Catching a glimpse of changing faces

Local artist's new exhibit showcases some of Steamboat's personalities

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— When contemporary realist painter Susan Schiesser saw Jon deCarmine for the first time, she immediately was drawn to his looks, personality and alternative style.

"He has a real air about him. I like his quiet sophistication and the dichotomy of his hair and ripped-up clothes," Steamboat local Schiesser said, pointing to the safety-pinned jewelry around deCarmine's neck in her portrait of him.

The Steamboat Springs Arts Council hosts Schiesser's latest collection of oil on canvas portraits, "Faces from the Mountains," at the Depot Art Center. The exhibit runs through Jan. 12.

As many faces of Steamboat change with the seasons, while others remain stable figures in the community, Schiesser said she wanted to symbolize the various age groups, occupations and personalities of this small resort town.

"The distinct personalities are the fiber that make the fabric of the community strong," Schiesser said in a news release. "It is important to recognize that many of the qualities we love about the town can and will still be read in the faces of its people."

And as a regular patron of the Tugboat in Ski Time Square, where deCarmine works, Schiesser said she thought he was a perfect representative of his age group in Steamboat Springs.

But as art lovers walk through the main gallery at the Depot, they can see that Schiesser found subjects that she not only found personally intriguing but also those who possess captivating facial characteristics.

Schiesser's exhibit of 15 faces will grow with time, she said. She also plans to add about three new pieces for a closing reception and filming session Jan. 11. Appetizers, hot cider and wine will be available at the Depot from 2 to 6 p.m. Jan. 11.

Schiesser has videotaped several of her subjects and will tape more at the closing reception for her Web site. Images of her portraits will appear on the computer screen, and as the cursor lands on each portrait, a video clip of each subject will begin for the viewer.

"I looked at it as a career-building move," Schiesser said. "The pieces aren't for sale. Although people can buy them, I didn't do it for that reason."

Schiesser said she hopes to bring her collection to various other venues in Colorado and neighboring states to become well known.

Her idea to start the collection of portraits began about 18 months ago with people she knew well or others she hand picked off the street. All of her subjects immediately agreed to pose for an oil portrait.

Just before she began the portraits, Schiesser called artist friend William Mathews in Denver to get advice.

"Trying to sell a portrait is like trying to sell a three-day old sausage," Mathews said to Schiesser.

Schiesser said Mathews told her it would be an advantageous marketing move for her career. Mathews has not seen any of her current portraits but has seen her other artwork.

Although she also does landscapes, Schiesser said she primarily did life drawings in art school.

Schiesser earned a bachelor's of art degree from the San Francisco Art Institute in painting with a minor in welding in the early 1990s.

The Depot, 1001 13th St., gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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