At the Telluride Historical Museum: Fabric of a Woman
For some months now, the Telluride Historical Museum has offered a special exhibit called Sight & Sound, in which it spotlights a local artist working in any medium (but giving a nod to history). Eileen Benjamin, best known for her landscape photography of this region, here uses photographs taken by others as a jumping off point for an exhibit in mixed media, entitled Fabric of a Woman. These new works are about the past. Benjamin starts with photographic images she’s collected of women that have been taken in the 1800s; she digitally enhances the images, “cleaning them up,” as she puts it. Then, on the freshened photos, she strews feminine objects – buttons, bows, dried flowers, vintage linen – and tops them with a piece of paper she has made herself from wood pulp. The pulp has holes in it, allowing the objects underneath to protrude a bit. Then Benjamin presses her assemblage together. When it dries, “the pulp warps, the colors bleed” and the finished image “is very 3D,” she said. The woman in the piece “takes on a life of her own.”
Which is precisely Benjamin’s intent. “The idea is, I’m bringing her from the 1800s into the 21st Century” through modern artistic techniques, in which she combines papermaking and collage with digitally-enhanced photography. In a sense, “she never dies, because her identity lives on. Nothing has changed. She is still a nurse, a nun, a mother, a woman of the night” (just a few of the 70 images Benjamin has incorporated into collage-and-paper at this point). “As women, we’re strong, smart, independent. We’re weak,” Benjamin said. “We’re all of these adjectives, and that’s what this is all about. I’ve been online and have looked at books about mothers, daughters, sisters, friends. But I’ve never seen one that told the whole story of a woman.”
The title of the exhibit, Fabric of a Woman, is a double entendre, a reference to the literal bits of fabric Benjamin incorporates into her pieces, but also the weaving together the artist hopes to do with these disparate images, to create something approaching the fullness of a life. Or lives. Later this year, she hopes to complete, and collect, 90 of these pieces into a book. Having worked on the project for the better part of a decade, “I have something invested in these women,” Benjamin explained. “It’s been a huge challenge,” she added. “And it goes beyond me. Each photo I start with, I look at and wonder: how can I celebrate her? I don’t know about these women’s lives, but I can imagine, and I want the viewer to, too. I want these images to create their own story.” Benjamin will give a lecture at the Museum on the idea and fruition of her project this evening at 5:30 p.m. The exhibit is up through April 7.
Land and Sky Nightscapes in Montrose
The Black Canyon Astronomical Society is one enthusiasts’ group that takes its education-mission seriously. Over the past several weeks, and over the next few, the group will have toted their telescopes (or tried to – some nights were clouded out) to Cedaredge Middle School Science Night, to Ridgway State Park, to Montrose High School, and to visit a group of Ridgway 4th Graders. A sentence at the top of their web page – written in red, for extra emphasis – reads Come to a meeting or star party before purchasing a telescope. “The reason for not buying a telescope right away,” the group’s President Bryan Cashion said, “is it’s really easy to succumb to marketing and buy a worthless scope, and then be completely frustrated with astronomy.” To some extent, the same thing can happen if you try to photograph a landscape or a “skyscape” at night without the proper tools or guidance, he added. The BCAS will address this very topic at its monthly meeting this Tuesday.
When you take a photo of the night sky, he explained, “it’s only of the sky, and it’s fairly straightforward. What’s tricky is if you’re trying to pick up images of the stars as well as a land formation” – say, a sandstone monolith at the Colorado National Monument, or at Gateway Canyons. “With our topography on the Western Slope, we have the opportunity to capture some fantastic landscapes at night,” Cashion said. “It’s all in how you set up your camera.” What’s really important is a good tripod (Bogen is one respected manufacturer), which will allow you to move your camera “on at least two axis,” Cashion said, “so that it rotates and tilts.” The BCAS meeting will be held downtown in the Centennial Room (the former Montrose City Council Chambers) at 7 p.m. Next month, the BCAS will offer a presentation comparing the neighboring planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars to Earth. Later this year, the group will train their telescopes on Comet ISON, visible in November. “It is very, very bright,” Cashion said. “We’re all very eager to see how that turns out.”
Twenty (by) Telluride
Finally, Telluride Arts presents the latest incarnation of its Twenty by Telluride this Friday, March 22, in the new Stronghouse Underground, an “alternative flex-space” (it’s in a basement) with a “luxurious, exclusive feel,” in the words of Tell. Arts’ Programs Director Britt Markey. Twenty by Telluride is based on the notion of PechaKucha, a form of creative presentation first devised by a pair of architects in Tokyo in 2003 as a clever way to attract young designers to their experimental space. The idea was simple: 20 slides would be shown by the designers for 20 seconds each; the faster the presentation, the more creative minds could meet and mingle. It makes for a lively presentation, and, not surprisingly, the concept has since gone global; last year, PechaKucha Nights were held in more than over 500 cities worldwide. For this edition of ‘Twenty,’ actor Colin Sullivan, designer Casey Nay, musician Claybrook Penn and painter Stephanie Rogers will all present twenty slides and get twenty seconds per slide to explain what makes them tick: “their inspiration, their creative process, their muse.” Arrive early: there’s room for just 50 (doors open at 7 p.m.). There’ll be live music by Lilly Von Shtupp and social lubrication, Markey assured, in the form of soignée cocktails.