Terry Munter, Lyla Ransdell make storytelling part of their work

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FARMINGTON — Calling Terry Munter's artwork distinctive is an accurate enough description, but that adjective hardly begins to define the nature of her work.

"The good news is, nobody else is doing what I'm doing," the longtime Farmington resident said. "The bad news is, nobody knows what it is."

Munter — whose work will be featured alongside that of painter Lyla Ransdell in their "Two Colorful Women, One Colorful Show" exhibition opening Friday at the Henderson Fine Arts Center Art Gallery on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington — labels her work as mixed-media sculptural art couture.

Essentially, Munter starts with vintage costume jewelry and adds repurposed or found objects to it to create wearable or usable pieces. Some are small enough to fit on finger, while others are 6 inches tall and are designed to be displayed on a table or nightstand.

But the common element in all her work is its upbeat nature.

"I don't need to be depressed," she said. "My art is about lifting spirits."

That approach helped align her with Ransdell when the two discussed the idea of showing their work jointly at the college. Munter had applied to have her work featured in a solo exhibition. But gallery officials were interested in displaying it with that of another artist, perhaps a painter, so that the gallery's full interior space, including its walls, could be used.

Munter already was aware of and appreciated Ransdell's work through their mutual participation in the annual Handmade catalog of local artists and thought of her immediately. She said the two essentially "interviewed" each other to determine if their creative sensibilities meshed enough to warrant a dual show.

Those conversations led to the realization that they were kindred artistic spirits, and they couldn't be happier about showing their work together.

"She's very eclectic and gathers all sorts of objects to use in her art," Ransdell said of Munter. "I'm sort of eclectic, too, gathering up impressions of things around me. And we're both colorful."

Ransdell said she has more than two dozen Impressionist paintings in the show, most of which are new. She said her work is not anchored in realism, but she often relies on real-life scenes or occurrences for inspiration.

"I try to tell a story with everything I do," she said.

Ransdell and her husband own a ranch in southeast Utah, and she said they spend a lot of time shuttling back and forth between San Juan County and that location. Over the years, she has relied on such subjects as the Colorado River, the red rock country and even the jimsonweed that is found throughout the region as staples of her work.

But Ransdell doesn't always rely on landscapes. She does the occasional portrait, and one of her more striking pieces, "Ghost Sheep," conjures up the 16 sheep killed on her ranch one night by a marauding mountain lion. She said she still feels their presence sometimes.

"I swear at night I still hear those sheep," she said. "But I'm not somebody who tries to be a camera. I'm more of an Impressionist, intense painter."

That storytelling element to her work is another characteristic she shares with the artist with whom she'll be showing her work this weekend. Munter said she has started a "Let me tell your story" process with her work in which she invites clients to bring her stray, forgotten or damaged pieces from their past. Munter then combines them with some of her own whimsical elements to come up with something new.

"It's about telling someone else's story using broken pieces sitting in a drawer," she said. "I create something for them adding my own stuff."

The show opens with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday and remains on display through Sept. 28. Call 505-564-3464.

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

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