Denver Public Library, July 12-September 25
This story was featured in the July 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art July 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
The history of pastel as a medium harks back to the Renaissance and Leonardo da Vinci. In the 18th century, pastel gained acceptance with prominent portrait painters. And a century later, well-known artists such as Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas brought increased attention to pastel. Today the Pastel Society of Colorado carries on the tradition of these legendary artists from centuries past. Founded in 1994, the organization is dedicated to encouraging an appreciation of pastel painting. On July 12 the society celebrates its 21-year history with the opening of the 11th annual Mile High International Pastel Exhibition at the Denver Public Library.
Viewers who attend the presentation can expect to see 100 pastel works by artists from 18 states. Liz Haywood-Sullivan, a well-known pastelist and the current president of the International Association of Pastel Societies, is the judge for this year’s event. “The Mile High International show is an annual highlight in the calendar of the pastel world,” Haywood-Sullivan says. “This current show is no exception, featuring paintings that are beautiful, strong, and creative.”
Teri Gortmaker is among the member artists who have submitted work for the show. Her painting THE FALLS captures a scene in Rocky Mountain National Park. While on a hike with friends on a stunning autumn afternoon, Gortmaker eyed the captivating mountain landscape and knew she had to paint it. “I didn’t have time for a plein-air study, so lots of photos and mental notes had to suffice,” she says. “What I hoped to capture was the peace and the power of the view from a wooden footbridge. [Beautiful scenery] doesn’t get much better than this.”
Sabrina Stiles has participated in two previous Mile High shows and has submitted RED ROOF TAOS this year. The artwork pays homage to “the charm, incredible shadow colors, and dazzling light of New Mexico,” Stiles says, adding that the scene just “spoke to me.” The chamisa glowed, dappled light sparkled on the building, and a bright turquoise sky overlooked the scene. But it was the light illuminating the red roof that really grabbed her attention and propelled her back into the studio to re-create the beauty of the moment.
Stiles has a palpable enthusiasm for pastel as a medium that many of the group members share. “This is a beautiful, rich medium that deserves a little recognition,” she says. “By participating in a show like this, I feel I am doing my part to advance the interest in pastel painting.”
The society is hosting a number of additional shows throughout the state this year, including a miniatures show on view through June 24 at Humphrey History Park and Museum in Evergreen; a members’ show opening October 1 at the Western Colorado Center for the Arts in Grand Junction; and a signature members’ show titled Journeys opening October 5 at the Lakewood Cultural Center in Lakewood. The society also sponsors regular workshops and artists’ demonstrations. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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