Nothing could be more southwestern in tone than this wonderful piece by Colorado Springs' artist, Karen Storm, depicting the Garden of the Gods. From the reddish earth, the terracotta-colored rock formations, and varied greens of the foliage to a perfect southwestern sky of Sleeping Beauty turquoise touched with a fluff of clouds, this painting says "Welcome to our world." Likewise, when visitors enter Squash Blossom Gallery, an Old Colorado City favorite since its inception in 1973, they are able to experience the Southwest in all of its many manifestations, from jewelry, to painting, to ceramics. As well, they can enjoy both more tradition artists' work along with the work of younger artists who have a new take on those traditions.
The galleries are connected by these wonderful arched doorways, which skillfully allow the visitor to experience in one view both the traditional and the new. The painting above the doorway by Pablo Antonio Milan was a personal purchase of the gallery owners early in their career as gallerists and stands as a current reminder of the traditional focus of the gallery. Kachina Dancers captures the spirit of the Native-American cultures of the region as the dancers rhythmically move across the canvas, their feathers moving to the echoing beat of drums. Meanwhile when one looks through the doorway to the far wall, abstract interpretations of the rhythms of the earth, like those found in the colorful stones of the region, come to life in Sophia Hernandez Crade's resin and mixed media paintings. The skillful blending of the old and new comes as part of the direction in which the Gallery Director, Kenny Idleman, has taken the Squash Blossom since he took over in 2019.
Idleman, formally educated in metalsmithing and jewelry making, is also an instructor in such at Pikes Peak State College. He has sought to balance the contemporary additions with traditional pieces while holding true to the gallery's roots. This move ranges from showing works by the local artists, as well as reinstalling the works of artists like P. J. Garoutte and Walter Wooten, who have had long careers all over the Southwest. The gallery also allows the staff to express their overall appreciation of art in fun and unusual ways.
October is Arts Month in the Pike's Peak Region, so for their First Friday Artwalk, Squash Blossom had the Arts Month's Artist of the Day for October 4th, Phil Lear (see below), do a painting demonstration. Meanwhile, Idleman and other staff members celebrated various famous artists. Idleman did a fine version of Jean-Michel Basquiat, while Ravan Clark, the Assistant Director, recreated a favorite figure from the Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha. A third staff member dressed as Frida Kahlo, right down to the one brow eyebrow.
In terms of looking at the Old Southwest from the location of Old Colorado City, which has its own special western feeling and history, there's the painting of Phil Lear, one of the artists featured at Squash Blossom for October, 2022. Lear uses all the classical techniques of drawing and painting, but his subject matter has often been the characters from the Old West. The titles of his paintings are cause for a bit of research, and reveal interesting aspects of the history of the west. For instance, "goin' heels" refers to the outward placement of the "butt" or "heel" of a gunslinger's gun which allowed for a quicker draw. As for The Curse of Capistrano, it was the title of a 1919 novel by Johnston McCulley, whose main character was a certain masked bandit, Don Diego de la Vega, otherwise known as Zorro (the fox). Lear has also completed a mural on the outside of the building which gives an overview of its history. For more on Phil Lear's work, see "Phil Lear: Portraits, Poetry, and Disrupted Realism" a June, 2022 post in the Art Blog here at vernellestudio.com/blog
One aspect of the Southwest is the beautiful Native American jewelry. Squash Blossom has a well-developed reputation as a purveyor of fine Native American jewelry. The gallery loves representing new work by Native-American artists, and carries new/contemporary styles along side the traditional/old pawn.
No gallery representing the southwest would be complete without a fine selection of handcrafted pottery. However, here once again, Squash Blossom offers the surprise of these contemporary pieces by Diel Gray. The sculptural quality of many of these adds that extra dimension of creative flare needed to make a unique art piece.
Finally, one of the interesting modern additions to the tales of the Southwest is the vehicle which replaced the horse - yes, the pickup truck. We find them in out-of-the-way places, where they finally gave up the ghost, sometimes by a delapidated structure, itself a relic of modernity gone wrong. Yet, with the right artistic touch, one gets a bit of a sense of the probably history of the place and vehicle, as well as how it is oddly becoming a piece of naturally occuring conceptual art. For more on the art of Ed McKay, see the Art Blog post for February, 2020, "Ed McKay: An Artist's Journey" on vernellestudio.com/blog.
Squash Blossom Gallery maintains its focus on the arts of the Southwest, honoring tradition as it moves forward, keeping up with the times with its addition of more contemporary pieces. Part of that movement means a social media presence, as well as a website that allows virtual viewing of the great paintings and other works of art the gallery represents.
To contact Squash Blossom gallery or follow their activities, see the links below:
2531 West Colorado Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
For more on me and my art and travel inspired writing, see my author page at amazon.com/author/marjorievernelle
Should you be interested in articles on art history combined with a discussion of wines, go to my other art blog, OfArtandWine.com
© Marjorie Vernelle 2022