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Blue Sage exhibit features staff, directors

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Photo by Tamie Meck "Camille," a three-foot long mosaic by Blue Sage executive director Carol Newman, is part of the "Artists of the Blue Sage" exhibit on display through Dec. 23.

The staff, board and committee members at the Blue Sage help shine a light on local and regional artists through exhibits, concerts and performances. Now it's their turn to be in the spotlight.

"Artists of the Blue Sage" provides a snapshot of the creative talents of those who make the local arts organization run. On exhibit through Dec. 23, the show includes stoneware, paintings, sketches, lavender products, quilts, photography and more by 20 local artists including Susie Coombe, Sam Brown, Cyndi Landes, Mary Bachran, Becky Walton, Jill Knutson, Rhoda Yago, Gary Hall, Kortnee Desatoff, Tamara Rowe and Stephanie Helleckson.

Some of the larger pieces include gallery committee member Shannon Richardson's "The Gatherer," Jen Sanborn's "Incoming Storm," and gallery director Spencer Lightfoot's mosaic watercolor.

The art of writing is represented in "Bound for the Western Sea: The Canine Account of the Lewis & Clark Expedition," by literary committee member and local librarian Laura Lee Yates; the agricultural arts are found in concert committee member Carol Schott's Lamborn Farmstead lavender products. Photography is represented by board member Celia Roberts and concert committee member Becky Walton.

The quality of the works represented in the latest exhibit demonstrates the high concentration of talent in the area, said Blue Sage executive director Carol Newman. She recently moved to Paonia from the Front Range to join the Blue Sage, in part, because of the many artists living in the North Fork area and the support the arts have from the community.

Newman specializes in mosaics. She describes the art form as "painting with pieces of color." Her five pieces on exhibit include Camille, a salamander measuring three feet long, 24 inches wide and three inches high and weighing about 35 pounds.

To make her, Newman began by wrapping an armature wire frame of a lizard in sheets of cheesecloth drenched in Thin-Set mortar. She then applied glass tile, deconstructed jewelry, seed beads and Millefiori glass to the surface. Even her underbelly is covered in tile. The entire process took about eight months.

"I can get very engrossed in the process," she said.

When people think of the traditional arts, she said, they don't always think "mosaics." In the world of fine art, "We have been kind of neglected," said Newman. While some see it as a craft, she sees mosaics as "a balance between fine art and craft."

Practically speaking, mosaics can turn ordinary objects like mirrors, tabletops and picture frames into extraordinary works of art. Mosaics are also one of the oldest known art forms in the world, said Newman. Some of the earliest known works date back to the fifth century B.C., to frescos found in ancient Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome, and in cities like Pompeii. As recently as last summer, newly discovered mosaic panels depicting biblical stories were unearthed in Israel. The art of mosaics is represented in ancient paths and roads and portraits and has been used to tell stories and provide instruction prior to the advent of writing.

Newman grew up on the Front Range and took her first mosaics class in the 1990s. She now has dedicated about eight years of concentrated time and effort in the art form and is a member of the Colorado Mosaic Artists and Society of American Mosaic Artists, and a past board member of the Civic and Cultural Arts Center of Pineville, N.C. Her works have been shown in the southeastern U.S., and are held on private collections of Duke University Medical Center and the Carolinas Medical centers in North Carolina. While in North Carolina she had the opportunity to learn from some of the top mosaic artists in the world.

"I'm a very tactile person," she said. "I like to work with tools." She uses traditional materials including shards of glass and ceramics, and adds found and up-cycled items like pieces of jewelry and seed beads to create mixed media mosaics like Camille. Since glass and pottery shards can be very sharp, she often measures her accomplishments by the number of band-aids on her fingers.

She describes mosaics as "painting with blocks of color." The smaller and more detailed the project, the more challenging it becomes. Because the material is rigid, most pieces have to be precisely cut before they're put in place, and each piece is laid with intent. Newman said she's always learning. In creating Camille, she would often come to places where she needed to stop and do some problem solving before moving to the next process.

Newman hopes to share her love of mosaics through teaching classes at the Blue Sage starting in 2017. They would start with basic skills such as cutting tile, creating designs and understanding color theory.

The Blue Sage is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, visit www.bluesage.org.

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