Slate Gray August: Mark Bowles Returns For An Encore + Beautiful Bling!

Telluride Arts’ Art Walk takes place Thursday, August 3. Participating venues are open 5-8pm, hosting receptions to introduce new exhibits and artists. Throughout the month Slate Gray Gallery presents Mark Bowles in a show titled “Memories of Landscapes.” For jewelry lovers, find the work of Tana Acton and Lauren Chisholm. (Please scroll down to read their email interviews.)

In addition, Slate Gray artist Joan Fullerton will be teaching a classes at the Ah Haa School for the Arts, so selections of her work will also be on display.

Pool of Light, Fullerton, thanks to Slate Gray.

Complimentary gallery guides, offering a self-guided tour, are available at participating venues or online at Use it any time to help navigate through the venues which are open to the public most days. 

For more information about the Telluride art galleries and exhibition venues, visit: View more Telluride Arts District upcoming events here:

Go here for more about Slate Gray.

Go here for more about Art Walk in general.

Mark Bowles: “Memories of Landscapes”:

“Recent paintings (by Mark Bowles) suggest vaguely familiar land masses and agrarian fields of central California, but they are clearly imaginative responses not intended to be read as literal. They balance the familiar with the highly personal. These are not landscapes in a classical sense that ask us to pinpoint a precise location.

“Instead, we are seeing landscapes of the mind. We are seeing Mark’s responses to his lived experience and his shifting reactions brought on by various sites over time. Looking closely at the combination of colors and forms, we are rewarded not by trying to find the specificity of place, but by connecting with the artist’s emotions and personal feelings about nature,” said Jerry N. Smith, PhD, Curator of American and Western American Art, Phoenix Art Museum.

Warmth of the Sun, credit Slate Gray.

In other words, while Bowles’ images do suggest details such as the topography of a site, the location of mountains relative to water, trees and such, but they more accurately describe the emotions certain special places stirred in the artist, hence the title of his show.

“My comfort level is California landscape for sure, but I love the West and Southwest in general… love traveling through Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada. We had a second home for about 10 years down in LaQuinta (southeastern California desert by Palm Springs), so the traveling back and for through the Central Valley of California has shaped a lot of my paintings. Lately however, I think I am more influenced by my travels through the Southwest. When you see the colors and shapes that are unique to those parts of our country, you can’t help but react with awe. And then when you take in the culture of Native Americans and people who actually work the land that introduces yet another compelling element into the Big Picture. Because they are so big and grand, if our eyes are wide open to those surroundings, the landscapes of the West generate a sense of solitude, peace and quiet. It is Mother Nature, with few distractions, in her full glory.”

It all began for Bowles in the Bay Area where he grew up. His mother was a ceramicist and painter. Both parents also collected art, loved supporting younger starting-out artists, and went to gallery shows, fairs and museums regularly.

The Bay Area is home to UC Berkeley, SF University, Stanford, and California College of Arts and Crafts (which Bowles attended). Living close to those colleges, the young man was inundated by new ideas and experiments. Also, because the area is somewhat affluent, San Francisco is home to some of the best galleries in the world:

“I used to go all the time to SFMOMA and SF galleries to study Richard Diebenkorn, David Parks, Joan Brown, Manuel Neri, Nathan Oliveira Peter Voulkos; a favorite was Stephen De Staebler. We had SFMOMA, the Oakland Museum and Berkeley Museum so being exposed to all of this incredible art. And being in homes where they were hanging on the wall, so it was never a distant jump for me to think I could be an artist and have a successful career.”

Image, thanks to Slate Gray.

Though his latest show is all about landscapes, Bowles has said he is agnostic about his subject matter: still life, the human figure – or landscape.

“For me it is all about the process of painting, something which is incredibly special in my life. Just the act of painting and then the dialog that you build with the canvas. That internal dialogue with yourself can be cathartic: I am always learning when I am painting. I am setting up situations I need to resolve. And I have certain ideals that have to be met, like the painting has to make your eye move around. It has to have a balance of color, line, etc. In other words the image really has to take on a life of its own to be successful.

“There are times I don’t feel inspired to paint, however, if I just pick up the brush, dip it in paint and hit the canvas, I am off. Time ceases to matter. The outside world no longer matters. It is me and the canvas and may the best man win!”

Summing up, Bowles’ acrylics lie at the nexus of realism and abstraction. It is easy to read land, horizon line and sky in his art, but they are best described as “soul-scapes,” powerful, unapologetic “reads” of the regions of choice, the West and Southwest, written in a palette of eye-popping colors.

“Painting is my commitment, my passion and my fulfillment. I am honored by those who find inspiration from my work,” concludes the artist.

Mark’s studio, credit, Slate Gray.

Fine art jeweler Tana Acton:

As an artist and entrepreneur, Tana Acton started her career showing her work at craft fairs at the tender age of 16. She then progressed in her creative endeavors to graphic artist, dance, choreography, painting, and eventually fashion design for some of New York’s leading knitwear and house-ware companies.

As a designer/choreographer, Tana’s perspective is unique: she combines air, movement, and light to create pieces that are at once delicate, yet solid. Her jewelry line is contemporary, lightweight, affordable, and can be worn casually or dressed up.

We talked about her life and work in the following email interview:

TIO: Please talk about the influence of your artist parents on your young life. Did they encourage you to follow in their footsteps or was the will to create in your DNA and just had to come out?

TA: When one grows up in a house where something is always being made from some kind of material or another it’s hard to not be drawn into doing the same as it mostly seemed like play. In addition, there was much encouragement, as well as what was coursing through the veins as a youngster. It just seemed to be how it was, and how could it have been otherwise? There was lots of drive in all members of the family to learn and achieve. Little did I know I was so incredibly blessed.

TIO: Reviewing your bio, it is abundantly clear you are highly trained in a variety of mediums, from goldsmithing to graphic design and modern dance. Please talk about your education outside your home that ultimately fine-tuned the creative being you were genetically destined to become.

TA: I definitely dipped my toe into a lot of creative puddles… as a self-starter, focusing much on painting, design, metals and, much later, on fashion design at Parsons, there seemed to be an amalgamation of so many mediums possible in the fashion world and the lessons of that world prepared me to launch on my own.

TIO: What is the nexus of those disparate disciplines, if any?

TA: I love the word nexus! Yes, all of these experiments, experiences and efforts did lead to wearable art using a textile technique that brought together design, hand work, movement, art, adornment, human interaction, fun, etc. etc.

TIO: You use textile techniques when fashioning your jewelry pieces. Please talk more about your process and favorite raw materials.

TA: When weaving one must have a framework, which turns out to be a big piece of the design to come: The frame dictates the form and the one continuous wire allows the piece to fill in, but leave space. Space which can invite moving or caged elements. So the entire length of the wire runs through the hands as the frame is turned over again and again. (I will be working on pieces in the gallery to demonstrate.) Very few tools are involved once the weaving has begun. Wire is not considered a raw material as it has to be highly processed to become wire. Therefore my work has metal hardness combined with thread, softness and malleability. The challenge is to take such a simple thing and turn it into good wearable design. The stones, pearls and other elements I embellish my pieces with can push design ideas, though the plain pieces often have some of the best aesthetics I ever attain.

TIO: When and how did your affiliation with Slate Gray come about?

TA: I had been involved with the Telluride Gallery for many years, and was thrilled when the Slate Gray folks decided to keep me in the fold when they took over the reigns. So glad it all seems to be working out!!

Fine art jeweler Lauren Chisholm:

Lauren Chisholm is an internationally collected fine art jewelry designer and has been featured on the pages of VOGUE, ELLE and METAL magazines, as well multiple New York Fashion Week runways. Lauren is a multi-faceted artist who reimagines classic, Mid-century Modern-inspired elements, shapes and symbols in her fresh, chic collection of wearable art.

Lauren’s email interview follows:

TIO: Let’s begin at the beginning. At what point in your life was the die cast and you knew you were destined for a career in some form of art?

LC: For as long as I can remember! From the time I was a young girl, I was often sketching, painting or building something. My parents paid me a penny a page to try to encourage me to read, because my preference was always to create things in my mind and with my hands.

TIO: Did you have any formal training as an artist? If yes, briefly describe please.

LC: Yes. My mom recognized my artistic talents early on because her father was a master jeweler and painter. I was fortunate to be in private and group art lessons from a young age. I hold a BFA and have taken many classes in the arts post college. Learning new skills is a source of inspiration.

TIO: We understand your career began with painting murals and trompe l’oeil for private clients, but you switched to metal arts to honor the memory of your grandfather who had a store in the heart of New York’s jewelry district. Was there a white light moment that triggered the change?

LC: Haha, YES! I fell off scaffolding and it was four long months before I could stand on my left leg again. I had a clear thought back then that it was time to reinvent the way I expressed myself creatively and professionally. I had already started dabbling in jewelry design. It’s something I always knew I’d do. Switching was not necessarily to honor my grandfather, although I was certainly inspired and intrigued by his work. I even have some of his tools and use them when creating.

TIO: Please explain the statement: “Lauren is a multi-faceted artist who re-imagines classic Mid-century Modern-inspired elements, shapes and symbols in a fresh, chic collection of wearable art. Classical Mid-21st century? Modern-inspired? Those are nice catch phrases, but it is not clear what is meant by the words. Please put flesh on those bones.


Multifaceted artist:

Meaning I work (have worked) in varied mediums, ie: pencil, paint, fabric, stone, clay, wax, gemstones, metal. In varied professional fields. ie: commercial and residential interior design, professional painter, fine art jewelry designer.


Meaning I’ve been fascinated and inspired by the clean lines, shapes, scale and proportion of that period of design for as long as I can remember. Primarily (but not limited to) 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s.

Modern-inspired: (Agreed, that is confusing). I hope the following helps with what I think we are trying to convey:

I sketch and hand-make many of my original designs.

As an artist I approach each piece as wearable sculpture, with scale, proportion and an overall sense of style top of mind. Inspired by Mid-century designs, I reimagine shapes and symbols to create fresh, timeless compositions. Often pearls, diamonds and gemstones further adorn my fine art jewelry.

TIO: The signature elements in your jewelry art are 18K gold balls. Was the use of that sculptural device a happy accident or calculated for branding and to set your work apart in the marketplace?

LC: Yes, my “signature” is a single, contrasting 18k gold ball. From the start I intended to come up with an element to distinguish my designs for branding. During my first jewelry class, while making my very first piece I enthusiastically over-polished the inside of a ring…. a common beginner mistake resulting in a larger ring size. I recalled my grandfather soldering two small gold balls inside the shank as one way to size a ring. Thus, I decided to solder one single ball inside the bottom center of the shank. As soon as I saw it I thought, “That’s It!” The ball became a subtle sculptural element, which I fully incorporate in each design – and, of course, it became the identifier for my brand.

TIO: We know you sketch and hand-fabricate each piece of bling before sending it off to a casting house to produce, but have you introduced 3D printing into the mix yet?

LC: Yes, I sketch and hand-make many of my original designs, as well hold a copyright on some. Sometimes a mold is made from my original for casting; other times I have a master jeweler recreate my original designs by hand. A very small selection of my designs are created in CAD. Those pieces are 3D-printed in wax, then cast in solid gold. I find the process to be like magic.

TIO: What materials do you most enjoy working with?

LC: Pearls!

TIO: How did your affiliation with Slate Gray come about?

LC: A friend and customer who lives in Telluride thought my collections would be a great fit with the Gallery, and so she introduced me to the owner, Beth McLaughlin. Fortunately Beth and her wonderful support staff at Slate Gray agreed.

Enough of the artists’ pearls of wisdom. Now on with the show…

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