A day bed inside Mary Beth Galer's studio on Lynx Pass serves as catchall for the items she uses in her art.

Photo by John F. Russell

A day bed inside Mary Beth Galer's studio on Lynx Pass serves as catchall for the items she uses in her art.

Routt County artist shrouds work in playful mystery

‘Collective Expression’ 1 of many openings at First Friday Artwalk

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If you go

What: Local artist Mary Beth Galer’s show, “Collective Expression”

When: 5 to 8 p.m. today during First Friday Artwalk

Where: Steamboat Springs Center for Visual Arts, Ninth Street and Lincoln Avenue

Cost: The event is free and open to the public

— Upstairs in her log home outside Stagecoach, Mary Beth Galer’s art studio is filled with mystery.

The quaint space is layered with magazine collages, artwork in progress and myriad books, from math texts to an old social psychology book with a peephole cut into the pages revealing a small painting.

A giant cardboard cutout of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter stares wildly from behind a chair, on which Galer painted the image of her cat, Lucy, curled up on the seat.

“It’s busy, like my paintings,” she said about her home studio, which overlooks a twinkling snowfield on Lynx Pass.

But instead of cluttered, it feels more like the untamed expression of femininity and freedom that shines in her work.

Tonight during First Friday Artwalk, Galer will debut a show called “Collective Expression” at the Steamboat Springs Center for Visual Arts at Ninth Street and Lincoln Avenue.

Galer’s oil on canvas work is ripe with the sweeping, feminine curves she finds so attractive in European architecture.

In her paintings, the realistic objects are often obscured by translucent layers of paint, as if they were blurred with dreaminess or the abstraction of memory.

Classical architecture is a common theme in her work, demonstrating her connection — and sometimes longing devotion — to its classic appeal. She sometimes feels torn between her desire to live in a European city and her contentedness in her woodstove-heated log cabin in Stagecoach.

“I don’t know how to describe something that I like so much,” she said about her attraction to European architecture. “It just grabs my heart.”

Bird images also are woven through her work, from owls to songbirds and the occasional well-placed feather.

She said she read in the book “Aphrodite’s Daughter” that when women turn 40 they begin to see birds, an expression stifled in younger women.

“I think it’s the sense of freedom and empowerment,” she said. “That you can go where you want to go and do what you want to do.”

She takes her paintbrushes to all kinds of classical and functional objects, as well.

Everything from chairs to violin cases is within painting reach for Galer, whose show features a vintage cupboard decorated with songbirds and musical notes, and a birdhouse with tiny doors and drawers offering her signature playful mysteriousness.

Steamboat Springs Center for Visual Arts Executive Director Linda Laughlin said it’s Galer’s collage theme that enhances the sense of mystery.

“Invariably, when one studies Mary Beth’s collages, you are struck by what bubbles up to the surface of the canvas,” Laughlin said. “Bits of torn paper, seemingly unrelated shapes, paint splotches, flashes of something recognizable but then again hidden, creating more questions than answers.”

For Galer, her work found itself through her constant exploration of new and classical elements.

“I guess I found out what you can do with your own warped mind,” she said. “And glue.”

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