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Durango painter Grajeda displays work in Mancos

Durango painter Grajeda’s large-format work on display at Olio
Durango artist Brenda Grajeda poses with two of her works: “Twilight at Sea,” left, and “Topography of an Aspen,” right. Grajeda’s work is on display at Olio restaurant in Mancos through Aug. 20.

Many of Brenda Grajeda’s layered paintings feature textured gashes she refers to as “scars.”

She uses encaustic — a type of wax — to create the markings and give her works more depth, she said. The scars represent the blemishes and imperfections that shape peoples’ personalities, she said.

“None of us are unscarred in our lives,” Grajeda said. “That plays through all the pieces.”

Grajeda’s oil and encaustic work will be displayed through Aug. 20 at Olio restaurant in Mancos. An artist reception will take place at Olio on Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m.

A native of southern California, Grajeda lived in Silverton for a while and moved back and forth from southwest Colorado to California several times before settling in Durango, where she’s lived for the past four years, she said. It’s been about two years since her work has been featured in Mancos, and some of the paintings she brings to Olio haven’t been seen before in Mancos.

Most of Grajeda’s work is inspired by the outdoors, she said. In Colorado, the changing seasons offer inspiration as the light and colors change, she said. Though the original idea for a painting might come from a small part of a tree Grajeda saw on a walk, many of her paintings are large, covering six or more feet of canvas.

Grajeda finds painting large-format works easier, she said. But part of painting is not over-working and knowing when to stop. Often, she’ll take a moment to step away from what she’s working on and try to gain a fresh perspective, she said.

Sometimes she gets going down the “rabbit hole” of painting where everything starts to shift and the painting’s subtleties start to come out, she said. As she’s working, the artwork can start talking to her and telling her what needs to happen, she said.

“They just magically come out sometimes,” Grajeda said. “A lot of it is just heartfelt. When they start talking to you, sometimes it’s not my decision and it comes from the painting.”

Much of Grajeda’s work is inspired by photography, she said. But she prefers to create more abstract art, using the photos only as a starting point, she said. Abstract work creates a conversation when people see it, she said.

Grajeda realized it’s not her job to judge her own work — that’s the audience’s responsibility. That was a hard lesson to learn, she said. Now, though, she’s more comfortable with letting spectators make their own decisions about her work, she said. She doesn’t like assigning names to her works, because that implies a certain interpretation of each painting, she said.

“I want people to feel what they feel from it,” she said.

Grajeda said she remembers being in kindergarten and wanting to do only two things: paint and climb on the monkey bars. She formerly was a gymnast and now is a painter, so she’s been able to do both things, she said.

“It comes full circle,” Grajeda said. “We get distracted and lose sight of what we love doing. I’m lucky.”