Show Preview | Saks Galleries: American Art Invitational

Denver, CO, November 9-December 31

Sallie K. Smith, Dancers, oil, 11 x 14.

Sallie K. Smith, Dancers, oil, 11 x 14.

This story was featured in the November 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art November 2012 print edition here, or purchase the Southwest Art November 2012 digital download here. Or simply subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!

All the beauty and mastery of larger artworks is condensed into treasure-size paintings and sculptures in Saks Galleries’ fifth annual American Art Invitational. This year’s exhibition, titled Small Gems, presents the best in contemporary realism by 100 artists, including Edward Aldrich, William Berra, Walt Gonske, Joseph Lorusso, and Susan Lyon. The show opens on November 9 with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. “This year’s show is so much fun, so diverse in subject matter and artistic style,” notes Karen Sluss of Saks Galleries, who directs the American Art Invitational.

One compelling genre represented in the show is figurative painting, as exemplified by the work of award-winning painter Mary Qian (pronounced Chien). The 39-year-old Chinese-born artist, now living in Chicago, gained a sense of delicacy and graceful lines through studying Chinese painting and calligraphy before coming to the United States in the early 1990s. Yet she found her true inspiration in realism. DAY DREAMER captures her favorite model in a mood of quiet contemplation, dressed in pure white. The young woman’s fair skin takes on the soft pink hues of the fabric on which she rests. “People intrigue me,” Qian reflects, “especially during the process of communication in silence.”

Mary Qian, Day Dreamer, oil, 15 x 11.

Mary Qian, Day Dreamer, oil, 15 x 11.

Among the show’s three-dimensional offerings are small sculptures by Colorado-based artist Wayne Salge (pronounced Sol-ghee). His distinctive, elongated figures speak of gesture, movement, rhythm, and line, where the essence of the human or animal is pared down into engaging, abstracted form. WALK ON, for example, was inspired by the sight of increasing numbers of people out walking quickly for exercise. Salge often starts with a quick sketch but then works spontaneously, allowing the process to guide his hands as he creates and connects shapes. “It’s all about lines, following lines up the piece, and sharp angles allow me to do that,” he explains.

For painter C. Michael Dudash, the American West provides unrivaled opportunities for combining some of his favorite things: the beauty of natural landscapes; the pleasure and evocative possibilities of paint; and the chance to tell, or at least suggest, stories about the past. Based in Idaho, Dudash finds inspiration in places like the Black Hills of South Dakota, which is the setting for COOL WATERS. The painting depicts a river curving through a canyon, where a Native warrior has stopped to let his horses drink. The foreground lies deep in shadow while bright sun illuminates the far canyon wall. The image reflects another of the artist’s interests: amplifying the contrast of cool and warm colors to intensify the sense of drama in a scene. “Being a painter is sort of like being a screenwriter, director, and actor all in one,” he says. “I’m having a lot of fun with that.”

With 200 works on view, the Small Gems show offers both drama and subtlety, from photo-realism to impressionistic renderings of the landscape and figure, remarks gallery owner Catherine Saks. “We’re so excited about this show,” she adds. —Gussie Fauntleroy

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Featured in the November 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art magazine November 2012 digital download
Southwest Art magazine November 2012 print edition
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