From Trees to Stripes: Abstract artist Monroe Hodder at home in her Steamboat studio.

Photo by John F. Russell

From Trees to Stripes: Abstract artist Monroe Hodder at home in her Steamboat studio.

Steamboat Living: Artist Profile — Hodder’s abstract expression brightens Yampa Valley

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Local artist Monroe Hodder talks with students from Steamboat Springs High School in her studio.

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Caps from tubes of paint fill a container inside Monroe Hodder's Steamboat Springs studio.

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Containers hold tubes of paint inside Monroe Hodder's Steamboat Springs studio.

Monroe Hodder saw a career in art as an “exciting adventure” — a grand future that would take her on a journey through colorful worlds.

“I jumped right in and never looked back,” she says about pursuing art at a young age.

The abstract painter, easily identifiable by her brightly colored clothes and near-constant smile, lives part time in Steamboat Springs and part time in London, melding the two juxtaposing sceneries into her conceptual but playful works.

“What I’m striving for is a lot of depth,” Hodder says. “The outcomes are a bit unpredictable. It’s terrifying. Each one, I’m just going with the flow.”

Known for her large oil paintings of contrasting and complementary horizontal stripes, Hodder has displayed her work all around the world from Denver’s William Havu Gallery and the Denver Art Museum to the Andre Zarre Gallery in New York City and Belgravia Gallery in London.

Hodder is represented locally by former gallery owner Kimberly Saari, who says the highlights of their seven-year relationship include visiting Hodder’s studio to get a sense of the light, music and ambience that inspires her work.

“Monroe’s a very complex person, and that comes out in her work,” Saari says. “She’s one of the most vivacious, happy people but also very deep, educated and intellectual. I see someone constantly pushing herself in a new direction, and I find that very admirable.”

In her 30-year career, Hodder has drawn figures and painted trees. Living abroad in several different countries offered her a broad perspective of nature, one that settled deep into her painter’s mind.

“For Russians, nature is where their spiritual life resides,” she says about her reverence for trees. “It’s how God comes down through the Earth.”

In Kazakhstan, she says the white birch trees captivated her, and one day, she turned the trees sideways on the canvas. Thus was born her signature, horizontal stripes.

But she’s never static or stagnant in her work.

“One thing that’s helped me develop as an artist is opening my eyes and seeing art with a humble mind,” Hodder says.

Saari says Hodder also is devoted to art education. In February, a group of Steamboat Springs High School seniors visited her west Steamboat studio. She animatedly spoke about her career and gave the students an inside look at her new direction: layered squiggle shapes with an organic feel and angled lines that begin to break down the horizontal stripes. She talked about her process, which starts with just a “jumble of lines” and about the music she listens to that inspires her work.

“You have to kind of look into your soul and think about what is important,” she told the students. “For me, pure color goes a long way for my expression. You have to strip everything away — that’s the main lesson. How to jump into that creative spirit and not be afraid of mistakes.”

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