While ordering art online is convenient and satisfying, nothing comes close to visiting with a creator, checking out the very space where inspiration strikes and purchasing a one-of-a-kind piece straight from the source.
At the East Boulder County Artists (EBCA) Spring Studio Tour, folks have the option to gallery hop to 16 studios. Featuring 30 diverse artists from throughout Colorado, the free jaunt will take place on April 23 and 24, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
To get a look at some of the art prior to the EBCA Spring Studio Tour, work by participating artists will be on display at The Great Frame Up, 430 Main St., Longmont. The opening reception will be 5-8 p.m. Friday (April 8) and the art will be on display through May 6.
Longmont-based Visionary artist and author Kyra Coates — a former Hindu nun and mother of four — creates paintings that blur the line between the spiritual realm and life on earth.
Captivating glimpses of winged angels, water-bound goddesses and trees whose winding branches and sturdy trunks seem to take on human forms dance on the large canvases of this first-time EBCA tour participant.
Hers is a world where chakras and orbs seem to shine bright, much like the intricate workings of Alex Grey and Josephine Wall.
A few years ago, Coates was given staggering medical news that inspired a two-and-a-half-year project.
“When I received the diagnosis that I was in cognitive decline leading to Alzheimer’s, I was shocked,” Coates said. “It felt so ironic that I had spent decades studying ‘mind training’ in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions, and here I was literally facing the loss of my own mind. I had also worked for years as a caregiver, and specifically, I worked a lot with clients who had Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
Art often acts as an outlet for processing pain and dismay, and Coates found peace and solitude at her canvas and within the written words of her own creating.
“And though I was scared for what I myself would possibly be facing with this diagnosis, I had to remind myself that the thinking and remembering mind is not who we really are,” Coates said. “We are so much more than that. So, after I processed my own fears of mortality for myself and my family, I saw this was a unique opportunity to not only put into practice all I had learned over the years, but also share some of these lessons in the most creative way possible.”
The alarming diagnosis Coates was given, at the age of 39, set her on a path of unyielding creating.
With her novel, “The Journey of the In-Between,” Coates has penned a tale that somewhat mirrors her own, yet introduces readers to protagonist Maji — a woman who is given only a short time to live and musters the strength to impart as much wisdom as she can onto her daughters.
A story steeped in Eastern philosophy, it champions the power of self-realization. The novel also inspired a series of paintings that will be on display at the EBCA Spring Tour.
“When I started the book, my original intention was to have both the paintings and the novel be born simultaneously in chronological order based on the story,” Coates said. “And though I created both together over two years, the journey itself took a different turn. Many of the paintings took on a life of their own. And the story itself took a few turns I wasn’t expecting until the words flowed out of me. So, the written story and the visual story are linked, yet separate, like a winding trail touching at points but travelling their own path.”
Her bright work has appeared everywhere from Harmony Vet Center in Arvada to an electrical box in Longmont. She’s also been a regular at art shows from Boulder to Denver, selling original large-scale paintings, along with purses and dresses that bear her designs.
“Being a professional artist and author is a challenging and demanding way to earn a living,” Coates said. “But I have found over the years that the biggest supporters of my business are right here in my own community. And those that have shown passion for my art and writing end up becoming true friends, and we build a community of support together. For that reason, I’m thrilled to open my doors and connect with more local art lovers.”
While her paintings offer a sense of tranquility, she’s aware of the grit and unpleasantries that come with reaching clarity and deep growth.
“True ‘enlightenment’ isn’t all love, light, rainbows and gurus on pedestals,” Coates said. “It’s our messy human experiences, too, and therefore accessible in our everyday lives. I also wanted to give a visual representation of these experiences shown in a way that the contemporary western mind could relate to.”
Coates will be showing her work at Studio No. 8 at 523 Summer Hawk Drive, Longmont, along with potter Julia Zuniga.
In addition to displaying the 11 paintings that she created to coincide with the novel, Coates will be throwing a book launch party on April 23 from 2-5 p.m. Personally autographed books will be available to purchase, as well as prints and originals of her art.
“I wanted to write something that put the female experience as the wisdom teaching, because this has been grossly underrepresented in all spiritual traditions,” Coates said. “But above all that, I wanted to offer people a journey of love in the hopes that this story and art would bring some peace of mind around the idea of death and inspire people to live better lives. Because if we can free ourselves from the anxiety of death, then we open ourselves to live fully and fearlessly.”
While Coates has wrapped her latest book and painting series, her next project will focus on the environment.
“I have started a new painting series that focuses on the sentience of trees and the impact of climate change,” Coates said. “I will be using augmented reality technology to bring the paintings to life through mobile devices. I’m so excited about the possibilities using this technology will open up. I hope to partner with a local nonprofit to create exhibitions and events where we can merge the art and the mission together to bring real solutions to climate change to Colorado.”
She has also started another book that she hopes to release in 2023.
“This book will be focused on the issue of sexual assault and women’s empowerment,” Coates said. “So, I have a full year ahead of me and am looking forward to the journey.”
From colorful and moving pieces that adorn walls to wearable art sure to take accessorizing up a notch, visitors never know just what the next stop on the EBCA Spring Studio Tour will deliver.
“I’ve been making gemstone-beaded jewelry for over 25 years, starting when a friend taught me how to use a technique called ‘silk knotting’ to repair old or broken strands of pearls or other gemstones,” said Laura Wallace, a jeweler who will be participating in the EBCA Tour for the fourth time later this month. “But the past five years or so I’ve been enamored with pearls.”
Tourgoers can venture to the Longmont neighborhood of Prospect New Town to see Wallace’s stunning creations at Studio No. 12, 1008 Katy Lane. She will share the space with mosaicist Laurie Algar.
For Wallace, learning about the history of the materials and their place in Asian culture is just as important to her as the act of creating.
“Over the years going to gem shows, I’ve met many pearl vendors from China — often the youngsters whose families back in China are pearl farmers — who have educated me and guided my choice of pearls,” Wallace said. “The practice of making beaded jewelry — especially silk knotting and combining gemstones with chains and precious metal components — can be a very meditative process. It helps keep me sane.”
While pearls are truly timeless and classic, the different varieties of the seafaring beauties meet a variety of tastes and aesthetics.
“Accessory styles change over the years, but pearls never go out of style and, in fact, have become more popular of late, especially pearls in unusual shapes and colors,” Wallace said.
Some take on a white translucent sheen, while others possess a lustrous, glimmering gray shade.
“When I first started making pearl jewelry, my customers were typically big-city women — from New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Houston — those who dressed up for work, nightlife and leisure activities and who looked to their jewelry as an additional way to demonstrate their fashion sophistication,” Wallace said. “Now, I often have men buying reasonably priced jewelry as gifts for the women in their lives and women who buy pearls for family heirlooms to be passed down to daughters and granddaughters.”
In 2020, Wallace got an email from someone from the costume department at Saturday Night Live.
“At first I thought it was a joke, but they were very serious about dressing their actors to look as close as possible to the people they are impersonating,” Wallace said. “In this case, they needed to produce costumes to dress a whole new set of political characters for the upcoming SNL season.”
SNL commissioned Wallace to make a replica of the delicate white pearl and gold chain necklace that Vice President Kamala Harris often sports.
“So when you see Maya Rudolph — acting as Kamala Harris — and wearing that necklace, I’m the one who made it,” Wallace said.
The imaginative work of Laura Garabedian may just conjure memories of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia or J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.
“I was drawn to fantasy art for a lot of reasons, probably the earliest example being that my aunt was a commercial illustrator when I was young, working for Hallmark, Lennox and more,” said Garabedian. “Her work often featured fairytale creatures and fantasy animals, and she sent misprints to our house for us to color in.”
From mysterious cloaked animals that seem to be ready to disperse wisdom to intriguing wildlife, Garabedian’s majestic work is certainly eye-catching.
“Later, I learned to love it because kids can be mean and say, ‘horses don’t look like that,’” Garabedian said. “So you can say, ‘it’s a unicorn,’ and, suddenly there’s no wrong answer. Later my love for it evolved to be more about the joy of creating animals and images that transported us out of the mundane and through a portal to that magic world you lived in as children and the whimsy that we sometimes forget about as adults.”
Folks can check out her work at Studio No. 1, 13518 N. 75th St., Longmont. Her recently purchased home — on nearly two acres, with a nearby creek — is a great source of inspiration.
Visitors to her home studio — nestled within natural beauty — can expect to see stickers, prints, originals, books, pins, laser-engraved boxes and more up for purchase.
“I have participated in EBCA’s tours for quite a few years now and am most looking forward to getting back into them and seeing people face-to-face after taking two years off due to COVID,” Garabedian said.
First-time participant, illustrator Arpita Choudhury, who runs Fern Spike Art, is also enthused to have a stop on this year’s tour.
“I’ve attended the tour in the past and enjoyed it, so I decided to sign up this year,” said Choudhury. “After the last couple of years of social distancing, the thing I am most looking forward to is interacting with people in person.”
Choudhury, who previously had a career in marine biology, has garnered quite a fanbase with her depictions of spirited creatures and quaint settings.
“My work is inspired by a mix of different things — nature, vintage picture books, folktales, myths, as well as the everyday,” Choudhury said. “I try to create whimsical pieces that bring the viewer into a different world. During the lockdown, I taught myself digital illustration — with a little help from SkillShare and YouTube — so my current work is all digitally rendered. I will have a few paintings, but mostly prints of my digital illustrations as well as cards and stickers.”
Choudhury will be showing her work at Studio No. 4 — 412 Terry St., Longmont — along with ceramicist Heather Kegel and painter Rebecca Martin.
“I might sketch on my iPad during the tour so folks can see how digital art is created,” Choudhury said.