Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Three artists' impressions of Idaho

Unique landscapes to be found at Ketchum galleries


Cindy Tower was so taken by the beauty of Stanley that she used rabbit skin glue and river water to create a canvas on which to capture its beauty. The material she used was a scrap of silk from a second hand store.

By Tony Evans
For the Express

At the end of the 19th century, French impressionist painters opened the doors of the modern art movement by moving away from the ultra-rendered realism and sentimentality of previous generations. Instead they focused on the general impression of a scene, recording visual reality in terms of the transient qualities of light, and the emotional landscape of the artist.

The paintings of Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Pierre Renoir and others eventually led to a multitude of influences which can be seen in the work of landscape artists displaying in Ketchum art galleries this spring.

J. Ken Spencer of Blackfoot, Idaho, is showing at Zantman Gallery in Ketchum. His paintings of Idaho landscapes and the alleyways of Renaissance European cities utilize the juxtaposition of hard edges with blurred and suggestive areas to create a dynamic visual experience in his oils paintings.

"I treat each picture in an abstract manner, whether it is a castle, or a tree. It is basically a relationship of shapes," he says. "Among other things, I use the edge to control where a person's eye travels on the canvas."

Ketchum-based photographer Todd Kaplan began painting in his youth and turned to the camera at the age of 26. A graduate of the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, he is returning to his impressionistic roots with a psychedelic rendition of the iconic red barn on Sun Valley Road.

Even without paint, he has created an image van Gogh would appreciate. Kaplan manipulates the slow-drying emulsion of a Polaroid SX-70 photograph, sometimes keeping it warm on the dashboard of his car.

"I used a pencil eraser, the edge of a quarter, whatever I could find to get the desired effect," says Kaplan, whose photographs have appeared in Smithsonian, American Heritage and Sun Valley Guide magazines.

He is currently showing at the Saddletree Gallery and Frame shop in Ketchum.

New York City-based artist Cindy Tower also shows at the Saddletree Gallery. She discovered the Wood River Valley while living in a yurt in Stanley during a cross-country painting trip.

Tower's work has been featured in The New York Times and Art in America magazine, which mentioned her tendency to "pummel propriety and taste." Her focus on the greasy shelves of a machine shop, or a row of derelict outboard boat motors demonstrates her extraordinary painting skills, which can raise workshop clutter to the level of visual poetry.

While in Stanley she used rabbit-skin glue and river water to stretch silk fragments from second-hand stores over wooden frames, which she hammered together in the back of her pickup truck. These translucent landscapes of Stanley are the result of her own invented process and are an example of the makeshift aesthetic of many a traveling artist.

The contemporary impressionist sees through the fine edges and details of visual reality for the essence of a scene or subject.

As J. Ken Spencer says, "Impressionists leave something unsaid. After all, suggestion and innuendo can be more imaginative than a full description."




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