Monday, December 11, 2006

HOLD IT!...Shan Wells

“Hold It!” opens to large crowd @ Shy Rabbit Contemporary Arts

By Denise Coffee

“Hold It!”, an exhibition of contemporary containers, opened at Shy Rabbit Contemporary Arts on Saturday night, Dec. 9, to a large and energetic crowd. This elegant exhibition features seven emerging and mid-career artists working in varying and somewhat unconventional mediums. The exhibition runs through Jan. 20, 2007.

Gallery hours are Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 1-4 p.m. Shy Rabbit also welcomes visitors during non-posted hours. Please call (970) 731-2766 to confirm the gallery is open.

“Hold It!” artists were asked to stretch the concept of a typical container or vessel. This exhibition entertains the viewer’s imagination with a wide range of materials and forms.

Several of the artists invited to participate in “Hold it!” had existing works that fit the show theme. Others created new work inspired by the show title and the freedom they were allowed in the process.

Artists were provided with approx. 3-4 months in which to complete new work, and had no restrictions other than a size range and the number of finished works required. The process was a very organic one that resulted in the creation of work that is natural and unforced.

The seven featured artists are: Chad Haspels, Colo, wood; Sarah Hewitt, NM, fiber; Clarissa Hudson, Colo, fiber; Terry Inokuma, OR, ceramics; Mary Ellen Long, Colo, mixed media; Chris Richter, NM, ceramics; and Shan Wells, Colo, mixed media.

Shan Wells is a North American Sculptor and political illustrator. Born in Cortez, Colo, he attended Art Center College of Design, and the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

Wells received a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation in 1999, and two successive Colorado Council on the Arts Fellowships for drawing and sculpture, respectively, one of two recipients of the awards to do so in the 35 year history of the program. He was recently selected as one of Colorado's best 75 artists for the exhibition, “Best of Colorado”, at the Denver International Airport.

Wells illustrates a political cartoon for the Durango Telegraph, an independent weekly newspaper. His illustrations have also appeared in, Westword, Las Vegas City Life, and the Los Angeles Reader.

Wells has three pieces on display in “Hold It!”, two that were existing works, and one that he created specifically for the show.

“A Portable Container for Shadows” is made up of Ponderosa pine, found metal, leather, steel, and recycled mahogany. This piece greets the viewer as he/she enters the smaller of the two Shy Rabbit gallery spaces, and sets the tone for the entire show.

“A metaphor for introspection, this piece flows directly from the work of Edmund Husserl, who originated the idea of Phenomenology,” Wells states. “The idea of never being able to fully perceive anything was of interest- for example, the inside of a tree limb. We perceive it only one side at a time, and the interior is never fully observable. Containers have a great metaphoric value for this reason- they are potentialities, exposures that become more beautiful to us as they become more transparent and complex, mirroring our own perceived souls.”

Wells creates works that are visually pleasing while provocative in nature, and that also inspire a great deal of thought if fully absorbed.

“A Portable Container for Shadows” reverses this to create an object that simultaneously reveals its core and conceals it— thus illustrating the working contradiction inherent in introspection that I think we all strive to overcome as we peer into our own dark recesses, searching for meaning in our behavior, adding another arrow to the quiver of our self-definition,” Wells continues.

Wells second contribution is entitled “ArcHive.” It is skillfully constructed of recycled Douglas fir, wax, ink, and leather.

“Bees use a complex dance to communicate with one another”, Wells explains. “Called waggle-dance, this behavior results in an incredibly plastic language ability, capable of communicating very specific information about food location, quality, timing, and other things, as well as enabling arguments over competing resources.”

“ArcHive is a metaphor for the library of knowledge the dance represents, the compilation of bee knowing”, Wells summarizes.

Wells’ third is entitled “Spectral.” It is constructed of wood, wax, leaves, light, and components.

“This work speaks to the common scientific process of dissecting nature in order to understand it. It can be done, but the subject tends to die in the process”, Wells continues.

“The work also references core sampling, and specifically, spectral analysis of celestial bodies- hence the line of color. All of this comes together in the title “Spectral”, Wells states.

Wells lives with his family in Durango, Colo.

Please visit for more information on Shy Rabbit Contemporary Arts shows, events, and programs.

Shy Rabbit is located at 333 Bastille Drive, B-1 through B-4, one block north of Hwy 160 off of North Pagosa Blvd. For additional information on Shy Rabbit Contemporary Arts, please email

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