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Three arts and crafts shows feature original, top-quality works for gift giving

Some might say that if you haven't gotten your holiday shopping done by now, you're in for some headaches. Fighting the traffic at the mall, finding something original and getting your selections in the mail on time all can be challenging. So it's fortunate that a number of local art venues chose this time of year to present art exhibitions aimed at hooking up art buyers with some of the area's best artists. Three of these are at the Business of Art Center in Manitou Springs, the Sangre de Cristo Art Center in Pueblo and the Colorado College Worner Campus Center.

Perhaps the most diverse and impressive of the three is the Fine Art of Shopping sale at Sangre de Cristo where some 95 artists have submitted over 1,000 pieces of art. An unusual feature of this show is that buyers get to take the art with them when they buy it rather than waiting until the end of the exhibition. As a result, not all of the art will be on the walls at any one time as additional "stock" is brought out to replace purchased pieces.

In spite of the quantity of art available at the show, the exhibition gives up little in terms of quality. Juried by Pueblo sculptor Tom Latka, the work includes pieces from several artists represented in the Denver Art Museum's permanent collection. For example, Louis Recchia has contributed a number of stylized mixed-media pieces combining an element of whimsy with a charismatic and innovative style.

Denver artist Jennifer Parisi has a variety of intriguing pastel on "black velvet" works that will change viewers' minds about a medium heretofore dominated by Elvis Presley caricatures.

Colorado Springs artists Tom Leech and Ramona Lapsley are each represented by a variety of dynamic and rich original prints combining rigorous technical virtuosity and compelling imaginative content. And there are excellent choices to be made in the watercolor medium with work running the stylistic gamut from the compelling expressive pieces of Lisa Hamburg to the impressionistic landscape paintings of Lorraine Danzo.

As might be expected in a holiday show, the category of fine jewelry art is well represented with innovative designs from artists like Sean Brown, Suzanne Linquist, Grace Quade and Jeff and Mary Anne Sorensen.

Indeed, there is something from just about every artistic medium imaginable, as curator Jina Pierce has added new artists from recent scouting trips to the Loveland sculpture show, the Cherry Creek art show and the Boulder Art Mart.

Manitou's Business of Art Center also is replete with gift-giving possibilities this month as The Gifted Hand fine craft invitational show runs through Jan. 3, 2002. While the offerings at the BAC are limited a bit more by the size of the space, the quality of work is equally as impressive as that at Sangre de Cristo. Indeed, the diversity of medium and the number of new artists in this show make the exhibit well worth seeing even if your holiday art shopping is done.

The glasswork of Jared and Nicole Davis consists of vases and bowls both brilliantly conceived and executed. "It's some of the best I've seen in the state," said exhibitions curator Heather Merriam. "There are some good glass artists here, but we're not really known for glass so this was a welcome sight."

Monument artist Richard Pankratz has a number of impressive porcelain pieces including "Zoroaster II," an exquisitely symbolic work that juxtaposes globular shapes with a more angular sculptural apex. Local artist and BAC employee Maxine Stores has offered several of her fiber art works, which meld African and traditional American folk art elements into allusive statements of color and form that seem to vibrate optically.

But perhaps the most unique and riveting of the works in the show are decorated sculptures that begin life as carefully tended gourds in the garden of Denver artist Kathleen Sherman. From such humble beginnings come elephants and cats, camels and owls, all hyperactively decorated in a whimsical and eccentric fashion.

Last but not least, the Colorado College Arts and Crafts Sale 2001 will convene this weekend with over 60 local artists and craftspeople displaying a broad range of intriguing items. Like the other two sales, this event offers a mix of well-known and accomplished local painters and sculptors, a wide range of fiber and wood crafters, potters and jewelers together with a sprinkling of contributors from around the state. With the exception of a number of current Colorado College students, all the artists were subjected to a jurying process to ensure the quality of the work.

Proceeds of the sale go to support the Arts and Craft Program at the college, an enterprise separate from the regular art department. The small downstairs crafts space of the Worner Center is inhabited by weaving looms and pottery wheels, metal grinding equipment and ceramic kilns, all of which have been purchased with funds raised by Art and Craft Sales of Christmases past. Colorado College art instructor Jeanne Steiner says many of the show's artists are as interested in benefiting the program as they are in selling their art. "It makes them feel good to contribute," she explained. "They understand and believe in the need for art studios like this."

Political science major Erin O'Reilly, also pursuing a minor in architecture, has used the program's clay studio throughout all four years of college. Over that span she has perfected a series of functional pieces that incorporate the design concepts she's picked up in her other classes. O'Reilly was part of the committee that juries the work for the show. Steiner feels the chance to see many examples of other artists' work is an important benefit of the program. To O'Reilly, the biggest benefit may be in the way her pottery keeps her grounded. "I get really stressed out if I'm away from the wheel too long," she said.

Local wood artist Burton Crook represents the other end of the artistic spectrum with his fine hardwood parquetry. Crook says this is probably the last time he will offer his work because he's grown tired of the process of constructing the detailed works for which he is well-known. Crook dyes and laminates various sheets of hardwood into fascinating patterns that are then used to build 2-inch-by-2-inch boxes. A similar process is used to create material for Christmas ornaments that are cut with a thin saw to form a detailed snowflake pattern.

In addition to crafters and students, the Colorado College sale will feature a number of well-known local artists including photographer Tim Davis, oil painters Ken and Tina Riesterer, potter Jeremiah Houck and fiber artist Rebecca Yaffe.

Given the timing and variety of these three shows, one or more of them is certain to provide an opportunity to fill out gaps in a Christmas wish list with a piece of top quality, original art.

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