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BAC print and ceramic show aims to please

Potluck, the new show at the Business of Art Center, falls gracefully in the 'Can't Fail to Please' category. Mixing ceramics and prints, the work on display is of uniformly high caliber. Indeed, the weakest piece in the show would have been the strongest in an equivalent exhibition a couple of decades ago. For whatever reason, our local artists, at least those who work in these particular media, have become extraordinarily competent.

Let's start with Mary Ann Bransby, the acknowledged doyenne of local artists. With her spouse Eric, Mary Ann has been creating wonderful art, mostly in the Pikes Peak region, for over half a century. Most of us, after an illustrious career, would be content to tend our gardens and bask in the radiance of past glories (assuming, of course, that we had any past glories to bask in). Not Mary Ann. If the two pieces on display are any guide, she's doing some of the best work of her life right now.

Take a look, for example, at "Glacial Graphic," a large-scale zinc plate intaglio print. It's a swirling, lively depiction of a glacial basin, high above timberline in the Rockies. Bransby has absolute control and mastery of her medium; there's not a superfluous line, not a splash of color that doesn't belong there. Just goes to show, I guess, what you can accomplish given abundant talent and the willingness to work on your chops for 50 years or so.

And speaking of mastery, it's nice to be able to compare Mary Ann's brilliant work with the equally brilliant work of Jean Gumpper, arguably our city's finest artist in any medium. We've reviewed Gumpper's shimmering, light-filled color woodcuts before; suffice it to say that Jean, like Mary Ann, gets better every year. "Outlook" and "Ridge" are very large-scale, semi-abstract meditations on light, with a fall aspen grove as their ostensible subject. Over the last few years, Gumpper has created a substantial, even important, body of work. And as her work has deepened and strengthened, her fame has grown apace. Give her a few years, and local collectors are going to be reminding each other of those halcyon days when you could pick up a Gumpper for a thousand bucks or so.

Moving on to ceramics, there are so many pleasing, inventive, witty and original pieces on display that it's hard to know who to highlight. I particularly liked Jamie Howarstalline glazes. Bob LeDonne's exuberant raku construction, "Spirit Vase with Cloud," is a visual treat, as is Maggie Quinn's free-form vase, "Celery Stalks." Mark Wong's grouping of three floor-size raku vessels on metal stands has real sculptural presence, as does Donna Arnink's "Cayenne," a glistening raku horse. And Paul Dahlsten's "Alice in Wonderland Teapot," a Kosai-process ceramic construction, is witty and delightful, although ill suited for an actual tea party. And let's not forget Ken and Tina Riesterer, whose friendly ceramics, decorated with joyfully naked people, are as exuberant and delightful as a day at the nude beach, when you were 21 and single, and had a body to die for.

-- John Hazlehurst

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