‘Where We Live’ show highlights Roaring Fork Valley scenes
The Red Brick Center for the Arts was packed end-to-end for an art opening last Thursday: Bottlenecks formed in the long hallway as people stopped to connect with old friends or to take a closer look at a piece that caught their eye.
The show, “Where We Live,” is a combination of paintings and pastels by six artists who capture the landscapes of the Roaring Fork Valley.
Artist David Notor, who has been in the valley for 45 years, said there’s a self-evident “why” in the art on display.
“It pretty much shows why we all live here,” he said, laughing.
It’s easy to see what he means.
The heavy hitters are all there: watercolors of the Maroon Bells, oil paintings of Mount Sopris, pastels of Capitol Peak, all basking in the lights and shadows of the seasons.
There are softer scenes, too: gentle streams, sprawling fields and sturdy trees throughout the valley that elicit just as much wonder as the mountains towering overhead.
Painter Michael Kinsley sees the allure of both — in the interesting and unusual shapes that appeal to him as an artist and in the feelings those landscapes can evoke.
“We all have the experience and often multiple experiences of being in a place that you've become so enraptured with that it's hard to leave, and when you're leaving, maybe you turn around and stop and look again,” Kinsley said. “And that's the kind of places I like to paint.”
He arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley 52 years ago, thinking it would just be a hitchhiking stop.
He’s still here, and has no plans to leave, but that’s not just because of the scenery.
“It wasn't just the beauty of the place,” he said. “There’s lots of beautiful places. … The strength of the community is what really kept me here.”
Kinsley, Notor and other featured artists said there’s just as much to appreciate in the people walking the halls as there is in the art on the walls.
Organizations such as the Red Brick, the Art Base in Basalt and Carbondale Arts create spaces for the human connection that is so fundamental to a thriving creative community, they said.
“I've known these artists, and I've shown with these artists over the years,” Notor said. “And their work and my work, everything has changed — it's gotten so much better.”
“There's so many great places to be able to show your paintings and support the local artists and local people that put on the art, so it's pretty cool,” he said.
Amy Beidleman, another artist with decades-deep roots, agrees.
“You can see this show and just the heart on the walls and then the people — how many people there are,” Beidleman said. “You know, it's been tough to get things busy again, and it's just really nice to see this, and I attribute it to just a longtime locals crew that's here.”
Kinsley said he sees these institutions as a critical part of the valley community.
“They're important, much more broadly than art — they're important to strengthen the community, which is important for the community to continue to build itself,” he said. “So it has political implications, but in a way that's hidden.”
Although the physical landscapes Kinsley paints haven’t changed much, the landscape of the community has.
“That strength of community is a lot harder to hang on to now, because it's been so exploded by the inflationary pressures on the place that weren't here 50 years ago,” he said. “But these kinds of places (such as the Red Brick) tend to mitigate against that explosion of community that happens as a result of the changes that have happened over the last 50 years.”
His paintings, though, aren’t meant to reflect those changes so much as to give people some respite from them.
“When people tell me that they feel a real sense of peace, when they're looking at my work, or a sense of joy, that's everything to me,” he said. “There's plenty of politics around us that's pushing on us hard, and is now more fraught and frightening than it's ever been in my lifetime, so my art is a break from that."
"Where We Live" runs through Nov. 8 at the Red Brick Center for the Arts.