By Bonnie Gangelhoff
A log cabin in New England. A woman in a fancy dress. An aspen tree in Colorado. These are some of the scenes viewers will see hanging in the American Art Invitational, which takes place at Saks Galleries in Denver this month. This biennial event offers collectors a visual feast of paintings and sculptures, with a taste of figurative, still-life, and landscape works by prominent artists from throughout the country. This year’s presentation brings together 42 artists who hail from Montana to Texas and from California to New York. “There is currently no other showcase that is as far-reaching when it comes to the top representational artists of America,” says Catherine Saks, who is co-owner of Saks Galleries with her husband, Mikkel.
Award-winning artists such as William Acheff, Gordon Brown, Nancy Guzik, Mary Qian, Ray Roberts, John Traynor, Karen Vance, and Michael Godfrey [this issue’s cover artist] are among the participants. Karen Sluss, the show’s curator, spent countless hours this year traveling the country, meeting with artists and attending shows such as the Oil Painters of America’s annual event to find artists who fit the desired criteria. The exhibit’s goal is to bring together contemporary masters of realism—hence the tagline for this year’s event, “The Master. The Passion. The Art.”
“Each participant is thoughtfully chosen by a committee,” says Saks. “We are looking for established mid-career artists, diversity of subject matter, geographic representation, and new energy. The title of the show says it all—masterful artists who paint with passion.”
The West has a strong tradition of nurturing great artists, Saks explains, and the exhibit carries on that legacy. According to many of the participating artists, the American Art Invitational is doing a stellar job. Artists say they are thrilled to be invited to participate in the event because of the enthusiasm of the collectors and the other artists who participate. “I think this is one of the premier events in the country right now,” says wildlife artist Edward Aldrich. “I want to be part of it because of the quality of work by the other artists in the show. It’s an event where you are talking the whole time to other artists, collectors, and meeting new clients. People are standing shoulder to shoulder, and there’s just a lot going on all the time. You start talking when you get there and stop talking when you leave.”
Two-time participant Andrea Kemp agrees with Aldrich and says she is humbled by the company of the other artists in the show. “To me it is interesting to see what various artists bring to the table, how their work has changed, what has influenced them, and what inspires them,” Kemp says. “This in turn inspires me. As artists, it’s not every day that we can come together in a group this large, show our work, and share our ideas with one another.”
The show is conceived as a community event, and this year Saks Galleries is partnering with Southwest Art and The Children’s Hospital in Denver, known internationally for its medical, research, and education programs. The hospital receives a portion of the funds from the sale of the artworks to purchase a piece for its own art collection, which is part of the Ponzio Creative Arts Therapy Program and is considered an important component in creating a healing environment for the young patients and their families.
As for the future of the show, Saks says the goals are simple: To maintain the high standards of the event, satisfy the seasoned collector, educate the beginning collector, and enhance the already thriving art scene in Colorado and throughout the West.
A gala party kicks off the art show and sale on Friday, December 3, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the gallery. On Saturday, December 4, the gallery opens to the public at 10 a.m. so collectors and visitors can enjoy coffee and pastries while browsing the show at a leisurely pace. The artwork is on view through December 31. For more information: 303.489.9400 or www.americanartinvitational.com.
Featured in December 2010