Colorado Clay 2008

Foothills Art Center presents a show with a potter’s spin.

Along the same lines are the muddy little heads and figures by Penney Bidwell that incorporate found objects. Astoundingly, Bidwell has only been working in ceramics for a year or so, but her sculptures, which embrace childlike forms, don't look as if they were done by a beginner, or even by a folk artist, which, in a sense, I think she is.

A few artists in Colorado Clay are doing work in a contemporary sculpture mode, including Chandler Romeo's pedestals topped by tiles depicting simplified topographical features. Also sculptural are the bas-relief and installations by Robyn Gray that combine renditions of pills and dolls. More thoroughly melding contemporary sculpture and ceramics are the formalist vessels by Shelley Schreiber, particularly her graceful "Nude," in which the female figure is reduced to a singular organic shape.

I'll be honest: I was a little disappointed in this year's version of Colorado Clay. But since it is a juried show, many established artists won't enter in the first place. And there's no telling what might have been created by the artists whom Notkin rejected.

"Gone Fishin," by Jonathan Kaplan, ceramic.
"Gone Fishin," by Jonathan Kaplan, ceramic.

In other news from Foothills, the center is organizing a fortieth-anniversary celebration for August. The unofficial historian at Foothills is Ester Papenfus, who has been involved since 1978, ten years after the doors opened. When I ran into her last week, she told me she'd found newspaper articles about the center's first years. "You know, the history of Foothills would make an interesting article," she coyly told me. I'm sure she's right.

I also ran into new Foothills director Reilly Sanborn, who grew up in Colorado but spent the last decade on the East Coast. She replaced Jenny Cook Ito, who surprised everyone by announcing her departure last year. Sanborn would like to give Foothills a higher profile, with a beefed-up exhibition program. Visual art is a new interest for Sanborn, who's mostly worked in the business end of theater and performance. She says she'd like to get the entire block on which the center sits and would love to build a theater. But she cautions that everything is still in the realm of fantasy.

Plans for a major remodeling of the center, which began with the construction of the Carol and Don Dickinson Sculpture Garden in 2005, will be put on hold until Sanborn launches a capital campaign, perhaps in association with the anniversary celebration this summer. The sculpture garden was put in motion by Carol Dickinson, the longtime Foothills director who retired for health reasons; she has Parkinson's disease and recently suffered several mild strokes. Word is she's doing better and will soon be back home with husband Don. And that's certainly welcome news.

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