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Mancos pop-up gallery introduces Back Roads Collective

Group aims to put contemporary spin on rural art

One of the art shows that opened in Mancos Friday night as part of the Creative District’s Christmas celebration was a temporary pop-up gallery featuring rural art with a contemporary twist.

The three-day Renegade Holiday Arts Show, held at HelloZark Studio on Main Street, marked the debut of the Back Roads Collective, a group of 10 like-minded artists from Montezuma County. Their styles varied, from pottery to painting to sculpture, and so did their experience, since the group included some veterans of the Western art scene and some newcomers. T.J. Zark, the Collective’s founder and owner of HelloZark, hopes to make this the first of a regular series of Back Roads pop-up galleries.

“There are a lot of artists that aren’t showing in town yet, and we wanted to give them an opportunity,” Zark said.

Rosie Carter, a Cortez artist who helped form the group, said the Collective is an informal group for now, but its members are united by a love for the Western world in which they live and a desire to create new things.

“We’re hoping this is going to be the start of something,” she said. “We really have a contemporary bend, bringing new ideas to a rural area and bringing a rural area to new ideas.”

Carter was one of the gallery’s more experienced artists. She has been selling “farm-inspired” embroidery, handmade goods and other artwork online through her Home and Range business since 2014, and she opened a brick-and-mortar art gallery in Cortez earlier this year. Most of the work she displayed at the Renegade show was a collaboration with Dave Butler, who specializes in collecting old scrap metal and other materials that Carter uses to create sculptures. Their joint projects on display included a lamp made from a motorcycle fender and a country landscape made from embroidery and an old tin ceiling.

“Anything that’s old is interesting to me,” Butler said. “This was kind of right up my alley.”

Butler and Carter have been working together for about a year, and their collaborations have appeared in a few other galleries around the Four Corners. But not everyone in the show could claim that experience. Mancos jewelry artist Todd Kearns said he had never shown his work in a gallery before.

“I’m a little nervous, I guess, but everyone’s so friendly,” he said. “I enjoy showing my stuff.”

He has been making jewelry to sell online for about two years, he said, after he was inspired to get into the craft by the Native American artists he works with at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.

Another relative newcomer was Carol Mehesy, who has been creating encaustics–textured paintings made from hot wax–for two years. Most of the paintings she showed at the pop-up gallery were inspired by farm buildings in Montezuma County. She started painting in this style after spending many years away from art, she said.

“I liked the permissiveness of it – since it’s never going to be perfect, it gives me permission not to be perfect,” she said. “And then, I’ve always been drawn to architecture and the feeling of architecture, so that’s why I was drawn to these subjects.”

The studio was crowded Friday night, and a few works of art had already sold by the end of the evening. Pottery artist Janette Harrel said the show had already helped her before it opened, by giving her an incentive to work harder and create more pottery dishes.

The Renegade gallery would remain on display through Sunday. It featured work from Rosie Carter, Dave Butler, Janette Harrel, Todd Kearns, Carol Mehesy, Heather Leavitt Martinez, Julia Bordeman, T.J. Zark, Kendra Mackenback and Fairlight Whritner. Zark and Carter said the group is already brainstorming ideas for the next Back Roads Collective pop-up gallery, which they hope to hold in the spring.

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