We've all heard the term "the fabric of life," but Santa Fe fiber artist Lauren Camp puts a new twist on the old metaphor by giving life to fabric. A jazz aficionado who's found a unique way to express her love for music and musicians, Camp debuts The Fabric of Jazz: A Tribute to the Genius of American Music, a comprehensive exhibit of nearly twenty jazz portraits in fabric, today at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, 1111 Washington Avenue in Golden. It's the first stop on an exhibition tour that will run through 2006. "I didn't grow up with music in the house," Camp notes. "I really came into music, especially jazz, when I was in my twenties -- but when I fell into it, I fell hard." Eventually, the desire to give her feelings shape resulted in her first jazz work, which she created in the mid-'90s. At the time, she didn't have a series in mind, but the ideas began to come fast and thick, in spite of their daunting consumption of creative energy and time. "The portraits all take a very long time," says Camp, who devotes approximately one year to each panel, from conception to research and working out the technical idiosyncrasies to final creation.
It's a complicated process that crosses the standard lines of difficulty posed by creating any quilt. "Ultimately, what you're looking at is fabric layered as in a collage and then stitched," says Camp, who especially loves seminal jazz stars such as Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington.
"I start with a black-and-white photo, and I use a computer program to break it up into up to six different values," she explains. "Then I set about assigning specific fabrics to those values and figuring out what color an instrument or music sounds like. I put music on, and I listen and listen and listen." She then pulls countless fabric swatches until she's found what "sounds" exactly right -- a difficult prospect at best.
See, and listen, for yourself: The Fabric of Jazz, which features full-on individual portraits, overall musical impressions and salutes to sidemen, hangs at the quilt museum through April 3. Call 303-277-0377 or go to www.rmqm.org. -- Susan Froyd
The National Western Stock Show doesn't begin until January 10, but there will be plenty of fur-bearing, well-heeled critters at tonight's red-carpeted reception for the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale. Many of the fifty artists selected for the twelfth annual exhibit -- including William Matthews, Ken Bunn, Gordon Brown and Clyde Aspevig, who was selected as the winner of this year's Mary Belle Grant award, which honors artistic individuals who embody the Western ideal -- will be on hand to show off their work to the region's mooovers and shakers. And you can be there, too: Admission to the reception, which starts at 5:30 p.m., is $125, but that nets you a Western-style buffet, live music and dancing, and a signed poster by Len Chmiel, whose painting "Spring With Santa Ritas & Scaled Quail" (below) was chosen to represent this year's show and become a permanent part of the National Western's collection. Proceeds from the evening benefit the National Western Scholarship Trust, which helps students in Colorado and Wyoming earning degrees in agribusiness or rural family medicine.
"The Coors Western Art Exhibit continues to draw a remarkable number of visitors," says Rose Glaser Fredrick, the exhibit's curator. "They get the opportunity to see their favorite artists as well as discover new and exciting work by artists they've never seen before."
And if you miss the big bash, the exhibit, on the third floor of the Expo Hall, stays open through the Stock Show -- when a general-admission ticket and a small donation will get you in. For details, go to www.nationalwestern.com. -- Patricia Calhoun
Winter in Colorado is such a miserable time for gardeners. The view out the window is nothing but brown, brown, brown, often under a blanket of gray sky. All that advice in gardening tomes about "winter interest" is really nothing but a sad panacea for folks longing to don their straw hats and kneel once again in the spring-thawed loam. Of course, Denver Botanic Gardens horticulturist Ellen Heiss, who oversees indoor plantings year-round at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, has a slightly different outlook. She finds that nosy gardeners are always asking her for advice while she works, no matter what the season. That experience was an underlying inspiration for Mulch for Your Mind, a new DBG-sponsored series of free weekly gardening talks at the mall, where SAD-suffering dirt-diggers can refresh their minds and plan for the spring with help from DBG staff and experts from local plant societies. The series kicks off today with Ikebana Flower Arranging at 9 a.m. in the shopping center's Grand Court (the program will be repeated next Tuesday at the same time). For information and a complete series schedule, call 720-865-3610 or go to www.botanicgardens.org. -- Susan Froyd
If You Only Had a Brain
Sing along with Dorothy and her Kansas crew