By Laurelle Walsh
The work of three member-artists of the Winthrop Gallery cooperative are on display in a show titled “Inside and Outside” beginning this week and running through Sept. 29.
An artists’ reception will be held at the gallery on Saturday (Aug. 23) from 5-7 p.m., with an opportunity to meet the featured artists: Laura Aspenwall, Michael Caldwell and Marcy Stamper.
The three artists are all veterans of their craft: Aspenwall working in blown glass, Caldwell in oil paints on canvas, and Stamper in color photography.
For “Inside and Outside,” Aspenwall has crafted a series of blown glass jars with fitted, teardrop-shaped stoppers. The glass glows in a range of luminous colors from rich purples and blues to warm earth tones.
Many of Aspenwall’s pieces use a technique that involves blending colors to achieve a layered effect, such as one jar in shades of blue and purple accented with gold-toned dichroic glass. In some cases only two colors are blended but they react to create a many-colored result.
Her interest in glass jars came out of a visit to the Corning Museum of Glass in New York, where she viewed a collection of ancient glass on display, Aspenwall said. “The Egyptians made glass jars as early as 1,400 BCE, which were functional but also highly decorative. My work for this show continues in this tradition,” she said.
Aspenwall began blowing glass in 1996, when she took her first class at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon. She broadened her exposure to techniques in hot glass by working for a number of glass artists in the Portland area. She and her husband moved to the Methow Valley in 2002 and together built a glass studio called Ouzel Glass on Wolf Creek Road, where Aspenwall works today. She also serves as head of promotions at Winthrop Gallery.
Caldwell’s paintings are composed around natural spaces, and reflect his interest in both the act of painting and the natural world “as sources of awe, inspiration and rejuvenation,” he said. “I continue to be concerned with two things — our human relationship with the natural world and how I can express my response to it. By the latter, I mean how do I organize the image and how do I employ painting techniques to express the former.”
One of his pieces in “Inside and Outside” is a 32” x 36” oil on canvas titled “Buffalo Jump Road,” which he painted near a historic site in Montana where for thousands of years Native Americans hunted buffalo by driving them over a high cliff. Caldwell said the painting reflects his personal interest in American Indian history and culture and “communicates the vastness of the western sky and the sense of freedom and adventure it prompts in me.”
Caldwell has worked as a professional artist for nearly 50 years. He was a professor of art at Seattle Pacific University from 1970 – 2006, where he chaired the university’s art department. He now serves as head curator at Winthrop Gallery.
Stamper’s photography explores the variety of scenes one may encounter when traveling around the West, and the graphic forms that emerge from the landscape. Her pieces in “Inside and Outside” include images taken on a recent bicycle trip through Colorado and Utah, as well as ones from the Methow Valley and other parts of Washington state.
In many of her images, Stamper captures the juxtaposition of majestic scenery that exists side-by-side with human artifacts. “Campsite” depicts a line of red sandstone cliffs backed by a looming dark butte. A graffitied RV abandoned behind a wire fence assumes the middle ground, with blooming purple thistle in the foreground.
Others are more about contrasts in scale — for example, how even immense geological features can be dwarfed by the vastness of the sky and the horizon. In “Wildlife Refuge,” a flat-topped butte peaks above the crest of the sagebrush plain. Overhead, towering cumulus clouds fill the frame, with a patch of blue sky breaking through.
“I am particularly drawn to those places that, despite their forlorn state, still express a sense of optimism and provide a window into the dreams of those who created them,” Stamper said. “Other images are of intentional mementos of loss and abandonment, while still others are unintentional mementos of people and places that fell on hard times.”
Stamper is a freelance writer, graphic artist, and a reporter at the Methow Valley News.
Winthrop Gallery is located at 237 Riverside Ave. in downtown Winthrop. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily. For more information call the gallery at 996-3925.