Home on the Front Range 

The Felixes and friends come home to show at the BAC

There's something pathetic and wrong about artists having to show their works in restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops. The work always goes almost entirely unnoticed, and it never sells. Particularly lamentable are the sad scenarios where accomplished local artists with large followings in major cities like Denver are forced to hang their works in places like the now-defunct Pasta di Solazzi. Such was the situation that longtime husband-and-wife duo Tracy and Sushe Felix found themselves in the last time they hung a show in Colorado Springs.

That will all change beginning Friday night when their newest show, Four Directions, which also features the works of Margaret Kasahara and Reba Lee, opens in the Garage at the Business of Art Center.

"We've become really frustrated with the lack of gallery space for contemporary art in this town," said Tracy Felix. "We're tired of showing in restaurants and bakeries," added Sushe.

After a long period without any significant show of their works in town, and no offers, the Felixes finally approached former BAC Director Daniel Breckenridge about doing a show. Breckenridge was amenable and offered them the space in the new Garage building. Because the space is so large, the Felixes knew they'd have to invite other artists, and chose Lee and Kasahara for their similarities in style.

All four of the artists work in a kind of updated modern style and, with the exception of Kasahara, use subtle variations on a traditional palette of Southwestern colors.

Thus the title Four Directions: All the artists have their similarities, but each goes their own way. "The color, light and bright sky is what sets us apart," said Tracy, "and each of us is responding to what we see -- the color and vitality."

While Tracy Felix's landscape paintings place him directly in the lineage of local landscape artists from the Broadmoor Academy (many of whom he avidly collects), his paintings are also fascinating for their obvious relationship to the graphic stylizations of the pop movement. In one of his most impressive newer works, "Colorado Front Range," for example, the mountains have shot up from the earth like skyscrapers in the Flintstones while the clouds float by in strange monolithic rectangles like ice-cream sandwiches. Painted before 9/11 in 2001, the presence of two towering gray slabs into which one of the clouds is crashing now seems eerily prescient.

What's fascinating about Tracy Felix is his commitment to his style and palette. Rarely ever diverging from the Colorado sky blue, sandstone red, mountain blue-green, an earthly tan, and white, one begins to wonder if he doesn't actually see the world in such cartoonish simplicity.

Sushe Felix's work is quite the opposite of Tracy's: constantly changing, abstract and oriented toward an inner, rather than outer world. "I've gone through a lot of phases," said Sushe, noting her current interest in geometric forms, particularly circles. "But as I've gotten older I've moved to a more internal world." Her current works draw heavily on artists like Raymond Jonson and Emil Bistram of the so-called "Transcendental Painting Group," as well as Wassily Kandinsky. While not her strongest works, the whimsical Sushe has obviously found a method of composition that suits her love of "moving paint" and her need for constant change.

Like Sushe Felix, Margaret Kasahara has an abiding interest in formal composition. Also treading the line between pop and deco modernism, Kasahara's still-lifes complement Tracy Felix's landscapes well, fitting into his tweaked world of perfect dream. More compelling than her "traditional" still-lifes, however, are Kasahara's explorations of the crossover between her Japanese and American heritages. In "Identity Sewn Together," a fork floats above a pair of red chopsticks in a simple yet resonant statement of cultural duality.

Least compelling, though not uncomplementary, are the works of Reba Lee. Too pastoral and outdated in subject matter and style, and too ambitious with color, Lee's works overstimulate, but just don't exhilarate the way her peers do.

Also opening Friday night is a show of Polaroids by local rabble-rouser Atomic Elroy titled, you guessed it, Plethora of Polaroids in the Caf Gallery.

All in all, Four Directions is a great show for a group of local artists who deserve to have an audience in their hometown.

-- Noel Black


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