There is a certain homespun lyricism, complete authenticity and distinctly regional cast to the new body of work by painter Julee Hutchison. (See my catalog foreword for details.) If you find magic in the Telluride region, then the bottom line on the paintings is short and sweet: Hutchison’s “Telluride Horizons” is a must-see. The opening and artist’s reception at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Hutchison joined Will Thompson’s stable at Telluride Gallery of Fine Art in 2004. Since then, she has done a number of one-person shows, group shows, and a blog adventure that included one small painting a week for one year.

“I consider myself very fortunate to be included among the many fine artists the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art represents. Baerbel gave me the wonderful opportunity to join the gallery when my husband and I were first starting to build our home in the region. From the get-go, everyone at the gallery has done an incredible job at representing me and my work with great energy, commitment and knowledge. Being included in the mix at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art continues to be one of the most important aspects of my art journey. I am very lucky to be a part of that family.”

“Telluride Horizons” came about when Will contacted Hutchison a year ago and suggested a landscape show.

“I was thrilled to take on the challenge. ‘Telluride Horizons’ evolved from my love of this incredible little corner of Colorado with its magnificent mountains and beautiful valleys. I love the animals that graze on the grassy fields, the lakes, the seasonal changes, and the breathtaking skies that alter so dramatically with the light. As my Dad always said when he came out here: ‘This place feeds your soul.’ And so it does. It also compels me to paint what is in my heart onto a canvas.”

Collectively, the images in”Telluride Horizons” meet at the nexus of direct observation, memory and fantasy. Individually, each one has a backstory. Julee breaks the code on five of her paintings, telling the story behind the story she captures in oil. (With regard to the other 20-something paintings, you can superimpose your own stories of place onto them when you visit the show.)

“For Marguerite”: My grandmother’s name was Marguerite and I was given that name for my middle name in her honor. My Grandmother Marguerite, who we affectionately called “Gay,” gave me my first drawing and painting lessons when I was in third grade. She was a beautiful landscape painter and had taken classes at the Chicago Art Institute. In a number of her works, Marguerite painted beautiful snow-laden pine trees which all of our family to this day comments on and admires. Because of these trees, we often say, upon seeing a heavily snow-covered pine tree in nature, “that pine tree looks like one of ‘Gay’s’ trees.” And so the beautiful tree in “For Marguerite” called out to me to paint it in her honor. My grandmother and I had a special bond around art and so I wanted to dedicate a painting to her. I always use my middle initial when signing my work in honor of the wonderful lady who helped me find my path early on.

“In a Sea of Cows”: Even as a small child I always loved cows. There is something quieting about seeing them peacefully grazing in the fields. We have wonderful ranchers, the Snyder family, who bring their cattle up to our mesa in early summer and fall to graze. Because the Snyders are amazingly kind to their animals and are very fine ranchers, their cattle are calm and gentle. That has allowed me to study their beautiful bovine faces up close, their long eyelashes, pink noses, blue shadows on white faces. I think cows are beautiful creatures and I love to capture their sweet souls on canvas.

“Summer Ceiling”: No question there is one beautiful landscape after another here in the Telluride region. The inspiration for this particular painting, however, is on the road to our house. It is  my attempt to capture a typical  summer sky in which the cloud formations, daylight or twilight, are spectacular. I paint a lot of cloudscapes. Sometimes the landscape is just an excuse to paint majestic skies. In “Telluride Horizons” I wanted to create exciting paintings, not just in terms of the subject matter, but also in the technique and style. In this and a number of other paintings, I took full advantage of the lusciousness of oil paint to create a sense of energy in the strokes and the paint delivery.

“All Aglow”: I’m inspired by the light here. The relationship of warm to cool is so prevalent and so exciting to me. I see  the contrast most often in winter, but there is a painting of downtown Telluride (“Closing Time”) in this collection that also shows the warmth of the sun and the coolness of the shadows in the light of a summer sunset. “All Aglow” is all about a mesa just to the northeast of our home that has frequently inspired me in the winter with it’s incredible warm, glowing light, the antithesis of the cool, dark evening skies.

“Coffee’s On”: Another important relationship in my paintings is man to nature. For me, man is always just a small part of the big picture, humbled by all that is so much greater and more beautiful around him. Many of my landscape paintings represent my belief that man must protect and be an integral part of his surroundings, but never try to dominate them.

Julee Hutchison was born in a suburb north of Chicago. She attended college in Ohio and lived some 23 years in Arizona. Shortly after moving to Phoenix, Hutchison met her husband, Steve, a copywriter, and together they started their own graphic design and writing business. Julee began to take classes at the Scottsdale Artists’ School and eventually enrolled in a number of week-long workshops instructed by exceptional guest artists. Her love of nature and animals led her to plein air landscape painting. It was this love for nature that was a critical part of  the couple’s decision to move to Telluride, Colorado. Hutchison paints plein air accompanied by the wonderful spirit of Roxie, their beloved St. Bernard. She is currently training Sterling, the new St. Bernard addition to the family, to be a good plein air painting companion.

While landscape painting is Hutchison’s first love she has also pursued figurative and still life work and has developed a passion and a confidence when working in these subjects as well.

For a preview of her show at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art, watch Clint Viebrock’s video.

(And be sure to ask for a copy of the catalog for “Telluride Horizons.”)

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