Slate Gray Gallery December: A Group Show Opens With Art Walk!

Thursday, December 17, 2020, marks the 6th Telluride Arts’ Art Walk of the winter season. Throughout the month, Slate Gray Gallery Telluride is featuring a group show of the work of artists in its rich stable.

Complimentary gallery guides are available for self-guided tours. At participating venues or online at telluridearts.org/art-walk-2020. 

Participants are asked to wear masks, practice safe social distancing, avoid large groups, and keep hands washed and sanitized. Venues will be allowing a limited number of people into their spaces at a time and most are unable to serve food or beverages, so Art Walk attendees are encouraged to visit local restaurants and bars for take-out beverages and bites.

Go here  for an overview of all participating Art Walk galleries.

Jewelry by Mary Johnson, aka Maria Lightfoot. Her work  is featured at Slate Gray Gallery throughout December.

In a world that seems to be proceeding at the pace of a waking dream, criss-crossed as it is with the shadow of a persistent virus, we are forced to move inward to the vast landscape of our imaginations. That space is the natural habitat of life-long artists like Mary Johnson, (dba Maria Liightfoot), featured in a group show in December at Telluride’s Slate Gray Gallery.

The subtext of the exhibition is the understanding that under dire circumstances, momentary joy often comes through the arts writ large. Whether maker or observer, art can be an antidote in times of chaos because it compels us to find or invent something new and vital out of whatever circumstances.

Mary Johnson (doing business as Maria Lightfoot), more:

Which is what Mary has been doing her whole adult life, a large chunk of which was spent in Telluride, where she arrived in tie-dyed days of the town back in 1974.

“I loved travel, horses – and most of all being creative. I figured out a way to eke out a living at first by taking a caretaking job at the Adams Ranch under the auspices of the Telluride Ski Company. I boarded horses and had a place for my horses in exchange for irrigating and maintaining the property (now Telski’s golf course). I loved living in the mountains, my lifestyle, my friends. It was idyllic.”

Over the years Mary partnered or owned several stores in town, which variously featured antiques, home furnishing, tribal artifacts, antique textiles, handbags, some of which she crafted, some gleaned on her travels to Southeast and Central Asia and Latin America.

By 2010, Mary began connecting all the far-flung dots of her life by focusing on jewelry, a skill set, creative outlet and business, enhanced by the classes she took at Florida’s Ringling College of Art and Design.

“I named my business The Maria Lightfoot Collection, a play on my married name, Mary Liekefet, and began designing and fabricating my line, which I wholesale to boutiques and galleries like Beth McLaughlin’s Slate Gray.”

The Maria Lightfoot Collection is a compilation of the different elements Mary loves: metals, leather, stones, antler, horn, bone.

“Basically I am inspired by whatever is right in front of me in the moment. And what tends to be in front of me are the goods I collected from all over the world relatively recently and long ago. My designs are all over the board: large statement pieces made from bone, African glass, leather and antlers, also old artifacts, amulets and prayer pouches. On the other end of the spectrum are my delicate pieces, mostly 24k gold, silver and bronze designss with diamonds. In between are my mixed metal shields, spikes and crescents, as well as an array of beaded strands.” 

An original in her own right, Mary sees her customer as anyone “who love style and design and wants to stand apart from the crowd.”

Mary now lives in El Paso with her husband Eric and their Chihuahua baby Tito:

It’s a great place for us. We love the people, the food, the culture in general, and the climate of the high desert. From there I can drive to most places I need to visit for my work. And Telluride is only an eight- hour drive due north.”

Other featured artists – Highlights:

Sylvia Benitez:

Red River, Benitez,

Sylvia Benitez is an artist and curator who spent her formative art years in New York. Now living outside Seguin, she teaches landscape painting in San Antonio, TX.

Between 1880 and 1920, landscape painting espoused a philosophy whose squishy center revolved around human emotion, sensitivity, and an expanded idea of The Sublime (or Divine).

And the beat goes on with artists like Sylvia paying the tradition forward with the homespun lyricism of her abstracted landscapes.

For a deeper dive into Benitez’ life and work, go here.

Mark Bowles: Landscapes yes, but what are they really all about?

A Landscape in Time, Mark Bowles.

Though he is drawn to the natural world, painter Mark Bowles is relatively agnostic about his subject matter:

“Whether I am working on a still life, on a human figure or on a landscape, what fascinates me and compels me to paint is texture, form and color, which I use in expressing how I feel about what I am looking in the moment…My heart is always pushing my work to find a new language to express what I see and how I feel about that. The result therefore is not just an intellectual exercise, but also about being involved in the Now, open for change and challenge, always evolving.”

In other words, Bowles’ acrylics, do not record. They evoke. While the monumental images on display at Slate Gray do suggest details such as the topography of a site, the location of mountains, water, trees and such, they more accurately describe the emotions certain special places stirred in the artist.

(And soon, in you.)

Go here for more on Bowles life and work.

Amy Van Winkle:

Falling Like The Stars, Van Winkle.

Though their work is very different (abstracted realism with Bowles; pure abstraction or non-objective images from Amy Van Winkle), those two artists share influences: Diebenkorn and Rothko – although Van Winkle also cites shape-shifter Gerhard Richter, an artist’s artist who could (and did) move like the wind from figuration and portrait painting to landscape, monochromes and geometric abstraction.

One art historian summed up Richter’s view of painting this way: “Richter knows that a painting is a construct and our view of nature too – the way we try to idealize it and tame it.”

So directly or indirectly, Richter influenced Bowles too.

And like with Richter, in the the work of artist Amy Van Winkle everything old is new again.

For more on Van Winkle’s life and work, go here.

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