Steamboat Springs Things seemed to slow down a bit when Jean Perry and Curtis Zabel nestled into Steamboat Art Museum at midday Tuesday as workers bustled around them preparing for a private dinner.
Perry and Zabel, through their artwork that provides a warming perspective to mountain landscapes and Western heritage, have been partners in art shows for 30-something years.
“He invited me to an art show at the Depot,” Perry recalled.
“And it was a big mistake,” Zabel joked. “She started outselling me.”
Although their art stands on its own, a room and atmosphere come together better when Perry’s paintings and Zabel’s statues share the space.
“These are really two of the artists I’ve wanted to show since we opened the museum,” said Shirley Stocks, Steamboat Art Museum’s president and curator. “They are local legends. They’re both nationally recognized and have both achieved high levels in their careers.”
The latest exhibit — Retrospective — featuring work by the two artists kicks off with an opening celebration for the public from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday. Perry and Zabel also will host an art lecture and workshop beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday. Perry will provide a painting demonstration while Zabel will discuss the lost wax method of casting. The cost for the lecture and workshop is $20.
A private dinner with the artists was Thursday night at the museum.
Perry and Zabel have long histories in Steamboat, each of their artwork dripping with the allure of the Yampa Valley.
Perry, whose paintings chronicle the environments that surround her, came to Steamboat in 1980. She originally was an abstract painter before discovering she wanted to do something else.
After one workshop at a ranch, it became clear that detailing the landscapes around her was her calling.
“I thought, 'This is it,'” she said. “I found my direction. It was my 'a-ha' moment.”
Perry since has painted landscapes across the world, from Italy to Croatia. But nothing, she said, compares to the beauty of Steamboat and Colorado.
“It’s so easy,” she said. “I love painting in the mountains. Steamboat gave me a feeling that I really was an artist. This place made me feel like an artist.”
Perry’s landscape paintings meld well with Zabel’s bronze sculptures. Zabel, whose ranch sits along the Elk River, started sculpting in the 1960s. He completed his first bronze in 1972.
Throughout the years, the cattle on his ranch paid for his artwork. But as Zabel became more renowned, his artwork started to pay for the cattle.
His sculptures depict the true West, often featuring cowboys and horses, animals and nature. His work on the ranch and with animals gives the bronzes an aura of realism. The intricate details make them remarkable.
“It takes a while,” he said. “I work on it every day. It looks easy every time. But every time I struggle with it.”
The Retrospective exhibit will be on display until April 13 at Steamboat Art Museum, Eighth Street and Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat Springs. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call 970-870-1755 or visit www.steamboatartmuseum.org.
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com