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Reality art
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by Alyson B. Stanfield (

It’s all the rage. Sitting at home on your couch watching other–sometimes famous–people sitting at home on their couches. You turn on the tube and tune in to hear their every thought and intimate conversations. Reality TV.

But it’s nothing new. For a long time artists have been sharing their realities and their world with whomever will dare enter. Sometimes it is more discreet, even hidden. Other times, it is overt and in your face. Women in particular have been open about mixing art and life. Their art has documented pregnancies, love affairs and even their decaying bodies as they battle breast cancer. Men have been less forthcoming. Enter Boulder artists Randy Zahn and Rick Visser, whose works comprise Opened Soul: Images and Text at the Old Firehouse Art Center in Longmont.

Zahn left life in Boulder and traveled around the world from 2000 to 2002 with a laptop, digital camera and journal–an experience that led to the mixed-media pieces on view. From a distance, the work is colorful and expressionistic. Up close, Zahn’s journal entries, which take up half of the canvas, are difficult to appreciate since I didn’t have the same experiences and can’t find anything to cling to. It’s easier to relate to a series from the spring of 2003 called "Life of a Rock," which I presume is a play on words for Iraq. "Bush," "Terror," "War" and "Fear" loom large on a canvas. There is something interesting about making large-scale prints of one’s journal entries and then altering them by adding paint.

Next to Zahn’s work is that of Lyons artist Rick Visser, who is showing three videos. The focus is "Study for a Vanitas Video Painting," a short piece related to 17th-century Dutch still life paintings that served as reminders of the vanity of worldly things and the brevity of life. Like the old masters, Visser’s imagery is laden with symbolism. He layers them in sequences that move quickly and encourage us to make sense of it all.

I also enjoyed "Tintinnabula in One," a video Visser showed at the 2003 Toronto One-Minute Film Festival. Like Zahn’s work, you get the feeling you are looking in on someone’s private world. The shots are of various fences with lush foliage around them. But the fences are barriers and all you hear are the creepy footsteps of the videographer walking (stalking?) the area. At the end, a small hand reaches from behind a fence. It holds a red globe. Is it a gesture of friendship? Or Eve’s apple?

Alyson B. Stanfield is a writer and artist career consultant. You can e-mail her at

Opened Soul: Images and Text is on view from 1-5 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, and from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturdays, through Feb. 21, at the Old Firehouse Art Center, 667 Fourth Ave., Longmont, 303-651-2787. Admission is free.


Artflash events for the week of 2/5/04

Boulder County
Art and Heart – Benefit exhibit for Boulder County Safehouse and EFAA. Boulder Arts and Crafts, 1421 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-443-3683, through Feb. 14.

All About Paper. Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826, through Feb. 27.

Barbara DeMarlie – Abstract paintings. Barnes and Noble Booksellers, 2915 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-447-2422, through Feb. 27.

Bhopal Gas Tragedy. CU Campus, Boulder, Feb. 9-11,

Fiber in February – Fiber arts media. Dearborn Rieder Fine Art Gallery, 1420 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-4777, through Feb. 29.

Martin Small. Boulder Jewish Community Center, 3800 Kalmia Ave., Boulder, 303-998-1900, through April.

Opened Soul – Images and text by Randy Zahn and Rick Visser. Old Firehouse Art Center, 667 4th Ave., Longmont, 303-651-2787, through Feb. 21.

Ordinary Magic – Paintings by Ernest Porps. UMC Art Gallery, CU Campus, Boulder, 303-492-7465, through Feb. 27

Salowa Salzer – Oil paintings. Cafe Sole, 637 S. Broadway Ste. R, Boulder, 303-499-2985, through Feb. 28.

Thirty years of Rock and Roll – The photography of Larry Hulst. Boulder History Museum, 1206 Euclid Ave., Boulder, 303-449-3464, through March 6.

Visceral Vision – Paintings by Lori Wahl. Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826, through Feb. 27.

Visualizing Mahler – Art inspired by the music of Gustav Mahler. Boulder Public Library, 1000 Canyon Blvd., Boulder, through Feb. 28. For more information, call 303-402-0330.

Winter Exhibit Cycle – Featuring La Balada Del Guetbac, Displacements and Mail Art Exhibit–A Sense of Place. Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-2122, through February.

Denver Metro
Frederic Remington – The Color of Night. Denver Art Museum, 414 14th St., Denver, 720-865-5000, through March 14.

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