Telluride Gallery: “Altered States,” a group show, through 8/8!

Telluride Gallery: “Altered States,” a group show, through 8/8!

The Telluride Gallery of Fine Art presents “Altered States,” through August 8, 2021. Join for local Art Walk evening on Thursday, August 5, from 5pm – 8pm or just stop by anytime to see the remarkable show.

Bottom of the Pool, Lake Tahoe, Kelly O’Connor

An altered state of consciousness (ASC) is any condition or representation which is significantly different from a normal waking state.

ASCs can result from changes in neurobiological functioning as a result of psychoactive drug use, hypnosis, meditation, sensory deprivation, and/or a mystical or religious experience.

Provocative hypothesis: Some of the earliest art ever created by humans—such as the cave paintings in Lascaux—are associated with visions induced by ritualistic dancing.

In the 20th century, Sigmund Freud’s foundational text for psychoanalysis, “The interpretation of Dreams” (1900), was his attempt to systematize the mysteries of dream symbolism. That proved to be a great influence of artists interested in the workings of the subconscious mind, such as the Surrealists, who embraced and expressed chance, dreams and the irrational in their work.

Paul Klee, (1879-1940), is variously known as a Bauhaus master and forefather of Surrealism. (However you look at it, the artist was one tough dude to pin down.) However, one thing for sure: the seemingly cockamamie system of pulsing and bobbing otherworldly creatures that populate Klee’s art evolved out of a deeply mystical place and definitely marked some of the very first efforts in the 20th century to embed spiritual content and the subconscious into abstract work. (And Klee was in good company, Kandinsky and Picasso were aligned with his thinking.)

Wave bye-bye to the faithful representation of people, places and things in the “real” world.

Klee was a lodestar for influential Surrealists such as Miro, and later, for American greats such as Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Kenneth Noland, Theodoros Stamos, Mark Tobey, William Baziotes, Gene Davis, Jackson Pollock, and Adolf Gottlieb. The subtext of their collective body of work? Capturing the  mystical on canvas.

Ergo, one could argue Klee is also a lodestar for the work now on view at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art. The show aptly titled “Altered States” features a compelling collection of recent images by gallery artists Catherine Courtenaye, Sue Dirksen, Krista Harris, Shawna Moore, Christine Nguyen, Kelly O’Connor, Lisa Pressman, Maggie Taylor, and Emmi Whitehorse. The show focuses on the different ways each artist plumbs the depths of human consciousness in ways that surprise and cause us to revisit quotidian realities as Klee’s work still does.

“Purposefully meditative” the art of Emmi Whitehorse merges abstraction with Navajo cosmological perspectives.

Bloom II

A painter and printmaker, the artist uses a private language of symbols and memories to make what she describes as ‘“personal diaries” of her life as a mark-maker of aboriginal heritage. Textures, colors and compositions conjure the vibe of the stark New Mexico landscape, taking us all on a magical, mystery tour of her ‘hood.

“This land appears in her work simultaneously as very distant and very close up, in atmospheric washes and sharp details and lines. As we see, her paintings are consummate abstractions, welcome in the world of art for art’s sake for their neatly balanced forms and colors. They are also metaphysical views from the Navajo world. As such, they offer to viewers ‘from both worlds’ a glimpse of what art can be,” wrote critic Lucy Lippard.

Bloom 1

Catherine Courtenaye’s work is based on an exploration of 19th century penmanship. The artist puts it this way:

“Vestiges of elementary mark-making (alphabets, animals, equations) serve as counterpoints to my looser treatment of line, edge, and space. These paintings navigate between the rigors of perfect lines from the past and my own imperfect brushstrokes, which are loaded with sensuous color.”

Edgeland of the Sora Rail

In short Courtenaye “seeks some sort of equivalence between letterforms, various species of birds, and pure gesture.” 

“Viewers…become immersed in the paintings’ visual appeal, with their strata of color and detail. Courtenaye reveals that for her, the richly tinted layers represent periods of time, and looking through the variable density and translucency of surface is analogous to peering back into the 19th century—a metaphor for the untouchable yet ever present past,” commented Sandy Harthorn, former Curator of Art, Boise Art Museum.

Cartesian Coordinates, West

For painter Sue Dirksen, it’s all about light that sets up surface vibrations.


“When painting I allow intuition to guide me and use the brush as an extension of my arm — to bring forth luminosity and potently-hued energy. I am a colorist who meticulously builds up the painting with thin layers of acrylic wash — often into the hundreds — to embody the varying intensities of light/color. When experienced from different points of view, the paintings pulsate as the subtleties of light change to create a vibrant, impeccable, living surface.”

Dirksen began her studies in art in Japan with a sumi-e master, who taught her to empty herself of the external world to be able to focus on the perfection of the brushstroke, repeating the exercise until she caught its essence. Dirksen’s work has always been concerned with the strong tradition of articulating light along with her desire to create impeccable, textured surfaces.


The paintings of Krista Harris feel at once wide open and elusive. Influenced by the post-WWII Abstract Expressionists, her new work shows “richly layered and nuanced surfaces that keep various ideas up in the air” just waiting to land. That sleight of hand, that expectation, lures viewers into rethinking what they see in front of them, much as the artist does throughout her creative process.


“My work is driven by an intense curiosity about places and the ways in which they connect, divide or define us. How do we fit in, what’s our place in the world? Is it where we grow up or some adopted location that we connect with on a deeper level? The individual and unique parts of a place…it’s culture and traditions, the languages, ethnic and architectural components, the quality of light, the color of the wind, the food, climate and terrain are all visual pieces of the puzzle…

“Painting is a very physical process for me, beginning days or weeks before I ever begin. Each step is as integral to the process as the application of paint and mark, including reading and researching, stretching canvases, mixing new colors, searching for new tools and experimenting with methods of working. Risk and uncertainty are an artist’s friend, and I try to keep the painting open to all possibilities, deviations and directions – where it’s outcome is not yet known and anything can happen. Taking a wrong turn or unexpected direction is often more productive than getting things right, and getting lost can have surprising outcomes. Working back and forth between organic and architectural elements, patterns and textures, colors, tangles of marks is the process that keeps me engaged and the sense of mystery alive and well,” the artist once explained to Artsy.


Shawna Moore integrates elements of painting and drawing in her work, reflecting her education in architecture and fine art.


Here Shawna puts some method to her particular brand of madness:

“Each line I draw describes a moment in my life as an artist. The interplay with materials is a visual diary of my life experience and my contemplative journey. Most fascinating are the passages which remain visible and those that disappear. The surface is a visual record of selective memory and how, despite our best efforts, outcome is subject to so many forces beyond our control. This ability of  encaustic paint to reveal and obscure creates mysterious surfaces and depth filled fields of line and color.”

Shawna’s work, really an exploration of her life via art, has been described as “freewheeling,” “inventive” and “provocative.”

“Running like a river through my art are questions and implied answers about the nature of art, the boundaries between life and art, and the necessity of exploring those boundaries. Moving from conventional painting methods into experimental materials and a fascination with found objects helps connect me to the world around me and the interactions I experience each day. I am not interested in style as much as I am in spirit.”

Persimmon Abstract

Restating the obvious, for Christine Nguyen (and her colleagues in the show), recording likenesses was never the goal. Identifying with their subjects, capturing their essence, was (and is).

Constellation Thistle

In her own words, Nguyen’s rapturous art:

“…draws upon the imagery of nature, the sciences, and the cosmos, but it is not limited to a conventional reading of these realms. It imagines that the depths of the ocean reach into outer space; that through an organic prism, vision can fluctuate between the micro- and macroscopic. My practice is devoted to the natural world and its curiosities. It has been my inspiration and a place that I find meditative and complex, but also mysterious. It has allowed me to continuously know more about the world we live in.”

Nguyen’s cyanotypes combine original photography, items from nature, and a salt-crystalizing process that gives each piece a shimmering crust – while also delivering unexpected, otherworldy results that reinforce the notion of universal connectivity.

Constellation Thistle II

Kelly O’Connor is a latter-day Pop artist, whose medium is collage. Her work is all about lifting society’s veil to reveal the truth, be it daylight erotica, gaudy commercialism and/or disposable everything (including people).

Bottom of the Pool, Vacation !

In an interview with, O’Connor explains the genesis of her work:

“During summers, my dad drove our family across the country in our van to visit Disney theme parks. These memories are such a source of joy for me…

Joy  – and artistic inspiration as are hobbies like quilting which sparked O’Connor’s interest in collage.

Multifaceted Woman

Lisa Pressman’s career as an artist is marked by exploration of the expressive potential of a variety of mediums, among them, oil, encaustic, cold wax, and mixed-media collage. Her work is abstract, conceptually based, and process-driven, featuring marks, forms, colors and patterns that are evocative rather than descriptive.

The Depth Below

In the art for art’s sake camp (as opposed to art for social change), Pressman creates mixed-media works using oils, collage, wax, whatever to make muscular AbEx 2.0 images that express the landscape of her soul in the moments of creating.

Pressman’s paintings leave an open invitation to explore that untraveled world with her.

“My work embodies a visual synthesis of stored memory. Personal recollections, both vivid and vague, build and decompose over time. Each painting, with its complex layered surface, elicits a visceral response, reshaping its own new history.”

A Dusting

In the rarefied universe of fine art photography Maggie Taylor is a super nova. Over the years, she has produced a body of work that infuses the ordinary and mundane with a sense of wonder (or Wonderland).

The Logic Within

Taylor grew up in the 1960s/1970s, when social commentary was the name of game in the work of Pop artists such as Andy Warhol. Her images, however, are less social commentary and more personal statements, often, though not always, with a feminist cast. By means of very exacting realistic techniques, Taylor manages to make her improbable, dreamlike and fantastic visions plausible and compelling – and in the process, throw viewers more than little off balance.

The Adventure

Postscript: “As the practical value of altering consciousness becomes recognized, procedures to effect these alterations will become increasingly ordinary and unremarkable. The whole concept of changing states of consciousness will cease to have a threatening or exotic aspect.”― Michael Crichton, “Travels.”

Until that time, enjoy “Altered States.”

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