Pagosa’s Confluence exhibit reprises artists, Durango Herald, Jan. 11, 2008

“Red Lilly,” on the left, is an intaglio print by Ron Fundingsland from Bayfield. The print is made by carving the image into a copper plate and hand pressing hand-colored images. “Competition,” on the right, is a lithograph by Michael D. Barnes, head of the printmaking department at Northern Illinois University.

Shy Rabbit consistently shows high quality, contemporary art created by lifelong artists. “Confluence: Meeting at One Place” is a recapitulation of what Michael and Denise Coffee have created at their gallery/exhibit/studio/workshop space over the last four years.

The show features works by Michael D. Barnes, Illinois; D. Michael Coffee, the gallery’s owner; Patrick Shia Crabb, California; Ron Fundingsland, Bayfield; Jean Gumpper, Colorado Springs; Kelsey Hauck, Saguache; Karl Isberg, Pagosa Springs; Blair Meerfeld, Sag-uache; Marty Mitchell, Sag-uache; Jill Sykes, California and Nina Tichava, New Mexico.

Many of these artists have been exhibited before at Shy Rabbit. Meerfeld and Mitchell from Saguache are recent additions to the gallery’s posse of artists.

And it is an experience not to be missed. Even the repetitive showing of these same artists from around the country still provides the highest quality contemporary art shown between Southwest Colorado and Santa Fe.

“These are all the kind of people we want to continue to work with over time,” Michael Coffee said. “Most are mature artists with 20 to 30 years experience. Tichava and Barnes are young, but have developed way beyond their years.”

Barnes’ lithographs and drawings are phenomenal. His large charcoal drawings were in a previous show, and smaller pieces are available from the gallery’s flat files. Only three lithographs are on display in this exhibition: “The Strategy,” “The Subject” and “The Competition.” Barnes’ imagery presents cynical stories that prompt psychological dilemma. His titles are satirical. “Competition” is likely my favorite because of the highly realistic marbles outside the read of a scrawny, two-legged creature standing on two boxes, its leash tied to one box.

In “The Subject,” the viewer must decide which creature is the subject. The one in the pen or the one bound outside of the pen? The power of Barnes’ work seems to be the surreal and imagined quality rendered in profoundly accurate detail.

Isberg’s large canvases are equally mysterious and perhaps alchemical. They achieve a paradoxical result by combining incompatible elements. At first glance, the paintings from what Isberg terms his Hermetic Book series are religious and iconographic. But, Isberg’s God is theosophic and known only through the artist’s intuition and spiritual ecstacy.

The images are colorful, geometric and seemingly symmetrical, but upon further investigation, the symmetry does not exist, the colors and shapes form human figures and sexual images. Each of his three paintings “Emblema XXIII,” “Emblema XXIV” and “Emblema XXV” are large acrylic works on canvas painted within the last few months and accompanied by obscure texts. The depth and meaning of each painting is accessible to those willing to understand the meaning, to dig deeper into the symbolism. For example, emblems typically represent the character or history of a family or nation. The work is likely highly personal and perhaps political.

Isberg’s text for “Emblema XXIII” could easily summarize the mission of Shy Rabbit and the purpose of a show like “Confluence.”

“Seek that which the philosopher will not name, whose name is concealed to this day; for if its name were known, many would operate, and the art would be common. Common work is short, and without charge, a small and mean work.”

There is little small and mean work on display in “Confluence.” Don’t miss Fundingsland’s “Red Lily” and Gumpper’s “Secrets” and “Abuzz,” or Hauck’s “Man in Guinea 7.” All are definitely
NOT common.

If you go

“Confluence: Meeting at One Place,” Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (or by appointment), through Feb. 23, Shy Rabbit Contemporary Arts, 333 Bastille Drive, Pagosa Springs, 731-2766. Leanne Goebel is a freelance arts journalist from Pagosa Springs.

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"Confluence: Meeting at One Place," Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (or by appointment), through Feb. 23, Shy Rabbit Contemporary Arts, 333 Bastille Drive, Pagosa Springs, 731-2766.

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