Land meets sky in the current exhibit at Olio Food Wine Art.
The Mancos restaurant and art gallery is featuring paintings by two local artists: Karen Kristin and Susan Reed. Reed specializes in landscapes and textures, while Kristin is known as the “Sky Lady.”
“The paintings that she’s putting in there this time will be of her skies,” Reed said of her colleague. “So they’re mostly – not abstract, kind of conceptual. But all sky. So they look really nice with my work.”
Reed’s showcased paintings center around farming scenes.
“Lots of sheep,” she said. “I love to do sheep. Some people, old trucks.”
Reed is originally from Oklahoma City, and has been painting since about the age of 15, she said. She moved around the country, shifting focus and style, and came to this corner of the world 17 years ago.
Fashion and female characters have always held a sort of fascination for her, and she likes to incorporate a variety of fabrics and materials into these works.
She’s attracted to the feel of the material and its eye-catching qualities, particularly as a former interior designer. “And just all of the fabric texture and the feeling of it, and the sensuality of using it on the canvas,” Reed said.
Her love of textures has led her to experiment with some unique canvases, from vintage calendars to maps to Japanese paper.
“I call it painting with paper, because I like to use the Japanese paper to give my things some depth and some shadow,” she said. “And it all started because I just kept finding my acrylics to have less and less pigment in them. And so when I couldn’t get anything as striking as I wanted it to be, I thought, ‘I’ll just stick this rice paper type thing that’s dyed naturally into the acrylic and see what happens.’”
And now that she’s in Southwest Colorado, landscapes in all their glory are a must.
“It’s just so beautiful out here, it’s really hard not to continue to paint the landscape,” Reed said.
She’s made a home about nine miles north of Cortez, and showed her work last year at Olio too.
This year, her portion of the show will focus on some of the same themes from last year, such as farm animals and sheep, using pencil and acrylics and some of her handmade paper.
Her exhibit partner Karen Kristin grew up in Los Angeles, which is where her sky art origins are rooted.
Initially, Kristin painted commercial backdrops and sets for television and soon developed a reputation as a sky artist. After 10 years there, she moved to New Mexico in 1988, since she had always wanted to live in the Southwest.
“And here the skies are so beautiful,” she said.
Since then, she moved her office to Denver before settling into Cortez full-time in 2005. Her studio presently resides along Sligo Street, and her company is called Sky Art Karen Kristin Inc.
She primarily uses acrylic. “The sky paintings that we make on-site are water-based acrylic, and we spray,” she said. “So nothing is done with brushes, it’s all with air equipment, and air brushes.”
Her celestial niche has carried her around the world, from Caesar’s Forum in Las Vegas to the Chaitanya Jyoti Museum in India.
The largest project her company undertook was a 252,000 square foot ceiling at the Venetian Macao Resort Hotel in Asia.
Logistically, her profession takes her to great heights – she regularly hops onto 80-foot boom lifts to turn ceilings into blazes of color and swirls of blue.
“I think this kind of work has kept me young,” Kristin said.
She also has spent time researching and painting animals of this area, but the artwork she’s bringing to the Olio show all feature skies in some way.
The Olio show kicked off with a reception Aug. 10 and will run through Oct. 5.