Abend Gallery, May 16-June 14
This story was featured in the June 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art June 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Survey the more than 60 paintings on display at the opening reception for Abend Gallery’s show Places in Life, held on May 16 from 5 to 8 p.m., and you might guess that the title refers to the generous number of landscapes by a trio of Denver-area painters. You’ll likely admire scenes of riverbank cottonwoods done in Kevin Weckbach’s self-described “expressionistic realist” style. Dan Oakleaf’s vistas of the Rocky Mountain backcountry may catch your eye with their realistic depictions of snow-clad, sunlit peaks. In a more intimate vein, you may be drawn to the vividly colorful “contemporary- realist” works of Sascha Ripps, with subjects ranging from the Connecticut coast to California vineyards, the wilds of Tasmania to tranquil woodlands near her Colorado home.
But then, on closer exploration, your landscape-based theory will likely falter. What, for example, explains the presence of Oakleaf’s still lifes of luscious chocolate-frosted or jelly-filled donuts? What about the abundance of Weckbach’s figurative paintings, all meditative nudes? And how does the title embrace some of Ripps’ works, which focus in so tightly on the details of a scene that the subjects transform into predominantly abstract patterns?
Obviously, there’s got to be more to this notion of “Places in Life.”
In fact, as the artists explain, the title refers not merely to locations that have inspired each of them but also to the places where all three—who became good friends over the past decade through the weekly intensive painting workshops Weckbach teaches in his Littleton studio—now find themselves in their lives. The show’s title not only sums up “those places in life that inspire our paintings,” says Ripps, but it also refers to “the places we all are in our lives that give us meaning”—a “common thread” they all have as full-time professional artists who are also the committed, involved parents of grade school-aged children.
“It struck a chord,” says Oakleaf of the show’s title, “because we’re all in similar situations.” And yet, he continues with a chuckle, the title is “general enough that we can put in the show everything and anything we want to.” For him, that means not just the landscapes and donuts but also a sampling of the wildlife art that first piqued his interest in art.
Weckbach, as “the guy who brought everybody together” through his workshops, ultimately views the show as an expression of the bonds that have formed amongst the trio. “We all share a respect for each other’s work,” he explains. Adds Ripps, who refers to herself as the “newbie of the crew,” having first begun studying with Weckbach in 2011, “I am honored to be showing with Kevin and Dan. I respect them so much as painters and have grown so much through my time and association with them.”
You could well say that she, like her two colleagues and friends, feels she’s reached a satisfying place in her own life through their mutual support. And, with all three artists attending the opening, everyone in the gallery will no doubt vibrantly feel their spirit of community. —Norman Kolpas
Featured in the June 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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