Steamboat Springs Swimming amid rich oil-painted landscapes of placid summertime streams and icy rushing rivers, bronze trout dart to the left and right while a spirited otter goes after his lunch.
Nearby, a bronze bear lumbers along the water’s edge, already having caught his slippery snack.
The mixed-medium exhibition from Bonnie McGee and Sandy Graves takes visitors above and below mountain waters in this month’s “A River Runs Through It” First Friday Artwalk exhibit at Circle Seven Fine Arts, 1009 Lincoln Ave.
The show opens Friday with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m.
McGee, who is displaying about 20 paintings, said she draws much of her inspiration from her love of fly-fishing.
“I get really excited by rivers,” McGee said. “There is an urgency to a river that lets you know it has a date with the sea. Once the mountain snows meld into ocean, the cycle loops back as evaporation, clouds, rain and snow — the journey begins again in a cycle essential to life.”
Featuring the Yampa River, Fish Creek Falls and a gold-medal stretch of the Colorado River at her ranch east of Kremmling, McGee’s waterscapes run through all seasons and terrain, from banks covered in fall’s bright yellows and oranges to rocky falls bordered by the fledgling greens of early spring.
Standing in the river fishing, McGee said, gives her a different perspective as the pressure of the current pushes against and around her legs and waist. The artistic inspiration at times outweighs the incentive to fish, she said, “and I end up painting more than I fish.”
One piece titled “Who Owns the River?” shows her husband fishing on the Colorado with their golden retriever while a moose wades into the water behind them for a drink.
In terms of the riparian corridor, the rivers sustain so much life, McGee said. But along with the breathtaking beauty and the life-giving properties, the two artists also acknowledge the current era of controversy and critical decisions around water issues for not just the region but for the entire globe.
Graves calls rivers the “veins of the planet.”
Graves — known for her unique use of negative space, a style that gives “levity and movement to a typically ‘heavy’ medium” — said that nine other people play a part in her bronze creations. Describing the process would fill pages, she said.
Graves spends about one week every month at Land’s End Foundry in Paonia. From the welder to the wax chaser, Graves said she is in constant communication with each person at each step to make sure each component stays precise with her artistic vision.
The slight arcs and bends of Graves’ trout — her newest pieces — imaginatively carry the beauty and natural movement of the fish into hard metal.
To either side of the gallery’s front door, two giant trout leap overhead, a contribution from wood sculptor and husband Matt Graves.
The juxtaposition of her sculptures with McGee’s oil paintings is a “very classic combination,” Sandy Graves said.
McGee joked that the partnership with Graves is costing her money, in that she just purchased one of the bronze fish sculptures.
The subject matter captures the “rich life we all feel living here. There’s nothing more peaceful than sitting by a still riverbank — and, I have the utmost respect for rivers,” Graves said, in their capacity to also be “violent and deadly.”
On Feb. 21, Graves will unveil another water-inspired piece titled “Flow.” The sculpture was commissioned by the Vermont Law School in honor of alumnus and former Steamboat resident Alan Panebaker, who was killed in a kayaking accident in New Hampshire in 2012.
The high-relief bronze mural will be on exhibit locally before traveling to its permanent home at the law school.
McGee and Graves both are founding members of the Circle Seven gallery, and McGee said the collaboration — and the opportunity for feedback from fellow artists — is a “shot in the arm” for her own work. The gallery represents 25 artists, as well as guest artists, and McGee said she loves the communal aspect and “being around creative energy.”
The “A River Runs Through It” (the title borrowed, of course, from the Norman Maclean novel) exhibition will run through March 3.
The significance of rivers cannot be overstated, both artists agreed. They are the beginning and end , life and death.
Rivers are a catalyst, McGee said.
“If a river didn’t run through it ...” Graves said,her voice trailing off, and not wanting to even imagine such a world.
First Friday Artwalk listings
9th Street Tattoo Studio, 111 Ninth St., 970-367-3136
Melinda Kern is a British artist based in Denver. Her work not only focuses on the figure and the layers that lie between image and personality, but also in her newer work, attempts to dissect the interface between humans and the environment. Urban landscapes are at the heart of the composition to depict the ever-growing demand for development and new constructs.
Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave., 720-425-0522
Sally M. Rawlings began her watercolor painting career in Steamboat Springs in the 1970s. Some of her paintings were exhibited at the Chief in 1986. Sally is back with a show of original paintings of snow scenes, many of places Steamboat locals and visitors know and love. She also has giclee prints and note cards for sale and will draw a winning name from the Viewers’ Choice box.
Circle 7 Fine Art, 1009 Lincoln Ave., 970-879-4744
The gallery will feature two artists in "A River Runs Through It” — Bonnie McGee oil paintings of rivers throughout the West and Sandy P. Graves will feature a river of brown trout cast in bronze.
Colorado Group Realty, 509 Lincoln Ave., 970-875-2917
Kevin Dietrich presents his wildlife photography featuring images from Alaska to New York. His focus on wildlife has led him on many adventures including close encounters with grizzly bears, wolves and moose. His latest trips to Alaska and California in search of bears and bobcats will be featured for February/March 2014.
Creekside Cafe & Grill, 131 11th St., 970-879-4925
Melissa Yokota’s “Old to New” exhibit will be featured. This solid wood up-cycled cabinet has been made into a one-of–a–kind Chalkboard. All boards are made from 100 percent recycled material. Custom boards are offered per request.
Comb Goddess, 1104 S. Lincoln Ave., Suite 102, 970-871-0606
Featuring figurative works by representational artist Michelle Brewster. Named as one of the leading female artists by Southwest Art Magazine, Brewster showcases her passion for color in this vibrant collection of oil paintings.
Deluxe Tattoo, 837 Lincoln Ave., 970-879-1243
Savannah McKendrick is a senior at Steamboat Springs High School. She hopes to take her passion for photography and make it her career some day. She will be showing her past year's work at Deluxe Tattoo.
Depot Art Center, 1001 13th St., 970-879-9008
Palettes: A Taste of the Arts is a new art exhibition that engages all five senses, curated by Gregory Block. Play with your art, taste it, hear it, touch it, smell it, see it.
Douglas Kenyon Collection, 435 Lincoln Ave., 970-629-9999
After producing many Curt Tone images of American Indians in the beginning of the 20th century, Edward Curtis developed his own variation — “Curt-tone.” The Douglas Kenyon Collection has created, through modern technology, a way to archival replicate these Curt Tones with the same luminosity Curtis himself had achieved.
Harwigs/L'Apogee, 911 Lincoln Ave., 970-879-1919
Patsy Stewart’s artistic journey always has been unfolding — curious, exploring and forever outside. “All styles of art are interesting to me. Combining and mixing images, I always discover something new. The different results, flexibility and restrictions of a variety of materials are engaging to me. By not limiting, I open my creative eye to new ideas.”
Images of Nature Gallery, 730 Lincoln Ave., 970-871-1822
The work of legendary nature photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen. Mangelsen has traveled throughout the natural world for more than 40 years documenting and photographing the Earth's last great wild places. Newly released images now are on display and his newest book “Yellowstone Wildlife.”
Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill, Fifth Street and Lincoln Avenue, 970-879-3773
Mahogany Ridge presents an otherworldly collection of mixed media works on silk and canvas by Tinker Tiffany. Delicate paintings evoking a sense of the cosmos, she employs luscious soft color with splashes of vivid patterns, stirring primal images of deep space and the untold distant universe.
Steamboat Art Museum, 807 Lincoln Ave., 970-870-1755
“The Russia Experience.” Discover the fascinating world of Russian “Hidden Treasures” during the 1930s to 1980s in this private collection of paintings by Vasin, Lomakin, Sychkov, Gulyayev, Shevandronvoa and others, whose works can be found in the Trytyakov Art Gallery and prominent Russian museums.
Steamboat Springs Center For Visual Arts, 837 Lincoln Ave., 970-846-5970
Jim Gmeiner’s "Medley of Images and Media" — a special exhibition of unique photographs that push the creative boundaries of what is real and imagined. Gmeiner's work of the natural world, from representational to abstract, will change your perspective on photography. Offering the best in local art showcasing 35 artists. www.steamboatartcenter.com.
Urbane, 703 Lincoln Ave., Suite B101, 970-879-9169
Urbane presents Colorado native Kevin Weinreich, also known as Someday K. His love for color, detail and hip-hop show in his works displayed. Someday K has as a soft spot for nature, love and the exploration of the minds creativity.
Wild Horse Gallery, 802 Lincoln Ave., 970-879-5515
Wild Horse Gallery will feature local artist, Chula Beauregard. Stop by to see her Winter Carnival paintings. For more information, call 970-819-2850 or www.wildhorsegallery.com.