this year. I hear a visit is very worth one’s while. I’ve seen Haspels’ in artistic action on a number of occasions; once doing a wood carving demonstration at Wild Spirit Gallery. I wonder if he’ll treat us to another! Haspels’ technique involves taking advantage of spontaneous movements and decisions to capture an initial energy with the form of the sculpture. Then, depending on the direction he wants to go, Haspels might focus on detail and precision on top of this, or he might leave the energy-driven process to show through in the finished piece by way of having tool textures remain. He starts by carefully studying his wood. Then with subject in mind; Haspels pulls the cord on one of his many chainsaws and revs it to speed. With a few cuts here and several cuts there, Haspels’ sculptural form begins to emerge. I can start to see the eagle Haspels is creating. Once the sculpture is “roughed in”, Haspels begins to deftly refine it using many a sculptor’s favorite tools, an angle grinder. Chad laments, “With my angle grinder, I can refine the subtle convex and concave undulations of the eagle’s wings.” I like to lay in the fine details, such as the eagle’s eyes, using my Dremel or hand tools. I suddenly remember watching Haspels carve using his hand tools at this year’s Art in the Garden festival. While much slower, hand tools can give a sculptor more control and lend the wood unique textural effects. I pause and glimpse towards the San Juan River running alongside Haspels’ property and have a better appreciation for his inspired works. I immediately reflect on Haspels’ “Healing Waters of Pagosa,” the trio of trees he’s carving in front of Pagosa Mountain Hospital. Haspels tell me, “Every tree has its own history as a part of the land it came from, of the life it lived, and often, how it may have died. Whether these woods have drifted down the San Juan during the previous winter’s snowmelt, or are wildfire-scorched, beetle infested, drought impacted, or otherwise affected by man’s involvement in nature, I try to understand this process and take it into account when I create with it.” Haspels adds “My goal is to utilize the wood I have by capitalizing on its beauty, as well as its structure and form.” The inspirations that Chad works involve the human figure, equine and wildlife themes. I’m very happy I came out to Chad Haspels’ studio! From Haspels’ studio, I head back towards town on Trujillo Road. A quick left onto Cascade Avenue has me headed back by the Mion’s home, but I keep going. A left onto Meadows Drive from Buttress Avenue allows me to wind my way out to U.S. 160; I then head west to the Aspen Springs area for my last stop of the tour; the residence and studio of Anthony and Kathleen Steventon.

 For those of you who haven’t yet seen Anthony or Kathleen painting in oils, the Steventons’ studio is a must-see. What a true delight! From start to finish, Kathleen masterfully executes a spontaneous, energetic and fluid abstract expressionistic painting based on a black and white photographic image by world-renown wild Mustang photographer, Jerry Sintz of Utah. I watch closely as Kathleen starts by laying down a base layer of oils across her canvas using only a palette knife. She loosely mixes a couple of colors on the tip of her knife; then applies them to her canvas, blending them expertly as she progresses. I’m amazed at her swiftness. Kathleen exclaims, “This is the step I love the most.” I can see how energizing the process becomes. She deftly decides where she wants to lay in the darker hues, and where she wants highlights. In a matter of minutes, Steventon has this base painting complete. Kathleen then starts to add the basic outline and features of the horse’s massive head, which is placed just off-center on the canvas for compositional intrigue. She draws on the rugged expressionism of her palette knife while she deftly pushes and pulls the paint across her canvases. Kathleen’s painting is starting to emerge; she begins to captures the essence of this exquisite animal; its freedom, power, grace and beauty. But then, she accomplishes this feat in all her paintings. Not surprising for this accomplished artist! Her color-intensive, richly-layered palette-knife works explore the spiritual essence of the animals she paints. “My paintings focus on the emotional and spiritual connection to the world around me, particularly with both the animal and human experience.” Color plays a huge part in Kathleen’s creative process and gives her great joy. Her palette is diverse and well-balanced. She is inspired by the textured works of Van Gogh and the color of O’Keeffe, but most importantly from nature. One can sense Kathleen’s passion and emotion for her subjects. I suddenly look around the Steventon’s studio to catch a glimpse of Anthony’s latest works in his “Through the Pines” series of abstracted landscapes.

 Not unlike his artist wife, Anthony Steventon’s primary tool as a painter of oils is also the palette knife, but that is where any similarities in the works of this husband and wife artist team end. “My paintings are generated from within. They embrace the intuitive emotion of form, color and composition, in a semi-literal state bordering on the pure abstract,” explains Anthony. Steventon’s inspiration and energy comes from the works of such artists as Kandinsky, Picasso, Pollock and Kline. Such art is, for him, reactional to the moment. “It is not meant to be understood, or explained, but rather to invoke a feeling, regardless of what that feeling is.” According to Anthony, it’s almost a paradox, to try as best as he can to examine his own thoughts and feelings towards the subject matter at hand, while at the same time needing to relinquish any control. He points out, “I find the combination of layered paint and the tactile strokes thus produced, give my paintings a feeling of depth, and a sense of ‘looking through to the other side’.” This aesthetic particularly comes through in Anthony’s “Through the Pines” series, which draws one into the moment with wonderment and awe. An important aspect for any artist is the sense and feeling of discovery in the entire process. There is an old saying that an artist never finishes a work of art — he/she just stops working on it. As an artist myself, I understand this conundrum. But it is the seasoned artist, like Anthony or Kathleen Steventon that knows when to draw this line. For both Anthony and Kathleen, this push-pull brings them great satisfaction in taking an idea or concept and working it through to their own definition of completion.  It’s as if the canvas, paint and process, all have to merge in one final coming together of work, rework, rejection and accomplishment.

 Well, this last stop ends my virtual tour, but the real 2009 Pagosa Springs Artists’ Studio and Gallery Tour hasn’t yet begun, and awaits me later this week. I cannot wait! Pick up your tour brochures now! I already have mine! Brochures are still available through the Pagosa Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, Pagosa Springs Arts Council, the following sponsoring businesses, and our participating artists: Art & Framing Center of Pagosa; Artisans of the Southwest Art Gallery and Wine Tasting Room; Handcrafted Interiors; Lantern Dancer Gallery; Pagosa Artisans’ Co-op; Pagosa Photography; SHY RABBIT Contemporary Arts; and Wild Spirit Gallery. Don’t despair if you miss out on the tour brochure, exquisitely designed by Roxanne Schick of Artyrox Graphic & Web Design! The detailed Tour Directions and Tour Map can both be downloaded from the Pagosa Springs Arts Council Web site at www.pagosa-arts.com/ASTour09.html, or stop by our Town Park Gallery any time from Tuesday through Sunday, 12 noon to 4 p.m., and we’ll print you a copy.

 The tour, free to the public, is slated for this coming Saturday, Sept. 12, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 13, noon to 5 p.m. Join your family and friends and enjoy this once a year celebration of the arts.