Steamboat Springs Suzy Holloran talks about her paintings as if someone else made them. Her finger wanders around the canvas explaining symbols and colors in a chalk talk of her subconscious.
She starts at the bottom and talks her way up and then through the canvas, as one painting leads to another.
Her first piece, "Middle Ground," was included in an exhibit last November in the Chase Oriental Rug showroom. A black tree hangs in the upper right corner, connected to nothing. Beneath its roots are the white, ghostly human forms.
A trail of garbage -- plastic soda bottles and tinsel -- lead down as if they are draining off the page in a strip of hieroglyphs.
Holloran points to the tree.
"These are our roots," she said. "Our collective societal roots. See how far they are from the cave painting?"
"We are in search for happiness through material goods and we create problems for ourselves," she said, pointing to the pile of garbage.
In the righthand corner of "Middle Ground," Holloran painted a tunnel.
Her second painting, "Integration," is the view on the other side of that dark tunnel, she said. "Integration" will be included in "Transitions," an exhibit of new work by the Mixed Media Painting School of Steamboat Springs.
Transitions opens tonight at the Depot in the main gallery.
"Integration" is divided into three sections -- the past, the future in the middle, and the present.
The present is a peaceful nature scene.
"This is what we need to reach for to renew ourselves," she said.
The future is a black void, placed between two trees. Within the void is a thin sliver of mirror.
"The mirror shows that it's up to us," she said. "It's up to the viewer to determine (his or her) own future."
Holloran's mixed media paintings tend to be a vehicle for symbols, she said, opposite of her realistic two-dimensional work.
"Symbols were our first form of communication, before we had words," she said. "Now our symbols are words, not pictures."
On the floor of her studio, Holloran has a third blank canvas.
"I'm not sure what it will be," she said. She will probably follow the blackness between the trees into the future. "Or maybe I'll find out about that bottom part."
The "Transitions" show opens with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. tonight. The Mixed Media Painting School meets once a week to paint together and take the occasional workshop.
Steamboat artist Jim McBrayer has two pieces ready for the exhibit.
McBrayer has less to say about his work, but the pieces speak for themselves. McBrayer chose to focus on the "transition" from winter to summer, when the snow starts to melt, but the trees are still leafless.
McBrayer works for the Bureau of Land Management in Craig and makes the commute from Steamboat to Craig every day.
"I spend a lot of time looking at the river on my way to work," he said.
"River Ice" looks like a portrait of the Yampa at night. The water is as black as the lacquer of a piano, with white waves reflecting the moonlight.
He used twigs as trees and strips of Thai mulberry paper as the distant horizon. The bottom of the piece is covered in sand and cottonwood buds, held on with gesso. It looks like a dusting of snow on ground still wet from the spring melt.
McBrayer, like Holloran, usually works in two-dimensional paintings, but mixed media gives him a chance to push the images to another level.