Denver, CO, June 1-July 7
The month of June ushers in not only the summer sunshine but also two must-see shows running concurrently at Abend Gallery in Denver. One features new paintings by Robert Spooner and Jim Beckner, and the other spotlights paintings by Judith Dickinson, Arleta Pech, and Tammi Otis. Both shows open with a reception on June 1 from 5 to 9 p.m. and then remain on view through July 7.
The Spooner/Beckner Event, a presentation of 40 new paintings by these two Denver-area artists, provided a chance for creative freedom. Rather than choosing a particular theme, they allowed themselves to explore styles and genres that offer fresh takes on their usual body of works.
Beckner, for example, is well-known for his atmospheric, energetic urban-scapes that capture the pulse of the big city, whether it’s on a downtown street or inside a popular bar. But for this event he includes a sampling of more personal works that depict everyday moments in his family. “The subject matter is a mix of urban genre paintings and also several paintings of my kids, wife, and interiors of my home,” Beckner says. “I’m attempting to not necessarily paint portraits but use these personal subjects as a means to explore visual ideas. When I paint my home and family, I have an emotional connection that I believe shows in the finished work. The urban paintings are cityscapes that you’ve traditionally seen from me, but I’ve found some new ways to experiment with these ideas, so they feel fresh.”
In the past when he has restricted himself to a particular theme, Beckner says, he gets bogged down in trying to think about how every painting fits into the group. The process can be stifling. “So, for this show, I am experimenting with any subject, style, and idea that happens to excite me,” he says.
Likewise, Spooner is presenting a variety of subject matter, including rural scenes, interiors, seascapes, figures, still lifes, and abstracted cityscapes. According to the artist, viewers can also expect to see variety in terms of size, technique, and overall execution. He explains that the large cityscapes on display have a deconstructed look with a playfulness of patterns. “But the interiors and still lifes feature a more patient approach to gradations, value control, and simple design,” he says.
The award-winning artist—he took home a top prize at the Oil Painters of America’s National Juried Exhibition last year—says he is often asked by artists and collectors to describe his style of painting. People want to know what direction he is taking in his work. He replies that his body of work is not about any one approach, but is about developing as an artist. “Each tangent I explore leads back to the middle and to a greater understanding of myself and my overall confidence in my ability,” Spooner says. “It’s not about the destination but more about the journey.”
Abend Gallery is also presenting Three Realistic Views, a three-person show that offers an additional smorgasbord for every artistic taste. Subject matter and style range from surrealistic figures to classically rendered still lifes. The show spotlights paintings by Denver-area artists Judith Dickinson, Arleta Pech, and Tammi Otis.
Dickinson, an established portrait painter, recently has become fascinated with the history and culture of the West. While the show features her traditional portraits, it also highlights her interest in the people of the West, including Native Americans and cowboys. “Through color, light, and depth of glazing, I hope to tell their story in a unique way,” Dickinson says. “I want the viewer to experience the textures, the warmth of light, and power of the subject’s emotion as if the viewer were standing in the midst of the scene.”
Like a contemporary novelist, the artist says her greatest pleasure is to show the character, story, and beauty of the people who surround her every day. As an artist, she believes it is her responsibility to portray the world she lives in. When asked about her favorite painting in the show, she replied that her favorite is usually the last one on her easel. “It’s always with the high hope and passion that this will be my masterpiece,” she says.
Collectors familiar with paintings by Pech know that she regularly explores themes of time in her traditional still lifes. A member of the International Guild of Realism and a 2011 Artist to Watch in Southwest Art, Pech says inspiration for her paintings stems from her responses to found antique objects. At times these objects appear illuminated from behind the canvas, a technique employed by the old masters when they used thin dilutions of paint to create this special quality of light.
Pech’s creative goal, she says, is to engage viewers on an emotional, intellectual, and artistic level. Whether Pech focuses on how objects age, paints images of old steam engines, or depicts masterpieces dating back to the 16th century, she hopes the suspended sense of reality in her paintings takes the viewer to what she calls an “unimagined place.”
For Otis, her favorite place to inhabit is her mind and memory when it comes to subject matter. Thus her figurative and still-life works often reflect a sense of mystery with a touch of the surreal. Each painting takes a few months to complete because she uses a complex process of glazing techniques. The oil glazes convey a certain luminosity that she can’t find in other media. Otis says the special light effect is an essential part of what she is trying to convey to the viewer—an inner world that may not be seen but is surely felt.
A few favorite objects and creatures pop up regularly in Otis’ works, like a child’s ball studded with stars as well as crows and sparrows. “My paintings are personal, either about memories I like or ones I don’t like. They are about emotion attached to memory,” she says. “But I want them to mean something to others as well.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
MORE RESOURCES FOR ART COLLECTORS & ENTHUSIASTS