Meet 6 artists who hail from the Rocky Mountain region
This story was featured in the July 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art July 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.
Israel Holloway’s contemporary western watercolors so skillfully depict life in the West that viewers might think the artist grew up drawing the horses and rugged cowboys around his home in the Yampa Valley in northwestern Colorado, where he still lives today. Holloway has always loved to draw, but as a boy, he preferred to draw houses and floor plans, and aspired to become an architect. “I was probably more apt to draw a unicorn than a horse back then,” he says, chuckling. Today, Holloway says he finds inspiration in the beauty and traditions around him, adding, “I want to capture the real living West while it’s still here.”
Immersed in the western lifestyle, Holloway takes thousands of photos at rodeos, ranches, cattle drives, and parades, documenting moments in time that become references for his paintings. “Western life isn’t impatient or in a hurry,” says the artist. “I like that look of resilience, anchored down in the present moment.” In his studio, Holloway paints in very thin layers of transparent watercolor, going over the layers repeatedly until he achieves areas of realism. What results are lifelike portraits that transport viewers to the Rocky Mountain backcountry and open range, to rodeo arenas and shooting matches, and to chariot races and sheep ranches. “This feels like what I should be painting,” says Holloway. “I suppose if I lived near the ocean, I’d paint boats and fishermen. A painter can paint anything. I think if you’re doing that, you’re still searching.” Holloway’s watercolors can be seen at www.israelhollowayfineart.com. —Kim Agricola
Toby Davis is equal parts urban historian, documenting the structures and forms that shape a community, and modern artist, capturing the pulse of the city and re-creating those reflections, angles, and bursts of color in oil on canvas. “I like working with the perspectives and lines that come with a cityscape—busy scenes that involve traffic, lights, and signs,” Davis says. “I like trying to capture the energy and beauty of an urban environment.”
Lately the artist has been focusing on window-display reflections. “I love the way the interior scene melts together with the reflection and creates abstract shapes,” he says. “They get complicated, but I enjoy the challenge.”
Davis, who lives in Eagle, ID, earned a bachelor’s in fine art from Boise State University after studying at Portland State University in Oregon and the Scottsdale Artists’ School. He recently gained confidence and learned a valuable lesson when he was one of two artists chosen for a corporate commission. “The world is filled with people who want to limit you in some way, who will say, ‘You’re not ready yet, you’re not what they’re looking for, you haven’t earned it,’” Davis says. “Don’t do their work for them by eliminating yourself from the competition before it starts. Be bold and take on every opportunity that comes along.” Davis’ work can be seen at The Gallery at Finer Frames in Eagle, ID, and at www.tobydavisart.com. —Jessica Canterbury
Linda Petrie Bunch
Linda Petrie Bunch has devoted the bulk of her life to capturing and presenting images: She’s been an outdoor photographer, videographer, graphic designer, web developer and, most recently, a painter. Although the Denver artist has created a body of western work featuring horses, bison, and other similar subjects, she’s attracted to a wide variety of subjects and genres, which stems from her excitement to learn something new with each work. “I don’t always know what lesson I’ve chosen to struggle with until I’m fully into the project,” she says. “When I look back, I understand exactly what I learned from each painting.”
If she has her way, she’ll be working outside on any given day, painting en plein air around Vail and Eagle, CO, or Carmel, CA, next to the ocean. “Sometimes my studio looks like a travelogue, as I love to explore different countries and paint from those journeys,” she says. On site she looks for compelling images with interesting narratives and often gravitates toward moody landscapes that include figures or animals. She credits her openness to multiple concepts and painting techniques to her studies at the Art Students League of Denver.
Bunch’s paintings can be seen at the recently opened Cherry Creek Art Gallery in Denver, CO; The Framed Image, Denver, CO; New Masters Gallery, Carmel, CA; and www.lindapetriebunch.com. —Jessica Canterbury
Equipped with a master’s degree in fine arts and a background in costume design, printmaking, and painting, Darlis Lamb approaches sculpture with the whimsy and sensitivity of a well-rounded artist. Consequently, her elegant bronze figures, still lifes, and nature pieces represent form and design in the classic sense, but they also transcend their literal representations. “When artists get a story in their mind, the whole piece is inspired,” notes Lamb. For one sculpture, she arranged an ensemble of tiny pears as models. “To some, maybe they’re just a bunch of pears, but to me, they are a choir. It’s all about imagination.”
Bitten by the sculpture bug after taking a series of ceramics courses, Lamb pursued the discipline with fervor, studying with retired orthopedic surgeon and sculptor Wilfred Stedman and with Mexican sculptor Francisco Zúñiga, who advised: “Create what you are from.” The Englewood, CO, artist applies that principle to this day. “All of my sculptures are facets of myself,” she says.
Staying true to her imaginative side, Lamb puts a spin on the traditional still life in pieces like STILL LIFE WITH BIRDS, a bronze featuring two birds pecking at plum parts on the ground. “They have attitude,” says Lamb, who tries to add expression to her nature pieces, anthropomorphizing them. “People will have their own interpretations, and for me, that completes a sculpture.” Lamb’s work can be seen at Dick Idol Signature Gallery, Whitefish, MT; Marta Stafford Fine Art, Marble Falls, TX; and www.darlislamb.com. —Kim Agricola
Deb Komitor has turned her art-school painting instruction on its head: The Colorado oil painter approaches her landscapes by working from dark to light, from foreground to background. “I adjusted what I was taught in school to what made sense to me,” she says. Beginning with black-gessoed boards, she applies loose strokes of thick, saturated color, carefully placed so that the black background remains visible between them. The result looks photographic from a distance, but as viewers get closer, the image fragments and the abstract shapes of the individual strokes appear. “It’s sort of pointillism with brush strokes instead of dots,” she says.
Prefering to paint on a large scale, the artist says, “I like to do panoramas. This makes the viewer scan the image, just like you would if you were driving by the scene.” Her pieces stimulate the viewer’s memory and all of the senses, transporting the viewer into the scene and conveying an acute sense of place. “I want my paintings to have more than a sense of sight. I want them to have a sense of touch and smell and taste—sound, even.” Lately Komitor has been working on a series that depicts the Northwest Coast, “where the forest goes right into the sea,” she says, inspired by her recent journey up the West Coast. Her work can be found at Abend Gallery Fine Art, Denver, CO; Taos Blue, Taos, NM; The Marshall Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ; Tracy Miller Gallery, Manitou Springs, CO; and www.debkomitor.com. —Laura Rintala
“I’m very process-driven,” says Loveland, CO, artist Ted Schaal about his approach to creating his abstract sculptures made of bronze and stainless steel. He is hands-on in nearly every step of creation, from concept design and model building to the final welding, metal chasing, polishing, and patina applications—often even making his own foundry molds. “I want to have more control over the way it looks—for better or worse,” he adds with a chuckle.
Working in editions of just five to 10 pieces, Schaal begins by sketching designs that illustrate a concept he wants to explore and that incorporate some form of the highly polished stainless-steel orbs for which he is known, which are suspended with cleverly concealed attachments into the larger bronze structures. “What I really like is the balance of pieces,” he says. “Pieces that are symmetrical but tipped at angles with improbable balance.”
Having studied both sculpture and fiber arts at Colorado State University, Schaal incorporates elements of the latter into the textures and patinas of the bronze portions of his work. “Fiber’s had a big influence on me,” he says. “It’s the repeating patterns and symmetry that I’m drawn to.”
And Schaal’s work is turning heads. “This past year has been really good for me. For the first time I’ve really started getting into shows alongside top sculptors,” he says. Schaal’s work can be found at Skol Studio and Design, Ouray, CO; Artful Sol Gallery, Vail, CO; Ashok Jain Gallery, New York, NY; Gallery One, Naples, FL; Ramey Fine Art, Palm Desert, CA; and www.schaalarts.com. —Laura Rintala
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