A heavy winter snowfall followed by an extended ski season has never left the slopes looking more inviting, curvaceous and dangerous. Which has nothing to do with snow conditions and everything to do with the artwork that mysteriously appeared in March.
Snowboarders and skiers at Purgatory Resort have expressed delight at happening upon the framed pieces of fanciful images affixed to random trees on arbitrary runs.
“Stumbled across your gallery recently and loved it,” someone wrote on social media. “Was hoping someone might know how to get in touch with these mysterious folks.”
A little sleuthing and luck leads to The Mountain Mystery Society and a guerilla (as in no permission from Purgatory) art project inspired by one man’s turns through the trees.
“I had the idea maybe three months ago, when I was skiing through Poet’s (Glade),” said Lil’ Bud – whose real name shall remain a mystery for others to uncover. “It’s like perfectly spaced out to kind of do a gallery.”
Lil’ heard from a friend that Revelstoke Mountain Resort in B.C. Canada actually paid for artists to do “cool art installations” which then lit a light for Lil’ who thought why not here?
“I didn’t want it to just be my art so I contacted a bunch of local art friends to see if they’d be willing to share their art with me,” Lil’ said. “And then I edited it onto my computer system and then I got it printed on aluminum.”
Five artists contributed to the effort. Their works printed on aluminum to withstand the weather then epoxied into vintage and handcrafted frames to give them a timeless look.
Lil’ describes his work as digital collage. He takes mixed-media from the 1970s and older, uses vintage ads, paintings that date back to the 1700s and botanical magazines from the 1900s.
“I take the images and manipulate them to a more kind of fun new-age kind of style,” he says. “A lot of it’s based off what I like to do for hobbies. I’m a big skier. I love the mountains. I enjoy floating the river. So a lot of the art comes from what brings me joy. I also really like old vintage clothing and kind of the old 1950s style. So I always try to bring that into my art as well.”
An art exhibition in the mountains is a new endeavor for Lil’ whose work has graced galleries and appears exclusively on the covers of DGO, a Durango-based biweekly magazine.
“I’m a big fan of Banksy and him doing all kinds of street art for people, and I know that’s more politically-based but I just wanted to give something for everyone to enjoy,” Lil’ said. “Not everyone likes galleries and not everyone goes to museums. So I thought it was a cool concept to put it out there in nature.”
The plan is to leave the art on the trees, which were affixed by Lil’ and his dad using rust-free nails and screws that wouldn’t harm the trees, said Lil’, who added they tried to hang the works from trees that looked dead already.
Fourteen pieces are scattered across the mountain so that whichever way someone skis down they might see something new.
“We hope to do some future installations around the Durango area soon,” Lil’ said. “And then also the idea is we might go and hang up some on other mountain trails, maybe the Colorado Trail, maybe up to Silverton and do some stuff, or even Wolf Creek. This is just the start.”
Lil’ has heard a lot of positive feedback from people at Purgatory, he said, which has made it all worthwhile.
“Really, I just wanted to give skiers and snowboarders a fun, unique experience along with sharing our art,” he said. “I really tried to make it as tasteful and visually stimulating as possible. The whole point is for people to enjoy, to bring some joy and something fun while people are skiing.”
For folks who want to follow the vintage-framed breadcrumbs to find the artists behind the mountain mystery, visit: https://www.lilbuddesigns.com/