There are certain things in this world that are not meant for only one person to see.
Winter Contours, an exhibition by Sara Ransford, is currently running in the Santa Fe Arts District, inside Michael Warren Contemporary. It’s an exhibit that invites the use of motion-based adjectives and more than one pair of eyes. The motion is intentional: Ransford tells me she’s an avid skier, that she often draws sights she sees on mountaintops before turning them into porcelain, and I can attest that the slopes of nearby peaks jut through Ransford’s paper clay snapshots.
The jaggedness from some of Ransford’s earlier work (for instance, her Conforming Series from a decade ago) is largely missing. Her exploration into more geometric patterns reveals a tenderness in the land she observes.
Ransford tells me she’s become fascinated by crop circles, and the patterns they hold. Emulating an aerial eye, Ransford explores the dissonant arrangement of the human eye: looking for rules and motive where there are none. The images and colors flow through each piece, mapping a diagram of curves.
Ransford evokes scenes of erosion and the passage of time, and I can’t help but wonder if some of Denver’s erosion is present in her mind’s eye. Ransford lives and works in Aspen, but received a BFA from CU Boulder in the eighties. Ransford has been a force of creation in Colorado since, with her work exhibited in dozens of galleries. She says her work has changed throughout the years, and that she explores different subjects in each new piece, from the arrangement of her own soul to the evolution of her own art. Ransford writes: “I explore the natural world in my sculptural forms. I am fascinated by the complexity in nature, and how that complexity reflects itself in our own world. The forces of erosion, the aspect of time, traces of experiences recorded over eons, only to be changed in a single moment can create such vulnerability and duplicity in things we do not anticipate.”
Created in Ransford’s studio, the clay seems to shimmer in the light of the Michael Warren space. It flows, not quite like a stream of water, but perhaps like the
When was the last time you looked out a window when it was raining? Do you remember? The last snowflake you caught on your tongue?
Ransford’s work evokes a sentimental crossroad: her soda fired porcelain speaks not of the ash it was made of, but of wintery winds, of frozen ground. The viewer is struck by how comforting these pieces are. A winter night, sullied by slush on the roads, is the perfect time to trudge past traffic lights into the calming embrace of Ransford’s eye. I doubt I’ve skied the same slopes as Ransford, yet I feel a deep connection to where she’s been. I’ve seen the silhouettes of these slopes in my dreams. In them, I’m flying down a mountain, part snowstorm, part man.
Ransford makes these small moments monumental, a testament to the fragility of moments and the shape of consumption. There’s a repetition in the framing of the pieces: the majority exist within a square. The focal points within the pieces aren’t nearly as uniform, and the symmetrical framing of the border of the art plays perfectly within the space inside Michael Warren.
The relationship between the pieces feels strongest when you first walk in. The gallery is arranged gorgeously, highlighting the template of Ransford’s eye. The markings of desedimentation shout to each other from parallel white walls.
The concurrent exhibition, Sense of Place, is aptly named and serves to accentuate Ransford’s work. The pieces feel like a moment already lost. It is a gallery of coral shells left over from some rough beast, slouching towards a death outside Denver. It’s coming. The erosion is just behind you and this hour is fleeting.
Abrasions are like that: most memorable the moment they happen. Winter Contours replicates these moments, finding the complexity of the natural world and putting it into a gallery in the Santa Fe Arts District.
Look up your favorite Colorado park or stream and take someone there. Ask them to tell you what they saw. Compare words. If you don’t have a favorite hill, or a stream, or a view, go find one. Take someone with you. See together.
Sara Ransford: Winter Contours run from January 22nd to March 2nd in the Michael Warren Contemporary gallery, located at 760 Santa Fe Drive, Denver CO 80204. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 5pm, First Friday Art Walks February 1st and March 1st from 6 to 9pm, and for a Third Friday Art Reception, February 15th from 6 to 8pm. All images were provided by the artist.