The Art Auction Is Coming to Town!
by Greta Stetson
Jul 22, 2009 | 1666 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TELLURIDE – When Susan Saint James agreed to be the celebrity artist for this Friday’s Ah Haa School Art Auction, she thought she would be creating simple, modest, 24 inch by 18 inch pieces.

What she ended up with arethree brightly colored, four feet by four feet collages, each valued at $8,000, that give Telluride auction-goers a piece of her mind.

The Ah Haa School Art Auction kicks off tomorrow night, at 7 p.m., with the same circus-like exuberance as in years past. With both silent and live auctions, an excited celebrity artist and, of course, an eclectic mix of high-quality art, Ah Haa hopes to throw a good party for Telluriders, but also raise the money needed to cover its operating costs for the coming year.

Saint James estimates that she worked 25 to 30 days over five months on her three creations, a process which she describes as “an emotional explosion.” And no wonder: the three pieces – entitled The Healing Heart, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and Mind Dream – offer auction-goers three very different views into Saint James’ psyche.

Mind Dream features a large yellow star with a picture of Saint James as a child in the middle and representations of her career as an actress along the edges. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, with its green trees and brown earth made out of pieces of paper, depicts three decades worth of Saint James’ memories of Telluride. Both will be available at the live auction on Friday.

It’s The Healing Heart that Saint James, whose son, Teddy, died in a November 2004 plane crash in Montrose, Colo., plans to keep for herself. The collage, which features a huge, red heart with a crack down the middle, is symbolic of her journey to redefine herself and move past the heartbreak. Saint James plans to keep the art – partly, she says, because her two sons, Charles and William, “became attached to it.”

Of its creation, she adds, “In a lot of ways it wasn’t so much healing as it was interesting to follow my feelings.”

All three pieces are strongly connected to the actress, with photographs, poems and other visual representations of her life, but Saint James says she does not consider herself a painter – “more of a collage-er artiste,” she says.

That does not mean she didn’t work hard to make her highly personal collages art-worthy.

Saint James worked under the guidance of Telluride artist (and Ah Haa boardmember) Robert Weatherford, who encouraged her to create bold art that said something beyond herself.

“It wasn’t just putting a few things that I thought were cute on a piece of paper,” Saint James says.

She adds that she and Weatherford formed a rewarding teacher-student relationship and that “there is a lot of Robert in those paintings.” In fact, it was Weatherford’s idea to make the pieces four feet by four feet; when Saint James balked at the larger size, she says, Weatherford encouraged her to keep a journal for inspiration.

“I said, ‘A journal! This is becoming a job!’” Saint James remembers.

After five months of hard work, Saint James anticipates that it will be unnerving to see the collages on display, but says she is proud of her creations and loves seeing them together. Perhaps this auction’s theme, then, is fitting for Saint James: “Be the artist you want to be.”

Saint James’ artistry will be on display with 12 other pieces during the live auction Friday evening, not to mention the over 120 items that will be available in the silent auction. And, much like Saint James’ work, Marketing and Projects Manager Lauren Metzger says this year’s selection is a “very eclectic” mix.

Along with Ah Haa auction staples from artists like woodworker Matt Downer, painter Tim O’Brien and Weatherford, the school is welcoming new artists like Durango potter Adam Fields and painter Caroline Johnson Reeves, also from Durango.

This year’s longtime “local” artist is Brucie Holler, who Metzger says has been “an integral part” of the Ah Haa School as one of its original staffers.

The auction will also feature art – priced from $85 to $12,000 – ranging from landscape photography to furniture to an Indian Tapestry. While Metzger says she loves all the art, she specifically mentioned a “fun briefcase” donated by Julie McNair, and two scrap-metal candleholders by Telluride resident Chuck Kroger, who died in 2007, donated by his wife, Kathy Green.

Finally, the Ah Haa Art Car comes back this year with a 2007 Gem Electric E4, donated by Sally and Lary Simpson and decorated by the Ah Haa staff in an environmentally conscious theme.

The Ah Haa School, for which the auction is the only fundraiser of the year, hopes to raise $124,000 this Friday, just enough to cover operating costs. That number, Metzger says, is “on par with what we’ve raised in good years.”

Despite the floundering economy, Metzger adds that she’s been surprised by the significant support the school has already received, and she is not too worried.

After all, the Ah Haa Art Auction is a community event that draws locals, second-home owners, parents of art students and many more.

With lively emcees and colorful costumes, Metzger is confident Friday night will be a good time.

“It’s a really fun event,” she says. “It’s live. It’s theatrical. There’s liquor.”

And featuring a stellar celebrity artist only adds to the excitement. Saint James, who has never taken classes at the Ah Haa before, says this experience might entice her to start.

“I’m sort of at an age right now when all my women friends are either painting or going to bridge,” she says. “But I’ve always loved art.”

The Friday, July 24 Ah Haa Art Art Auction opens its doors at 5 p.m. for silent auction items; live auction starts at 7 p.m. Look for the Ah Haa Tent on South Townsend St. For more information on Friday’s auction, visit www.ahhaa.org/Auction2008/FIXEDLiveAuction2008.html.
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