July art walk features shows at Studio 116, Artifacts
FARMINGTON — Artist Karen Ellsbury, co-owner of downtown’s Studio 116 with her husband, photographer Patrick Hazen, certainly isn’t one to shy away from pushing the boundaries of the local art scene.
Ellsbury has showcased adventurous, abstract, even controversial art in the gallery she opened a little more than three years ago. But as she prepared last week for the opening of a new show, “Divine Design,” for the July art walk taking place Friday, July 8, she acknowledged she’s never presented a show made up entirely of nudes, as this one is.
Then again, she’s hardly losing any sleep worrying about the reception the show will receive.
“No, not really,” she said. “I just figure it will work or it won’t. The longer I’m in the gallery business, the less apprehensive I am about how the public will take things.”
The work included in “Divine Design” is hardly explicit in nature, even if it does include depictions of nude human figures. Ellsbury pointed out that nude figure painting has been a widely accepted element of visual art for centuries, and many artists who paint clothed figures start out by painting nudes as part of their training.
She also thinks that if such work puts some people off, that’s more a reflection of how troubled many people are with their physical appearance to begin with — and she considers that unfortunate.
“We’re so critical of our bodies and so uncomfortable with them,” she said. “We need to look at them in different ways.”
Ellsbury promises “Divine Design” will have a fun element to it, with the human form being presented in various ways, ranging from an extremely realistic approach through photography to body painting, as artist Leticia Flores-Zamarron will be painting models behind the gallery during the opening reception for the show from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.
The idea for a live body painting demonstration came from Flores-Zamarron, Ellsbury said, and she said the Aztec resident has done face painting for her at the gallery previously.
“It’s kind of trendy to have the live body painting, so I’m glad people have an option to see that,” Ellsbury said.
The show will feature the work of such artists as Rod Hubble, Chris Cook, Fran Morrison, Ellsbury and some of her students at the gallery. She said that when she put out the call for submissions to the show, she noted that local amateur artists seemed far more hesitant to send in their work than professional artists. Ellsbury is hoping more artists decide to enter the show at the last minute and take advantage of a rare opportunity to show that kind of work locally.
“There’s a real honesty to nakedness,” she said, adding that such work precludes the possibility of the viewer being distracted by the presence of such superficial elements as designer clothing.
Ellsbury also thinks the show is a great opportunity for people to show they don’t take themselves, or the way they look, too seriously.
“It’s just your body,” she said. “It’s just what we all live in … I try to have and show art that makes me grow as an artist and a human, and I hope that will be the result of this for me.”
Friday’s artwalk also will feature the opening of a new show at the Artifacts Gallery, 302 E. Main St. Local painter Marilyn Taylor will be debuting several new works in her “Birds of a Feather” exhibition that concentrates largely on feathered creatures, including a particular favorite of Taylor’s, crows.
“My crows have been really popular. They’re really smart birds, really comical,” she said. “When I’m traveling, I’m able to shoot some really interesting shots of them. I’ve tried to do some collage-type work to show their personalities.”
Taylor plans on showing 20 or so paintings, all of which are oils. All but a handful of those will be new.
A former teacher, Taylor took up bird watching when she retired, joining a local group that gets together every Tuesday. She uses many of the birds she spies, not just crows, in work she produces at her rented studio at Artifacts.
Taylor often shows her work locally and is a regular in the art tent at Riverfest, but she hasn’t had a solo show at a local gallery since an exhibition of her work was featured at San Juan College four years ago. So she’s been working overtime to get this show ready.
Taylor said she only got serious about her painting seven years ago when she left teaching, but she now considers it an essential part of her life.
“I’ve been blessed to get to do two things I feel passionately about,” she said.
An opening reception for Taylor’s show will take place from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday. The work of Connie Falk also will be featured.
Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.