MYTHIC messages: Pieces at juried art show not necessarily chosen for theme, Durango Herald, June 27, 2006

PHOTOS Top to bottom, left to right:
“Myths of the Earthmaker,” nature- altered, wire-wrapped books by Mary Ellen Long.

“I Met Him on the Train,” recycled mixed media by Mary M. Thomas, at the “Myths and Prophesies” art show at Durango Arts Center.

“An Education Sensation,” acrylic on canvas by Tirzah Camacho, from the “Myths and Prophesies” show at Durango Arts Center.

June 27, 2006
By Leanne Goebel | Special to the Herald
Telling a story or predicting the future is fertile ground within which artists can create. So it is unfortunate that The Four Corners Commission, “Myths and Prophesies” juried art show at Durango Art Center isn’t filled with more divergent and impacting work.

Prophesy (with an ‘s’) is a verb. I expected artwork of action and mystery. Work that challenged and taunted. Unfortunately, I saw little that made me ponder or told me a compelling story.

The problem with this show is the big cash prizes and the involvement of the Durango Area Tourism Office and the Chamber of Commerce selecting work to be reproduced as posters and postcards. The best artwork does not a tourism poster make.

There were 115 submissions, and juror William Biety, gallery director for the Sandy Carson Gallery in Denver, chose 56 works.

“I couldn’t have imagined hanging more,” he said from his cell phone in Denver.

Biety based his selection on the quality of the work and not the theme, but admitted that some works were excluded because they had absolutely nothing to do with the theme. Some work was chosen because it added to the balance of the show in terms of media. As an example, Biety mentioned several pastel landscapes. “In a way, our landscapes are disappearing so it could be a myth or a prophecy,” Biety said.

Awarding prizes, the juror said, was the toughest part. Biety’s choices do represent some of the best work in the show.

Best of Show went to John Grow for the quality and technical ability in his oil painting “Duropoly” ($3,200), an image of two girls playing a game similar to Monopoly but with a lot more money, a lot more houses and extra game pieces including horses, tractors, tumbled churches and a book of matches.

“The Sentinels” ($800) a particularly fresh mixed media canvas by Anne Strawn won the Jurors Choice. Strawn’s wide canvas is colorful. The red, orange, and yellow phantasmagoric trees contrast with the too intensely blue sky and cacodemon clouds. Strawn wrote in her statement: “In this painting trees are posed and ready to protect their world.” I don’t believe Strawn understands her own work. The nine trees in Strawn’s painting are leafless and seem unable to defend against the malevolent spirits in the clouds. In medicine, a sentinel is an indicator of disease.

Honorable Mentions went to Scott Harris for “Sunflowers,” ($350) oil on Masonite and Carolyn Reeves Johnson for “Wolf Moon” ($250) a monotype print. Mary Ellen Long received a Merit Award for “Myths of the Earthmaker” ($1,800) an installation of nature-altered wrapped books.

I found myself drawn to Long’s work, wanting to read all of the text and pick through the relic. Long planned for this work of art.

I also found myself attracted to Deborah Gorton’s “Where Have they Gone?” ($350) a mixed media panel with ten bone and egg shaped three-dimensional relics mounted on a dark-stained wood background. Each stone or relic is marked with glyphs. It is like a mysterious artifact from the future. She understood the theme.

So did Tirzah Camacho. Camacho’s acrylic painting on canvas “An Education Sensation” ($1,275) is the best work in the show. A river, a train track, a white Christian church and the blood red abstracted native symbols are swallowed by the mouth of the building. Inside the snake head of the train track are these words: Kill the Indian, save the man. Myth and prophecy.”

While not one of the best shows the Arts Center has launched this year, “Myths and Prophesies” is still worth seeing, for the few artists who grasped the theme and stretched themselves to execute diverse work.

The Four Corners Commission, “Myths and Prophesies,” through Friday, 10 a.m.-5p.m.Durango Arts Center, 802 East Second Ave. 259-2606.
Leanne Goebel is a freelance arts journalist from Pagosa Springs.

Contents copyright ©, the Durango Herald. All rights reserved.

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