Art excavations at Pagosa gallery, Durango Herald, Aug. 31, 2007

Photos left to right: “Sea Signs” by Susanne Carmack; “Pine Top” by D. Michael Coffee; “Water/Distance/Ash” by Nina Tichava. The works on display in “Suddenly This Summer” exhibit in Pagosa Springs are influenced by abstract expressionism, color-field painting and textiles.

“The work grows under my hand as I respond to previous marks I have made,” artist Susanne Carmack of Bluffton, S.C., wrote in the biography she sent to Shy Rabbit Contemporary Arts in Pagosa Springs.

“I think of these paintings as excavations. I discover the image as I dig into the rough terrain,” she continued.

The gallery has been digging into the rough terrain of the art world. It has excavated the work of six artists from across the United States for an exhibition that is ironically titled “Suddenly This Summer.”

Ironically, because art exhibits don’t come together suddenly.

Carmack’s work is part of the show. Her paintings are rooted in abstract expressionism. Their hushed colors are both opaque and transparent.

Her “Sea Signs,” a mixed-media work on paper is hanging freely, without frame, against the wall. It’s held in place with large magnets. The work features swirls and drips of multi-layered paint in a muted green that nearly blends with the color of the walls. To the left is a muted swirl of orange, red and yellow. The upper right hand quadrant is scrawled with indecipherable writing.

There is an element of nature in all of Carmack’s work. Nature is where we often find ourselves in the summer. Writing is the human element, naming and claiming the natural experience. The juxtaposition of Carmack’s work and a sculptural ceramic piece by D. Michael Coffee, one of the gallery’s owners, called “Pine Top” continues the human versus nature dialogue.

“Pine Top” is a tall cylindrical vessel, primarily in a yellow ash glaze. The lower portion of the sculpture is vivid blue. Atop the ceramic cylinder is a v-shaped piece of pine tree.

Coffee’s high-fired stoneware is created using glazes that incorporate elements from nature. In contrast, the symbolism he uses – written in glaze, stamped in clay or built up from the form – echo symbols of human communication.

Another artist in the show who explores forms in nature is Nina Tichava, a painter from Santa Fe. Tichava’s work is also influenced by abstract expressionism, color-field painting and textiles. She is a process painter, developing each work intuitively over a period of time.

Her most recent work hangs in the front gallery. “Minnow & Kite,” a triptych, and “Entanglement Principle,” a diptych, are oil and mixed media on panel. Her earlier work centers upon the four-petalled flower. Her paintings are fluid and patterned, yet rigid and structured, recognizable and symbolic.

The show also features floral paintings by Jill Sykes of Los Angeles, which are like the prints of Japanese fabric; earthenware shard vessels and plates by Patrick Shia Crabb of Tustin, Calif., which suggest a patchwork quilt of broken pottery; and the ethereal pastel drawings of Karl Isberg of Pagosa Springs.


“Suddenly this Summer” through Sept. 21, 10 a.m.-4p.m., Thursday-Sunday, Shy Rabbit Contemporary Arts, 333 Bastille Drive, Pagosa Springs, 731-2766,

artsjournalist@centurytel.netLeanne Goebel is a freelance writer specializing in the visual arts.

She once served on the board of Shy Rabbit Contemporary Arts, but has not been involved with the organization since 2006.






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