Jean Stortz lives by her own personal tagline: Chronicling an ever-changing life through art.
After moving to Delta from Minnesota just over a year ago, Stortz first noticed how the local landscape differed from the spring- and summertime lush green and the blinding winter white she was used to in Minnesota.
She never intended to paint the 'dobies here, but then said she realized that to really know her new home, to really become familiar with this landscape, she had to pick up a paintbrush.
That first painting led to another, and to another, and eventually to a show called "Adobe Awakening," showcasing her work of the 'dobies. And she was off, chronicling her own changing life and the changing life of the Western Colorado landscape.
Stortz is an oil painter, and paints whatever moves her in her surroundings. While living in Minnesota, she painted roosters from her farm, barns and outbuildings, animals, vegetables. "I like to point out the things we all miss," she said.
Since moving here, she has fallen in love with the 'dobies, and that landscape has dominated her work. "The 'dobies are so unusual, they're so foreign to me," she said. "I'm so in love with them. They are beautiful." She and her husband Steve were in Minnesota over Thanksgiving for just a few days, and when they drove back through town — home, finally — Jean said she was comforted and filled with joy to see once again her beloved 'dobies.
That burning desire to create has always been with Stortz, but not always acted upon. As a young mom, she seldom found the time to create art the way she really wanted to. She has always been a dabbler, has always been interested in creating something. "I've always been moving towards art, but life happens and you can't get there," she said.
She remembers a phone call with her sister many years ago. Her children were running around the kitchen and a bag of kitty litter had been spilled. "I remember complaining to my sister that I never had the time to paint. And my sister told me, 'When you're 60, you'll have the time to do this,'" she said. "And now I'm there and I'm painting. I've been searching for what I really love for a really long time. And I've found it. And
now I can say: I am a painter. I do what I do because I have to. I have to create art, or I won't survive." She joked about being "tormented" during her working life when she was stuck in an office.
But now? Now there is no mortgage, no office to go to daily, no spilled kitty litter. "Now I can truly enjoy painting and this environment. I finally have the time," she said. And she's taken to the life of an artist like a fish to water.
Just a few weeks after moving to Delta, she stumbled onto a small group of people who were interested in bringing an art gallery to Delta. After meeting with the group for about a month, Stortz became one of the founding members of the Confluence
Gallery: an Artists' Cooperative. With her help, this group has been active at the monthly summer street fairs in town, at which Stortz's work is displayed. The group also rents space at the 4th & Main Exchange in Delta, which is filled with locally-produced arts, crafts, décor and other items. The artists of the Confluence Gallery, Stortz included, have a variety of art on display at their booth.
For Stortz, the most difficult thing about leaving Delano, Minn., was leaving the Three Crows Coffee Shop, a kind of community hub, coffee shop, restaurant, gift shop of locally-made items, and the spot in town to hear local musicians crooning. She has found a similar place in the 4th & Main Exchange.
"We get so many types of people in here, people who may never go to an art gallery," she said. "I know I can walk in here and connect with someone." For her, it was never a question of whether or not Delta needed something like the Confluence Gallery. "If you're an artist, you have to get out there. You need to have your art out all the time," she said.
She has also joined the Creamery Arts Center and has had two shows there.
Her life as an artist has also helped her become an active member of her community. She was very active in the communities she lived in while in Minnesota, so getting involved is nothing new for her. "I was on every committee you could think of. People need to participate in their community," she said emphatically.
In addition to her work with the artists' co-op, she has recently started attending the meetings for downtown revitalization. "I want this town to be successful. I want 4th & Main to be successful. I want the gallery to be successful," she said. "This is the place we chose to retire. We're staying. So why not get involved?" she said. "Delta is a new palette for me, a place where I can spend my energy."
Stortz likes to showcase found art of things she finds in the 'dobies, everything from bones to rusted cans to spent shotgun casings. She also makes beautiful, light-as-air earrings, pendants and bracelets made from aluminum. "I was pounding on metal way before it was cool on Pinterest," she said. She also dabbles in mixed media and fabric collage. Her next venture is to make furniture with her husband Steve.
You can find Jean on Facebook at Jean M. Stortz or on her blog at JeanneStortz.blogspot.com. You can also check out Jean's art in person and meet her at a showing of her work Saturday, Jan. 11, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., at the 4th & Main Exchange.blog comments powered by Disqus