Woodworker Christian Burchard in Telluride
Each material has its own life, and one cannot, without punishment, destroy a living material to make a dumb and senseless thing. We must not try to make materials speak our language. We must go with them to the point where others understand their language. – Constantin Brancusi
A man with “birch” in his name may be destined to be involved, somehow, with wood. For artist Christian Burchard, whose takes as his credo the words of the great modern sculptor Brancusi, the urge to work with this material is what drives him. “I need to do it. I don’t really have a choice in the matter,” he has said. “My work is about my relationship with nature, my desire to connect with it on a deep level…searching, finding something sacred, adding my touch, wrestling with it.”
And lecturing on it: on Friday evening, Burchard, who resides in Ashland, Ore. and works almost exclusively with wood from the West Coast Madrone tree, will give a presentation at the Ah Haa School about his creative process, which is quite dramatic and involved. His favorite parts of the Madrone are the burls that grow within their roots. The burls are harvested for the veneer market; Burchard collects the rejects, transforming them into a wide assortment of beautiful and unexpected objects, from bowls to “books” to wall sculptures.
The artist has been represented by the Telluride Gallery of Fine Arts for several years, and a wide selection of his work is on exhibit there until the end of this month. But although the gallery’s director, Baerbel Hacke, has spoken with Burchard (in their native German) by phone numerous times, she has not met him until this week. His lecture on Friday “will be all-new to me,” she said.
Burchard shows all over the world – his work is on exhibit at the moment in Telluride, at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, and in Dubai – yet much like the material he works with, the artist remains down to earth. To commune this closely with nature “is a blessing, but also often overwhelming, “ he has said. “It is a struggle. At times I find myself needing to put my foot down, to control the outcome of my work, only to find I’ve trampled something beautiful.” At other times he feels overwhelmed, even scared. At such times he wonders, what is required of me here? And most important: “How can I match the beauty of this living thing?” Burchard’s lecture is at 5:30 p.m. To see examples of his art and watch a video on how he harvests his materials, go to burchardstudio.com.
Oscar Wilde from Telluride Theatre
Also in Telluride this week, art of another sort: a classic comedy by Oscar Wilde. The Importance of Being Earnest, the play is a satire on marriage and other social obligations of Victorian society. It premiered on February 14, 1895 just a few days (take 118 years or so) from when Telluride Theatre will first perform it. Sasha Sullivan, who will direct Earnest, says she was totally unaware of the coincidental timing when she picked this play, to be performed this week. Wilde’s comedy “was on my theatrical bucket list,” she said. “I first read it as a drama student, and I’ve loved it ever since. The language is so rich – the way he plays with words is magical. It’s a very-well-written physical comedy, which is a rare thing.”
Though she’s done a lot of it, Sullivan won’t be acting in this play, or any other play from now on. “I’m retired from acting. I’ve gotten too old for it,” she laughed. “No, seriously: I don’t have the energy for it that I did a few years ago. And as the company has grown, it’s less and less easy for me to both act and direct, even in something I’ve written.”
Coincidentally, Earnest marked Wilde’s “retirement” from playwriting, too, though his wasn’t exactly by choice. Shortly after the play opened, Wilde began a legal feud with the father of one of his suitors; eventually, the playwright’s hidden life as a homosexual was revealed in court, and he was sentenced to prison. Today, Earnest is acknowledged to be Oscar Wilde’s most brilliant comedy, revived often on stage and screen. But at the time, despite its opening-night success, society was scandalized at its author’s behavior. Earnest closed after just 86 nights. Wilde never wrote another play. The Importance of Being Earnest runs Thurs.-Sun. at the Sheridan Opera House. To purchase tickets, visit telluridetheatre.org.
Singing Valentines in Montrose and Ridgway
Next Thursday, Valentine’s Day, a group of 12 men – three barbershop quartets – will be handed their marching orders: where they will go, and who they will sing to, from Cedaredge to Ridgway. They’re members of the Black Canyon Chorus. The group has been in existence since 1976, and Singing Valentines have been an annual tradition for nearly as long. For a fee of $40, the Chorus will serenade your sweetheart, male or female. Says Dennis Olmstead, who sings bass, “Four guys show up and surprise you at your door. We sing two short songs – ‘Heart of My Heart’ and ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart,’ and then we schmooze. You get a real red rose, and an itty bitty box of chocolates.”
What they get – meaning the chorus – is the unalloyed pleasure of seeing someone surprised and pleased at being singled out in an unusual way. “It’s a wonderful uplift,” says Black Canyon Chorus President Larry Wilkinson, who has seen women “weep for joy” at the appearance of a Barbershop Quartet at their door on Valentine’s Day. “We have sung to a teacher on duty in a high school cafeteria, and a mechanic at a tractor repair shop,” Olmstead said. “We’ve sung at construction sites.” And “to a finance officer, a restaurant owner, and a secretary,” Wilkinson added. “We’ll sing to a factory.” Why not to you? To hire a Singing Valentine, call 970/596-3196.