Telluride Gallery: Group Show, “Vessel,” Through July 4!

Telluride Gallery: Group Show, “Vessel,” Through July 4!

Through July 4, the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art is featuring the work of Bennett Bean, Nicholas Bernard, Christian Burchard, Angel Chen, Rebecca Crowell, Dana Flores, Yassi Mazandi, Polina Perl, Goedele Vanhille, and Michael Wisner in a show entitled “Vessel.” These artists work in a variety of media ranging from ceramics to wood and oil paint.

For other shows up in June and opening with Art Walk, go here to Telluride Arts’ website.

For more about the Telluride Gallery, go here.

Yassi Mazandi, Poppy Pod

The theme of the first blockbuster exhibition of the summer season at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art is “Vessel,” a group show featuring 10 artists, one of whom does not work in that ancient, versatile medium of ceramics (or a related 3D medium such as wood or earthenware).

Rebecca Crowell is a painter. She is also the tie that binds.


Crowell’s work has the similar awe-inspiring impact of Abstract Expressionist icon Mark Rothko, the artist having eliminated figure and ground in favor of color and form – with echoes of a “landscape” featured in her quietly majestic art.

In fact, Crowell’s abstract landscapes could easily be interpreted as soul-scapes that suggest a fluid balance between abstraction and deliberate, if obscured, references to the natural world she venerates. Plant life, earth, rocks and light show up in her canvases as ghost memories of magical moments, pushing one critic to describe Crowell’s paintings as “memory maps.”

Surprising though it may be in the face of that surface equanimity, the production of a Crowell painting is a physically demanding, sometimes violent process. Layers are scratched, eroded and dissolved to reflect what occurs naturally in her rugged landscapes. Regardless, in the end, Crowell’s spare, but dense images are tethered to the artist’s spirituality.

Assessing her latest body of work on display in “Vessel,” it becomes evident that Crowell believes in the transformative powers of art and the ability of artists to conjure emotions through their work such as happiness, love, beauty, perfection, feelings we are all capable of experiencing especially when out and about in the healing presence of Mother Nature.

According to Telluride Gallery director Eva Chimento her muse for ‘”Vessel” was that affinity locals (and guests) share for the breathtaking landscapes that comprise the Telluride region – those places where “the world is but a canvas to our imaginations.” (Henry David Thoreau).

“Plus it is almost officially summer in these parts. When Colorado blue skies and a bright yellow sun compel us all to get outside,” Chimento adds. “What the artists in ‘Vessel’ have in common is a love of nature and the use of some of the organic materials nature provides like water, clay, stone, wood and fire.”

Artists and artisans working to create vessels have contributed to the art world for centuries. From ancient times to today, ceramics and the like have arguably been among the few mediums to have been persevered over thousands of years. (The oldest known ceramic artifact is dated as early as 28,000 BCE or the late Paleolithic period.)

From prehistoric pottery to ancient Greek amphoras, from the rise of porcelain in Asia and Europe to the Arts and Crafts movement in England and the U.S., such traditions have long fascinated artists whose variations on the theme have allowed it all to stay relevant in the here and now.

Literally and metaphorically the 3D work of artists Christian Burchard was carved from wood of experience.

Fiddling is on a long list of vocations and avocations on Christian Burchard’s colorfully quirky resumé, which also includes making goat cheese and Tuvan throat singing. Burchard’s day job, however, is sculpting in wood.

In fact, Burchard has never met a piece of wood he did not like – though he heavily favors Pacific Madrone, which he uses exclusively to create his whimsical art.

“I have been working with wood for most of my life. We are comfortable with each other and I value the connection immensely. I am curious about what is inside, how it works. I am always looking for the gifts wood has to offer. At times I am awed by its beauty and its history, the tracks that the passing of time have left. I am driven to expose that beauty, to make it shine through. At other times I am more fascinated with its inner structure, its more subtle form and spirit,” explained the artist.

Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1955, Burchard has been living in the United States since 1978. In 1982, he opened his Cold Mountain studio on the outskirts of Ashland, Oregon, where the place remains the architectural equivalent of a dog strapped to the roof of his car. The higgledy-piggledy complex seems out of place, but the wooden structures that make up the landscape just thumb their noses at the trophy homes that surround them.

At the beginning of his career, Burchard’s focus was on furniture and interiors, having started out his professional life as a furniture-maker’s apprenticeship in Germany in the mid-1970s. After studying sculpture and drawing at the Museum School in Boston and the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver, BC., Burchard’s artistic attention shifted to woodturning and sculpture. He now moves between vessel-oriented forms and sculptural turning.

“Vessel” will feature variations on the theme of the Burchard’s signature pieces: books and baskets, plus wall sculptures, torsos, scrolls and serrated arching shapes.

While Burchard is old-school Telluride Gallery, Angel Chen is a new kid on the block.

East meets West, past meets present, in the ethereal, fanciful sculptural forms of Angel Chen, longtime Los Angeles-based artist/writer now living in Joshua Tree.

Born in Taipei, Chen was raised in Southern California and earned a BFA from UCLA and an MFA from Calarts. She also received the Ahmanson Award and distinguished art fellowships from Skowhegan and Atlantic Center for the Arts.. Chen has written arts coverage on the Venice Biennale, Basel Art Fair, and Shanghai Art Fair.

“Connection to the earth, moving to the geodesic dome in Joshua Tree, nurturing a transformative garden, living the rural homesteading life, all come together to form this new work,” Chen explains. “An outdoor-centered lifestyle prompted evolution from painting to sculpture and transition from working in an indoor studio to working outdoors. Gardening, hands in the earth, led to a natural progression to working with clay. Distance from the city center allows space to breathe unique qualities into the work without influence of subtle homogeneity.”



The focus of Chen’ work is “Vessel” is forms from the seas; colors are restrained:

“An ethereal palette brings heightened sensitivity to faint tonal traces and subtle hues. Where the invisible is made visible, and the obvious fades away, secret destinies are contained in hidden messages. Made by hand, direct from the unconscious, clay is the medium to manifest the mind. The waves represent natural movements and cycles, powerful arcs, pulses and currents within gravity defying shapes. Underwater sea creatures and waves act as symbols connecting an ancient prophecy to the desert, this landscape which once was underwater 800 million years ago.”

Goedele Vanhille is the only long-time (regional) local in the show.

For many years, Belgian-born, Norwood-based potter Goedele Vanhille has created whimsical poetic forms inspired by nature. Her work features carved flowing lines that seem to defy physics.

Vanhille worked with a gas kiln back in Belgium, but for years she fired with electricity. However a relatively recently built a gas-fired kiln has once again allowed the artist to enjoy the fresh, yet familiar array of possibilities fire offer to the pottery process, the outcome affected as it is by the intricate interplay between fire, stacking, flame, heat and soda introduction.

Fire leaves its mark on each piece, dapples of carbon, smooth glassy surfaces and toned down colors that are more muted and earthy. The hand-built work, however, still retains the surreal shapes that are Vanhille’s signature.


Seasonally Vanhille makes functional work which roots her back to her beginnings with clay, reinforcing her intimacy with the material and process. The rest of the year though, the artist experiments with more playful and organic sculptural work such as the pieces on display in “Vessel.”

“Vessel” also includes the work of American polymath Bennett Bean.

Early experiences with clay as a child apparently left a mark on artist Nicholas Bernard whose influences are scattered from the Southwest, Africa and Japan to the cultures of the Mediterranean.

The fluid yet rustic and raw in forms of Dana Flores were influenced by travels through Central and South America and the desert life of Joshua Tree.

Born in Tehran, Iran, raised in Great Britain, Yassi Mazandi lives and works in Los Angeles. The artist describes nature and her reaction to it, both conscious and subconscious, as the driving forces behind her art.

Artist Polina Perl was born in Riga, Latvia. As a young girl living under the domination of the Soviet government, Perl dared to pursue artistic expression in a society that tried to control expression. After working in prestigious west coast firms for over 18 years, Perl returned to an old love: ceramics.

Inspired by ancient Anasazi and Mimbres potsherds, Michael Wisner began making southwestern pottery nearly 20 years ago. For his work, the artist digs local clays from the Elk Mountains near his studio in Woody Creek, Colorado.

“Vessel” will be on display through July 4.

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