Show Preview | 15th Anniversary Show

Durango, CO
Sorrel Sky Gallery, April 1-30

Bonnie Conrad, Cowgal and Pal, oil, 11 x 14.

Bonnie Conrad, Cowgal and Pal, oil, 11 x 14.

This story was featured in the April 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  April 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Fifteen years ago this month, an intrepid art lover opened a fine-art gallery in a small southwestern Colorado town, and then disaster struck. “Our first summer, Durango had the worst wildfires in the area. They wiped out our summer tourist season,” says Sorrel Sky Gallery owner Shanan Campbell Wells. “No matter how much you plan, you can’t plan for natural disasters.” But Wells was not deterred, and today the gallery is celebrating its 15-year anniversary. “The gallery has thrived and survived in the most adverse situations, and that is what this show is about,” she says. The 15th Anniversary Show opens on Saturday, April 1, with 150 of the freshest works by gallery artists, including Ben Nighthorse, Carrie Fell, Doug Magnus, Stephen Day, and Star Liana York. An artists’ reception is on Friday, April 21, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Wildlife sculptor Gerald Balciar, who has been with the gallery since it opened its doors, brings a variety of sculptures, including CACTUS RUN, a 9-inch-tall depiction of a roadrunner darting through cactus. “I spent a week camping in Arizona,” the artist explains, “and I would see roadrunners all over the place. They fly so close to the ground, and the sound they make is the sound of the desert
itself.” For Balciar, the piece captures not only the critter, but the character of the Southwest.

Painter Bonnie Conrad brings at least three works to the show, including COWGAL AND PAL, in which she examines the relationships between cowgirls—and cowboys—and the horses they work with daily. “Trust, interdependence, and loyalty all enter into this relationship, an understanding of what is needed or expected at any given time,” she explains. “I have purposely kept the background nebulous and soft to bring attention solely to the subjects. Their relaxed stance communicates their comfort with one another.” Conrad has also been with the gallery since it opened, and she has high praise for the owner: “Shanan has always been a most dynamic and creative person in her approach to marketing, and the gallery has prospered greatly under her skillful direction.”

Indeed, one of the reasons Sorrel Sky has not only survived but grown through years when other galleries were contracting or closing is Wells’ determination and creative entrepreneurialism. “It doesn’t matter how many degrees you get in school, they don’t teach you how to be an entrepreneur,” she says. “I have a passion for art. It has changed my life since I was very young.” The daughter of renowned artist Ben Nighthorse, she saw how life inspired and informed his art, and she also saw how the people who marketed his work treated artists. “I run my business from the artists’ perspective. You don’t have a business if you don’t have artists,” she says. “The gallery is my art.” Wells also wants to thank the artists, many who have been with her since the gallery opened, like jeweler Ray Tracey. “When I decided to open the gallery, he really helped me. He has several galleries himself, so he understands just how hard this can be. I consider him a dear friend,” Wells says. “These artists are a family. You get really close in your relationships with them going through
thick and thin together.” —Laura Rintala

contact information
970.247.3555
www.sorrelsky.com

This story was featured in the April 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  April 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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