Telluride Gallery August: “Little Gems,” Jewel of a Show, Update!

Telluride Gallery August: “Little Gems,” Jewel of a Show, Update!

Thursday, August 6, 2020, marks the third Telluride Arts’ Art Walk of the summer season. Through mid-August, the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art continues to feature a show entitled “Little Gems.” Right now the Gallery’s online store is showcasing the “Gems” inventory exclusively.

To learn about the evolution of “Little Gems” and details about the artists, go here.

For further information about Art Walk venues, go here.


In a recent New Yorker cartoon a squirrel engaged and a spider are conversing. An admiring squirrel squats on a branch, awaiting a response from a spider who has woven a beautiful web around the branches and leaves of the squirrel’s tree. “It’s not art, really – just something I pulled out of my butt,” explains the spider.

The truth is spiders do make art. They can’t help weaving those beautiful webs. With apologizes to Oscar Hammerstein, that is simply a fact of their lives like “fish gotta swim; birds gotta fly…”

Like spiders, fish and birds, artists got to do what they got to do. That fact of their lives has a name. It’s a thing: the Will to Form (identified as such by critic Wilhelm Woefflin).

There is no denying artists also make art to put a roof over their heads and bread on the table, but it is an internal imperative, not dollars alone, that drives real talent to create. In fact, there is a long history of artists making art that was not meant to be seen other than by their inner circle. Take for example the art in the caves of Cougnac and Lascaux with paintings of beautiful creatures hidden for years in the darkness.

Telluride Gallery’s co-owner and principal curator Ashley Hayward explains further:

“In contemporary history, trends in the art world often dictate what an artist feels compelled to create. Many of these celebrated mark-makers have discovered a solution to simply satisfying market demand for a certain style by creating bodies of works that better express their ever-changing inner world, work that is experimental and present. Historically, these new and different works were introduced privately through the artist friends and/or artist collectives. One example is Manet’s small late-period florals, originally gifts shared with friends while the artist was in a sanatarium. Over time, this body of work became one of the artist’s most appreciated creations, known for their delicacy, intimacy and tenderness.” 

The current exhibit at Telluride Gallery, “Little Gems,” displays examples of heretofore unseen creations, alongside the paintings of other artists who exhibit a similar, unbridled freedom of expression. Among those private (just now public) works doing the full peacock at the venue are the cigar box series by James Hayward; joyous abstractions by Michael Reafsnyder; and lyrical small, mixed-media works by Kristin Beinner James.

Also featured are “Little Gems” – alongside examples of their larger works, generally in public view – are images by Emmi Whitehorse, Gwynn Murrill, Jennifer Wolf, Sue Dirksen, and Victoria Huckins.

Picturing “Little Gems”:

Focus on James Hayward:

“For the past three years, James Hayward has suffered debilitating back and shoulder pain resulting in his shelving his brushes. That said, I also knew that for a painter like my father, not being able to paint is like not being able to breath,” adds Ashley. “What I wanted most was to see James joyful again. I proposed he consider revisiting his cigar box series, a body of small work made by painting directly onto the cigar boxes he acquired over the years from artist and collector friends. The original series was an homage to his dearly departed friend and teacher, the iconic artist Richard Diebenkorn, who painted cigar box lids as gifts. My father was intrigued by the idea, touched by how this show had emerged because of a comment made by one of his former, beloved students. He agreed to give it a try.”

Hayward cigar box series


James Hayward, Cigar Boxes and large white impasto abstraction.

Focus on Kristin Beinner James.

“The paintings I made for this exhibition are a mix of oil, acrylic and wax on various atypical surfaces such as aluminum modeling mesh, jute and cotton interface, the latter a textile commonly used in the garment trade. The neutral tone and open grid-like weave of the material serves well in opening up the construction and ‘operation’ of my painting. I see my work as filters that sift intent and material. Their visually tactile surfaces attempt to grab the eye through a projection of touch.”


“The idea for ‘Little Gems’ came during a call with painter Michael Reafsnyder, who told me that on rare occasion he would make small works for private clients. He affectionately called these special pieces his ‘Little Gems.’ Our Gallery team had been thinking about a fantasy grouping and so we reached out to each artist now in the show with the idea. Almost everyone loved it; only one – and he was key – was unsure,” says Ashley Hayward.

Michael Reaf Snyder, “Sweet Flow,” acrylic on linen.

James Hayward, who happened to be Michael Reafsnyder’s friend and at first his painting professor, had mixed feelings. But the iconic artist obviously came around, getting a reboot by creating work for this gem of show.

Featuring Jennifer Wolf.



Little Gems, featuring Emmi Whitehorse.


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