Colorado artist's show opens at Crash Music

Mike Easterling
"Hovenweep Round Tower at Night, Summer 1996" by Sonja Horoshko is featured in the artist's "Refined & Unrefined" exhibition opening this weekend in Aztec.

FARMINGTON — Enduring an illness isn’t normally regarded as the ideal circumstance for finding, or even seeking, artistic inspiration.

But when Sonja Horoshko found herself advised by her doctor to take to her bed and get plenty of rest a few months ago as she battled an ailment, it didn’t take long for the Cortez, Colo., painter to experience a creative breakthrough.

Bored, Horoshko logged onto her computer and found herself drawn to the YouTube broadcast of the CODE Conference that was held in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., May 31 through June 2. The invitation-only conference, which featured in-depth conversations about the current and future impact of digital technology on life, included a lineup of such heavyweights as Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Ford Motor Company President and CEO Mark Fields, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, and SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk.

Horoshko, who said she considers herself more knowledgeable than most people about trends, said she was shocked to realize how little she knew about what the presenters were talking about. Artificial intelligence? The colonization of Mars? Horshko was amazed at what she was hearing.

“Rather than turning away from it, I fell in love with everything I could find,” she said. “I stayed dialed into that for 10 solid days.”

Before finding the YouTube broadcast, Horoshko said she had reached a low ebb in her lifelong relationship with the art world, finding herself deeply discouraged and dismayed by a gallery system that bears little resemblance to the system she came of age with after studying at the University of Denver in the early 1960s.

“We learned how to paint — the traditional techniques — but more than anything, we learned an appreciation for the artists that came before us,” she said of her experience at DU and how it framed her art worldview. “All of us fell in love with the loaded paintbrush and work with meaning and the idea that there were audiences for our work.”

"The Children Mourn," left, and Dance with Me, I want to Hold You" by Sonja Horoshko will be featured in the artist's show opening this weekend at Crash Music at the Aztec Theater.

Over the next several years, Horoshko would become a successful painter, serving an artist-in-residence period at Hovenweep National Monument on the Colorado/Utah border and seeing her work displayed in galleries and museums from Denver to Illinois and Oakland.

But she slowly felt herself becoming more and more alienated from the visual art world. Support, opportunities and appreciation for artists — at least, the kind of artist she had strived to be — were becoming increasingly rare.

“It had gotten to the point that the material part of visual art is a bit of a burden,” she said. “The real gallery system has gone away. Now, art is influenced by fashion and fad and drugs. I’m not saying all those things are necessarily negative or bad, but it’s hard for me to relate to the visual art world today.”

So, when Sue Rys of Crash Music at the Aztec Theater called her and asked if she’d be interested in showing her work in the theater’s gallery this summer, Horshko’s immediate reaction was to dismiss the idea.

“I thought, ‘Who’s going to buy anything?’ and ‘Why would I do that?’” Horshko said by phone from Cortez last week. “My answer would be, ‘Because we love to exhibit what’s been on our mind and in our heart what’s been coming out of our brushes.’”

And Horoshko certainly had a lot on her mind after becoming absorbed in the CODE Conference. She found herself so inspired by what she had heard, she quickly agreed to do a show at Crash Music, and her exhibition “Refined & Unrefined: Relics From a 20 Year Gestation, Birth of the New World” opens at the theater this weekend.

Horoshko describes the exhibition as “a digital graphic design narration” and said her medium has shifted after a lifetime of producing work in oil, acrylics, pastels and pencil. “Refined & Unrefined” will feature some of the work she has generated over the past 20 years mixed with a presentation of new digital media work.

More simply put, “Some of them are kind of poignant, some are very, very beautiful and some are kind of funny,” she said.

She warned that some viewers may find other pieces of her work unsettling.

“They’re not pretty,” she said. “In a way, they’re prophetic. They show an angst I was feeling.”

Horoshko pictures the art world, and the world in general, at the threshold of a new era. She wondered aloud if the traditional paint-and-canvas approach to creating art would become irrelevant in the years to come and whether her work would retain any value or meaning.

She referred to herself as an artistic “elder” now, though she giggled when she said it, indicating she didn’t attach too much seriousness to that status.

“I look back and think how fortunate I was to live a life so heavily imbued with an aesthetic reason and a belief that it mattered,” she said.

The ultimate impact of digital technology on her field remains to be seen, but Horoshko acknowledged that she’s become energized by the possibilities and views her exhibition opening this weekend as a chance to explore all that.

“I think we’re in a new time,” she said. “I’m delighted to put the show up, to find another way to weave what I’ve done with my life with what’s coming.”

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

If you go

What: Opening reception for “Refined & Unrefined,” an exhibition of artwork by Sonja Horoshko with music by Kevin Ramler

When: 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, June 24

Where: Crash Music at the Aztec Theater, 104 N. Main Ave. in Aztec

For more information: Visit