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Local printmaker captures Roaring Fork River scenes in woodcuts

Local printmaker Curt Carpenter’s exhibition “Woodcuts of the Roaring Fork River” went up Friday night at The Art Base in Basalt. This exhibition is a scavenger hunt of sorts.


Curt Carpenter has been working out of his Amsterdam styled work-live space as a graphic designer and printmaker for 30 years. It’s located in the Aspen Business Center, just a few minutes walk from some of the places that inspired Carpenter’s latest exhibition.

“All of the images were made from drawings I've made while walking in the evening down there," he said. "And it turns out to be a very deep source of inspiration, not just because it's very beautiful but because of the geology, something spectacular about the way the river is cut.”


Carpenter’s collection contains 15 prints made from drawings inspired by different spots along the river. Visitors to the exhibit are given a numbered map where they can follow along and seek out their own journey.


“As you would walk down the river and see them as you’d progress down river,” he said.


As he drafted the settings in his 6 inch by 8 inch sketchpad, he began to notice and become fascinated with the boulders sitting at the base of the river. Standing on the riverbed near Slaughterhouse waterfall, Carpenter called these boulders “damaged goods,” as they were blown up by early mining activity.


“I mean, imagine how in 1890 you move a boulder the size of a Volkswagen Vanagon?" He wondered. "They didn’t, they couldn’t move it, but they could blow them up. So there’s lots of evidence of sharply angled boulders.”


Back in his studio, he described the process of transposing a sketch to the woodcuts, blocks that have been chiseled, then doused in blue and black ink.


“And once it’s inked … use very thin rice paper," he continued. "Once you roll up the block, only the flat uncut part of the block holds the ink. Everything you cut away, it turns to white. So this is a reductive process, kind of more like sculpture than painting in that you start with everything and cut away to get what you want, like old traditional stone and wood carved sculpture."


The hunt to find “Woodcuts of the Roaring Fork River” at The Art Base will last through Oct. 7. For more information, visit theartbase.org.


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