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Arts & Culture

Two exhibitions open at Aspen’s Red Brick Center for the Arts

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Dominic Anthony Walsh
Aspen Public Radio
"Intimate Appearances" at Aspen's Red Brick Center for the Arts opened on Thursday, Feb. 17.

Two new exhibitions at the Red Brick Center for the Arts in Aspen opened Thursday. “A Nod to Modernity” features two Denver-based artists who put a twist on the familiar themes of midcentury modernism. And four painters contributed to the second exhibition, “Intimate Appearances,” which explores relationships and connections through deeply personal portraits.

A Nod To Modernity” is in the west end of the building. Distinctive, familiar midcentury modern tones and abstract shapes fill the space.

Sculptor Jean Smith and painter-printmaker Lydia Riegle mingle with visitors who, Riegle said, have some sharp questions.

“Lots of great questions on the process in the materials,” she said on opening night. “It's been really fun to be welcomed by Aspen.”

Riegle pointed out one of her flat works — an abstract assortment of shapes, with inverted gradients playing off one another, rolling from light to dark and from dark to light.

“I want the whole feel to be sort of catching air or lightness or a floating kind of thing,” she said. “Because I think that it's pertinent right now. I think people want to feel good.”

Zoom out from one work to see the duo’s exhibition as a whole, and it feels cohesive and dynamic — Smith’s sculptures playing off of Riegle's prints.

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Dominic Anthony Walsh
Aspen Public Radio
"A Nod To Modernity" fills the conference room and lobby at the Red Brick art center.

“Oh, I think that makes it much more interesting,” Smith said. “Yeah, I like that, because it draws you in. And then it's so to ask you to step back. … You can see the different ways of how things look when they’re flat or when they’re three-dimensional.”

Riegle agreed.

“There's a tactile element from something coming off the wall,” she said. “And I'm always after depth. … It all plays into one another.

Stepping out of the lobby and into the main hallway: Carbondale-based artist Hannah Stoll’s work comes early on in the “Intimate Appearances” exhibit.

On one side, a portrait called “Sunbathers” shows two friends sprawled out, shoulder on elbow, elbow on thigh — one glancing from under the shade of a hat toward the other, whose eyes are closed against the sunlight.

“This is just sort of trying to capture a really lighthearted, wonderful moment with my friends,” she said. “This is just a picture we took in the spring in college, before the pandemic hit — just a really carefree moment.”

Stoll looks to those types of candid photos as references for her portraits.

“I've just always been interested in painting and drawing people … and trying to hone the craft of observation and familiarity,” she said.

In another portrait, a friend holds a joint atop a mountain, the smoke swirling upward into the clouds. The hand is the focal point — and is also one of Stoll’s favorite objects to paint.

“It's a challenge I like because when you do get a hand right, it's so satisfying and it brings so much to the painting,” she said. “The human form is really complicated and always different.”

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Dominic Anthony Walsh
Aspen Public Radio
Hannah Stoll's "Sunbathers" portrait comes early in her section of the "Intimate Appearances" exhibition.

Past Stoll’s work, the theme of intimate portraiture stays the same, but the tone and subjects shift. Instead of youthful friends, Tanya Derkash’s portraits capture old folks and people with disabilities.

Derkash is a painter and special education teacher from Glenwood Springs. The subjects of her work, she said, should be seen, not stared at.

“I worked in San Francisco for about seven years,” she said. “People would kind of stare and then look away. … I guess I wanted to kind of paint the opportunity for them to be able to understand that and see that aspect of them.”

Her work also includes some abstraction — imaginary maps and neural networks flit across the bodies and backgrounds of those in her portraits.

There is Matt, whose chest is covered by a diagram of a brain in mental distress.

“I worked with him in a restaurant,” she said. “And I felt like people didn't really understand how he was the nicest person — so, so kind. And you know, people kind of make fun. It always bothered me. So I guess I kind of wanted to do him justice.”

Matt’s face is a mix of emotions, including a sense of wonder.

“He was always so positive and optimistic,” he said. “Like he didn't even let it bother him. It probably bothered me more than it bothered him. … He just viewed the world through a different lens than a lot of other people around him. I would say wonder, joy, optimism.”

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Dominic Anthony Walsh
Aspen Public Radio
Addie Kae Mingilton's contributions to "Intimate Appearances" are based on photos of her multiracial family.

“Intimate Appearances” runs through April 6, and “A Nod to Modernity” wraps up on May 5.