Show Preview | Conrad & Chavez

Durango, CO
Sorrel Sky Gallery, October 6-31

Bonnie Conrad, On the Run, oil, 28 x 40.

Bonnie Conrad, On the Run, oil, 28 x 40.

This story was featured in the October 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  October 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

This month Sorrel Sky Gallery celebrates the art of American West painter Bonnie Conrad and basket weaver Jane Chavez in a show titled Preserving a Moment, Preserving an Art. The show opens with an artists’ reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 6. “What these two artists are doing isn’t going to be around forever,” observes gallery owner Shanan Campbell Wells. “They’re both sort of purists. They don’t deviate from what they do. They’re honoring their traditions.”

Conrad’s oil paintings portray western rural life in a painterly style inspired by her love of color and light. The St. George, UT, artist and her husband, a ranch manager, have lived on ranches throughout the West, from Texas to Montana. Although ranch life is a theme in many of her oils, Conrad explores other subject matter, too. “There are things you just have to paint!” she says. Those might include an Arapaho tribe as they dance at a powwow, the Anasazi ruins of Mesa Verde National Park, or the face of a Native American child. “Truth be told, I guess I’m something of a romantic,” says Conrad. “I’d like to preserve a piece of that nostalgic past that many of us have a connection to through our ancestors, if not in our own lives.”

Among the 10 paintings Conrad features at the show, a few display her recent focus on portraying movement, such as the horsemen galloping across a golden field in ON THE RUN. Other paintings depict quiet, contemplative moments. In THE APPRENTICE, a young Navajo girl and her aunt sit serenely beside a spread of beadwork. Conrad photographed the pair in Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly National Monument and spent the rest of the day painting en plein air, “absorbing the feel of the place,” she says.

Chavez has fused her passion for baskets and horses into a one-of-a-kind coiled-horsehair and precious-metal basket design that is trademarked by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The artist developed an appreciation for baskets as a child in Argentina. A local peddler would travel through town with a horse-drawn cart full of wicker baskets. “I always have that vision in my mind of those wonderful baskets,” says Chavez.

The artist brings about six baskets to the show that feature her signature hand-stamped silver bases. Chavez prefers classic basket shapes inspired by ceramic pots, and she tends to use a traditional palette of white, black, and chestnut horsehair. She completes each work by incorporating “low-profile” materials such as seed beads, rooster feathers, cottonwood twigs, and fetishes made of pipestone and turquoise. The titles of her pieces are as unique as the baskets themselves. “When you work on a basket for a month, you have a lot of time to reflect,” says Chavez. “When I finish a basket, I know what I’m going to name it.” All of the titles are in Spanish, adds Chavez, “as a tribute to where I first saw baskets.” —Kim Agricola

contact information
866.878.3555
www.sorrelsky.com

This story was featured in the October 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  October 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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