“Sticks and Stones” explores the structure and symbolism of Snowmass
For “Sticks and Stones,” a new art exhibition that opens Friday at Base Village, artists Henry Kunkel and Alex Gabriel looked at each other to plan the works they would exhibit.
“As we put things together, things started to sing together. … (We were) finding common threads that sew our works together,” Kunkel said in a joint phone interview with Gabriel. “And so we both have representational work and less representational work, and so (we were) figuring out what kind of different painted languages make sense together.”
The two met at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia a few years ago. Gabriel took up residency there in 2019; Kunkel is the program director and a former residency participant at the studios. Both have works infused with the colors of their Colorado surroundings and imagery of the natural world, though each takes a different approach in theme and material.
This is the first time that the artists’ works have been shown together, according to Kunkel; collaboration on “Sticks and Stones” highlighted the similarities between the artists’ works, Gabriel said.
“What was magical to me was that I knew a bit about Henry’s work, and I even have one of his paintings hanging in my house, but then I was unaware…how much our paintings would work together until we had like a studio visit about the series,” Gabriel said. “And then I was like, wait, this really clicks, and there’s a lot more themes related to the themes I’m thinking of, even though we have quite different material.”
What started as a discussion about logistics evolved into something much more thematic, Kunkel said.
“We started by assembling works that matched the gallery’s recommendations for size and structure, and we just looked at color…then we started talking about themes, like the structure of the building, thinking to painting as a body or to the object of the body, and then talking about different forms of expression,” Kunkel said.
There were also “really cheesy conversations” about art history, joked Gabriel, and more exploration of physical materials and how their structure plays out in the artwork.
“It’s kind of become meta,” Gabriel added. “I remember we talked a lot about how a painting is even structured. … We build from that, because the literal structure is important: what our stretchers do, or for me, the fabric that I use, becomes really important. »
The structure is just one of those “common threads” that Kunkel says help bring the two artists’ works together.
There are some physical similarities — two works each getting a deer, for example — but symbolism and memory are also part of the collection, Gabriel said.
The two artists take different approaches to their works: Kunkel uses anatomical references, mythology and botanical symbols as building blocks; Gabriel is more “material driven”, they said, with the idea of ”painting as body”.
But the artist’s ideas are limited in how the public experiences the collection. It is up to the viewer to interpret and find their own meaning in each of the works, Kunkel and Gabriel said.
“These connecting threads are like we meet in the middle. … If we take this memory thread, I follow it on one side, then Henry follows it on the other,” Gabriel said.
“One of my hopes is that people who come to see it will then make those connections for themselves,” they added.
Kunkel agrees; both the artist’s intentions and the viewer’s response play into the work.
“The artist can’t go any further in a work, and he can…create an understanding to read a painting if he does it well,” Kunkel said. “But ultimately, it’s the viewer who completes a work of art with their eyes, and what comes out of it is in their hands.”