A visit with Joshua Been at his studio in Salida, CO
Interview by Bonnie Gangelhoff, Photos by Marc Piscotty
This story was featured in the December 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art magazine December 2012 print edition here, or purchase the Southwest Art magazine December 2012 digital download here. Or simply subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!
Describe your studio. My studio is in a late 19th-century-style retail space in the lobby of the Palace Hotel. It has 14-foot-high decorative tin ceilings, large front windows, and sitting areas furnished with antiques, which invite conversation or a look through one of the art books in my library. I share a large, antique oak-and-brass desk with the hotel. The desk is in the rear of the space. My easel is front and center in the window that faces the street. The hotel is on F Street, the main street of Salida, in the heart of the historic downtown business district. My studio is only steps away from restaurants, other galleries, and Salida’s very own Arkansas River walk.
What is the hotel’s history? Built in 1909, the Palace Hotel was designed to accommodate miners and railroad workers. The hotel allowed them to stay for long periods of time to showcase and sell their finds. Originally a 44-room hotel with community bathrooms, the Palace, after undergoing a two-and-a-half-year restoration, is now a boutique hotel with 14 suites, each complete with its own bathroom and kitchen.
How does the artist-and-hotel relationship benefit both parties? I think having my studio in the hotel is an interesting mix of two businesses. The hotel’s clients walk through a room full of my paintings to check in at the desk, so it gives me exposure to them. People who come in for the art or who are already my clients get a nice surprise when they find out that it’s one of the best hotels Salida has to offer. The employees will gladly give them a tour of the new rooms. People on the street stop in and like to see what I am painting. Although I usually plein-air paint in the mornings, in the afternoons I paint in the front window of the hotel. That draws people into the hotel to see my work. Sometimes they catch me at the start of a painting, and they come back later, after their exploration of downtown, to see the progress I have made.
Describe Salida. Salida, which is Spanish for exit, is at an elevation of 7,200 feet, and it was once a mining hub for the entire Arkansas River Valley. The neighborhoods are dotted with gingerbread Victorian homes as well as alleys with mountain views. It’s in Chaffee County, home to 11 of Colorado’s fifty-two 14,000-foot-high peaks (fourteeners), which tower above the valley.
Do you paint plein-air works in town? I will paint plein-air works anywhere, whether it be a bar scene or a downtown alleyway. I am most passionate about getting into the high country and familiarizing myself with it so that I am able to paint the landscape as accurately as possible. On the high-alpine trips, I usually take a backpack for a few days’ stay. With so much inspiration at your doorstep and endless diversity in the landscape, Salida is a painter’s paradise.
What is your favorite subject matter and why? There is never a shortage of inspiration around the valley. My favorite subject matter is mountain terrain and all that comes with it: snow, aspens, waterfalls, beaver ponds, wildlife, and the seasons.
What is the one place people will never find you?Anytime I paint, I turn my phone off and I cannot be found. And I will not be found at a Republican convention.
Do you listen to music while you work? Because it is a hotel lobby, I keep my music everybody-friendly. My favorite music is instrumental—surf and bluegrass instrumental or the Vitamin String Quartet. I like where my mind goes when lyrics are not the focus.
If your studio were on fire, what is the one thing you would save? I would save my scrapbook of mementos from my career and Creative Illustration, a book by Andrew Loomis.
When people come to visit, where do you like to take them? I recommend a handful of favorite places. There are nice loop drives over some mountain passes that take a day or two: McClure Pass, Kebler Pass, Marshall Pass, and Independence Pass. There are also some good trails around the valley if you need just a quick hike. And then I take them to a local restaurant for a cocktail.
Featured in the December 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art magazine December 2012 digital download
Southwest Art magazine December 2012 print edition
Or subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!
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