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Take a “Long Range” look at local artists

In the main gallery, four artists are on display in "Long Range," while in the south gallery teen artists take on fast fashion with "Stripping the System."

The Firehouse Art Center has two new exhibits debuting this month. Although the art varies from painting to textiles each piece challenges the viewer to look beyond their immediate world.

In the main gallery, Curator Jane Burke — curator for museums from Honolulu to Denver — has combined the work of four artist members for display in the “Long Range” exhibit. 

This exhibition displays differing perspectives on landscapes in the literal, metaphorical and interpretive.

The title, “Long Range,” was Burke’s idea, combining Longmont and the Front Range, while also honoring the long-term commitment and goals of the artists, she said.

Featured in “Long Range” are the works of painters Jon Fukuda and Veronica Love, photographer Graham Stewart and textile artist Katherine Gibbons. Though not intended as a cohesive dialogue, Burke said the themes of landscapes and emotions, as well as the parallels between the artists, came together for her once all the works were chosen.

Stewart’s entries are perhaps the most literal, Burke said, as photographs of rural landscapes, but she found parity with Gibbons’ tapestries. There were similarities in feelings and color palettes, Burke explained, adding she appreciated the coincidental lines drawn from Stewart’s homeland of Scotland and Gibbons' love of the Irish and English countryside. 

Gibbons started taking a tapestry weaving class during the early days of the pandemic, she explained, and the work started to take shape as a fantasy of landscapes she missed travelling through. Living through Colorado’s wildfires in 2020 contributed to the wistfulness that took hold in her textiles, Gibbons elaborated.

“They became a series because apparently I’m really missing Ireland and England,” Gibbons laughed.

Gibbons said she connected with Stewart over his abstract landscape photography, hoping that her own abstract tapestries of fiber, wood and feathers could serve as a compliment to his work.

For the other two artists, Fukuda and Love, Burke looked more toward emotional landscapes. Fukuda’s paintings on display are slightly more surreal, while Love’s portraits are more realistic but full of emotion.

“I think they are both talking about a lot of emotions and (Fukuda’s) is more esoteric and like a portal, talking about escapism,” Burke said. “(Love’s) portraits are so literal but I think she sees faces as portals, so that’s how they are interrelated.”

Fukuda describes his own work as exploratory, veering away from landscapes and portraits that are reproductions and into more abstract representations that play with the elements and colors of a piece. One piece, “Lakes,” combines aquatic blues with an almost fractal-like mesh that creates a framework throughout the painting.

“Part of the meditation is what makes us unique in our own existence and how connected we are. When you see that wire mesh, it’s a lot of repeated elements that build something greater than itself,” Fukuda said.

For Love, painting is a way to be mindful, she said, to slow down and consider things on a deeper level and soak them in. The portraits featured in “Long Range” are of elderly people and phases of life, which she hopes offers the viewer reflection on their own lives and the people they encounter.

“When we see a face, we see the exterior of the journey of life, of what this person has gone through. It invites us to take a moment of pause and reflection, to have compassion and experience their journey,” Love said. 

In the south gallery of the Firehouse, teen members of the Studio Project collaboration with Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, or BMoCA, are taking on modern fashion and the clothing industry through printmaking.

During the Fall 2021 semester, teen artists worked with printmaker Theresa Haberkorn to design and create print plates to make art on an item of clothing they owned but no longer wore. Led by Firehouse Executive Director Elaine Waterman and BMoCA Outreach Education Manager Melinda Laz, the students were encouraged to think about art in relation to social justice.

The students took the reins in coming up with the group exhibition, collaborating on the themes of waste in modern clothing production that are incorporated throughout “Stripping the System.” One t-shirt bears a print depicting clothes being thrown in the trash, while a nearby sheet compares the weight of discarded clothes to that of an 11-year-old child.

“Some of the facts shared by the teens are horrifying. They forced me to look at my clothes shopping habits and I am now committed to buying second hand. Working on this with the students has been an eye opener and I hope the public comes to see the work they have created as well as educate themselves on the damage fast fashion has on the environment,” Waterman said.

According to Laz, “Stripping the System” made a four-day debut pop-up at BMoCA before making its way to Longmont. Laz found herself impressed with the exhibition, particularly the thoughtful execution of it and how well the students researched the environmental issues. Included in the Jan. 14 opening of “Stripping the System” will be a teen-led clothing swap and a clothing mending station.

Both exhibits make their debut Jan. 14 at the Firehouse Art Center, 667 Fourth Avenue in Longmont. “Stripping the System” can be seen in the south gallery through Feb. 6, while “Long Range” will be on display in the main gallery until Mar. 6.