Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Open Call: Transition and Transformation

By Susan Delgalvis

Mount Redoubt, Alaska, 110 miles southwest of Anchorage 
Photo: Andre Delgalvis

Last year I made a really big move: from Anchorage, Alaska, to Grand Junction, Colorado, and from hematology/oncology physician to full-time studio artist.

My husband, Andre, and I had settled our lives in Grand Junction, Colorado, when a practice opportunity arose for me in Anchorage, Alaska, in 2009. We decided to move to Anchorage, renting out our home in Grand Junction. Although I was a full-time physician, I had become very interested in painting, working first in pastel, then oil and acrylic, and finally settling on encaustic, after taking a workshop with Jane Guthridge in 2008.

In Anchorage I began to work independently. I first rented a studio and then converted part of our garage and other rooms in our house into working space. I began working four days a week as a physician and three days in the studio, continuing to take workshops and attending the annual International Encaustic Conference almost every year. I always returned home rejuvenated.

The artist community in Alaska was very diverse and I forged many enduring relationships. Facebook and Instagram enabled me to participate in a larger and more extensive artist community online. However, I felt confined by geography and affected by the light, which was either too much or too little. In summer, we had to black out our windows to sleep, and in winter, we sat in front of a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) light whenever possible.

In 2015, after six years in Alaska, I realized it was time to transition to a different focus in my life. I would retire from medicine so I could begin a full-time studio practice by moving back to Grand Junction. Andre, who is a fine art photographer and author, and I, soon to be a full-time painter, were able to fulfill a long-time dream. Returning to Grand Junction, we undertook a major remodel that enabled us each to have full-time studio practice along with shared gallery and living space.

Grand Junction studio panorama: This wax studio is approximately  22 x 23 feet, with an additional painting studio of 12 x 27 feet

Creating studios and enlarging our plans, we opened Studio 2138 LLC, a residential gallery and artist working studio in 2016. We each have separate studios and exhibition space. Andre also has a frame shop. I have a wax studio and another studio for working in oil, pastel, and acrylic. We wanted to present our art in our own style and had many long discussions and resulting negotiations about how artists living together presented a unique set of challenges—nourishing each other while allowing for independence.

Gallery space at Studio 2138 showing Susan Delgalvis’s work

We are promoting Studio 2138 through a number of venues, including social media, open studios, advertising, and recently underwriting an art auction through community radio. We are also involved in the Western Colorado Center for the Arts, where I will start teaching in the fall. I recently became involved with BreckCreate in Breckenridge, Colorado, where I will also be teaching in the near future. We are actively engaged in the artist community with a commitment to sustaining and supporting artists on the Colorado western slope and beyond. In the future we anticipate inviting other artists to exhibit in Studio 2138 while expanding to hosting poets, musicians, and performing artists.

Visiting other studios 

in Colorado, we speak of the “western” and “eastern” slopes, which are separated by the Rocky Mountains. Jane Guthridge is on the eastern slope; I am on the western slope. Recently I visited with Jane in her Denver studio. “The work you see in my studio involves many different media and forms,” said Jane. “I am fascinated by light and am continually exploring it through a variety of translucent and reflective materials.”

Jane Guthridge, Pools of Light 31, 2017; cut Dura-Lar, archival inkjet and encaustic
 on mulberry paper, 36 x 36 inches

I also visited Jeff Julin in his Salt Lake City studio. We discussed the greater artist community, as well as our geographically-defined sensibilities. Jeff and I talked about art having a western sensibility, meaning art related to an environment of openness, a spatial sense affected by the geographic openness we experience in our environment.

Jeff Juhlin, Strata & Flow #28, 2015; encaustic, paper, oil, ink on panel, 20 x 18 inches

Jeff noted that despite the spread of the landscape, “there is a geographical restrictiveness in the west—largely due to vast distances between cultural centers— that does seen to make us more isolated.” But the impact on one’s psyche and art are undeniable. “ If you spend a lot of time outdoors in this vast landscape, as I do, with its changing light, extreme weather, amazing geological formations, high mountains and vast deserts, it can’t help but creep into your sensibility and often manifest in some subtle or not so subtle way into your work.”

The Colorado Plateau and its diverse geology have been inspirational to me. I perceive the simplicity of nature, separated into basic elements, and then coming together in a unified image, tethered to our collective consciousness. I have found my community.

Mount Garfield, Colorado, about nine miles from Grand Junction and visible from 
Studio 2138
Photo: Andre Delgalvis  

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