Dale, Deb Latta will display paintings, sculptures, embroidery

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FARMINGTON — One day a few years ago, artist Dale Latta found himself staring at one of his abstract paintings that had been sitting around for a few years. Even though it had some nice elements to it, Latta had never really liked the piece, and he wasn't surprised that it hadn't sold.

So he took out a boxcutter and began cutting out the sections he liked, later gluing them to a new canvas upon which he had painted a two-color background. He found that the sharp, contrasting edges of the newly assembled work appealed to him in a way the original work never had.

"That was kind of a lightbulb moment for me," said Latta, who will be showcasing several of his paintings, as well as some ceramic and terracotta sculptures, during this weekend's 16th annual Art Sale and Studio Tour on Crouch Mesa that features the work of a dozen local artists.

Latta calls the new paintings he creates partly from old pieces "reconstructions" and acknowledges it's an unusual way to work.

"I'm sure there are people out there that do that," he said before chuckling and adding he wasn't aware of any other artist who works in that style.

All the same, Latta finds it satisfying. For one thing, it allowed him to find a use for the backlog of work he had sitting around his studio.

"I had a pretty ready supply of paintings that I never sold and were stacked up," he said.

Even better, Latta described creating reconstructions as a fast and exciting way to work, explaining that he feels compelled by the immediacy of the process.

"The first ones I was making were really controlled," he said. "I didn't like them as well, but I just kept loosening up with it to the point that it became a completely spontaneous process."

That approach wasn't unfamiliar to Latta, as he had done a good deal of abstract work when he was in college. But his process had grown far more structured over the years, and with his reconstructions, Latta felt a certain freedom that had been missing from his work.

"It's really exciting to work that way because the painting takes on a life of its own," he said. "It's real intuitive."

Latta doesn't devote his attention exclusively on the paintings. He also works in sculpture, something he has been focused on since January.

"It's kind of nice to jump back and forth," he said of the differences between the two media. "You don't necessarily get burned out, but you can come to a point where it's like, 'What am I going to do now?' … Working with clay is a pretty big leap in terms of another way of working."

Latta finds considerable common ground between his artistic pursuits.

"The two mediums kind of inform each other, even though they don't look like each other or seem to have much to do with each other," he said.

Joining Latta in this weekend's event is his wife, Deb Latta, who works in embroidery. The studio tour and sale will be the first time she has shown her work publicly, so it's a significant milestone for her.

"It's my first time to sell my work, but I'm thrilled (event organizer and tour host) Janet (McHalely Burns) asked me to participate," she said. "It's a step forward for me."

The experience already has been a positive one for Deb Latta, explaining what she's learned about preparing to show her work.

"That it's a lot of work," she said, laughing. "That you have to take time to do it right. You can't cut corners."

She said much of the work she will be displaying this weekend was inspired by a trip she took to Italy, where she captured several photos of medieval tapestries of angels. Inspired by those pieces, she set about crafting her own interpretations of those works.

The work requires painstaking attention to detail, she said, explaining that, just out of curiosity, she logged the hours it took her to create a single 4-inch-by-4-inch panel. She was stunned when she added up her time and it came to 29.5 hours.

Deb Latta explained that she is looking forward to talking about her work with the people who take the tour this weekend. She said many people labor under the misconception that embroidery is not art.

"They're not so much dismissive as I simply challenge them to look at it in a different way," she said, describing her approach to interacting with viewers. "Some people even do (embroidery) portraits, which are amazing. It's a different way of looking at things — it's not painting, it's a whole different expression."

The studio tour and sale will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at the home studios of Burns and Sarah Teofanov. Burns' studio is located at 1400 Williams Drive, and Teofanov's studio is located at 30 County Road 3773.

In addition to the Lattas, Burns and Teofanov, artists Lou Mancel, Doug McNealy, Beverly Todd, Jody Brimhall, Tory Teofanov, Sue Johnson, Steve Barr and Michael Billie will be featuring their work during the tour.

Postcards with maps are available at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park and the Henderson Fine Arts Center at San Juan College. They also can be obtained by emailing FMNarttour@hotmail.com.

Donations of nonperishable items for the ECHO food bank will be accepted at both locations. Call 505-320-4001 for more information.

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

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