What’s that “bioluminescent water nymph” doing in Carbondale? “Mahina”, a name meaning “moonlight” in Hawaiian, is one of two sculptures on loan by Fruita-artist Pavia Justinian.
Notice any other eye-catching pieces? If not, keep looking. “Matelasse” by Denver-artist Reven Swanson is a twisting yellow ribbon inspired by traditional needle art. “I deeply believe that to understand our modern culture, you must first understand the traditions of the past,” she writes in her artist statement.
Down the way, Canadian-artist Paul Reimer’s “Forward” evokes the form of a bicycle with a single curving line of hand-forged steel. Reimer writes that the piece is a celebration of “residents’ healthy choices” and is “virtually indestructible” thanks to centuries-old blacksmithing techniques. That element of indestructibility is important, given these sculptures stand susceptible to extreme heat and cold, wind, ice and rain. Unfortunately, even vandalism and car accidents pose a threat.
Over a dozen other colorful imaginings, carved, forged and fused from a diverse array of materials, are propagating on designated marble slabs throughout downtown Carbondale. This latest round of Art Around Town, a cherished tradition, is especially sweet after COVID put the program on pause for a year.
Ann Harris, co-chair of the town’s Public Art Commission, explains that sculptures from the previous cycle were retained last year with permission from the artists. “We knew that we couldn’t do a public walk around town. We also thought a number of people would be hesitant to travel.” The commission requires that artists deliver their sculpture in-person, and the latest contributions, carried over from last year’s cancelled show, come from as far as British Columbia.
Most of last year’s pieces are now being cycled out, with some exceptions. Maureen Hearty’s “What Lies Beneath”, for example, will remain in place. Because the 2019 artist, Brad Reed Nelson, was moving his sculpture to Anderson Ranch, Hearty’s unmistakable pink tentacles, emerging ironically in front of Town Hall, replaced it early and will be on display for another year.
Nearby, “Arpeggio” by Alamosa-artist Kyle Cunniff floats on suspended vertical lines meant to resemble guitar strings. This arpeggio, a type of broken chord, is composed of large concrete and glass guitar picks.
The selection process for artists has recently attracted around 60 entries each year. Using a web application called CaFÉ (Call for Entry), the commission’s eleven members evaluate every entry on its own merits. Next, the town’s public works department takes into consideration the dimensions and materials for top choices, determining which will fit on the town’s Yule marble pedestals donated for the purpose. Finally, around 20 finalists are voted on at a commission meeting that incorporates other community art leaders. The top pieces are then ranked and alternates are contacted if top choices are unable to follow through.
“I love the whole concept of Art Around Town,” Harris told The Sopris Sun, “I love that it’s not just one person’s taste. Voter consensus gives us a variety of pieces.”
You can join the Public Art Commission for a tour of the new sculptures on Thursday, June 3, at 5:30 p.m. Attendees will gather at Town Hall and, if necessary, split into several groups. Visiting artists are asked to hang by their sculpture to greet each group. Afterward, everyone is invited to an outdoor reception at the Carbondale Clay Center.
Occasionally, a piece fits so well that it finds a permanent home in Carbondale, joining the town’s collection of over 20 pieces purchased and donated to enliven our public spaces. Such was the fate of “Humpty Dumpty”, purchased through a crowdsourcing campaign to forever greet library visitors. Most recently, Tim Deshong’s marble wave called “Kou-uh-buhng-guh” joined the collection from 2019’s Art Around Town selections. You can find the full list at bit.ly/CdaleArt
Will any of this year’s entries be so fortunate? Perhaps “Mare Equus et Ferro”, a seahorse made of found objects and steel by Steven Torres of Phoenix, Arizona; or, maybe Minnesota-artist Kimber Fiebiger’s “Woman in the Wind”. Whatever the fate of these pieces, it is our responsibility to be respectful community stewards for the art on loan.