Page 19 - the Noise December 2017
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detail of Kayt-Great Horned Owl by Jenny Epperson
As the Sedona Arts Center launches its 60th year of operation, renowned local artist, Jenny Epperson will ring in the New Year with an exhibit meant to showcase the natural strength of femininity. “Women as Birds: Portraits of Power” opens January 5, with a First Friday Reception from 5:30-7PM.
One can already expect some feathers to be ruffled by Ms. Epperson, whose Studio 61 and ImagiVenture projects launched such memorable shows as “Sedona Icons” and “Guns/ Children,” the latter of which opened to critical acclaim in 2013 at the Sedona Public Li- brary as the country was confronting a then-record of 254 mass shootings, resulting in 288 deaths, and 961 injured persons. Her work often confronts societal problems head-on, with a vibrant color scheme and pop art sensibility.
By her own accord, her favorite topics revolve around death, sex, and the human condi- tion. In this new series, she flushes out a covey of bird-women portraits, each surreally crafted to illustrate female power.
Dabbling in a new medium, she collaborated with two Emmy Award-winners to produce the first-ever Sedona video portrait, a dynamic diversion that will coincide with the show’s opening. Distinguished regional thespian Kate Hawkes and her comrades at the Red Earth Theater aided in its development.
For the “Women as Birds” series, Ms. Epperson started with the question: “If you knew when your human life ends, you would become a bird, which bird would you choose?” Twelve brave women responded to the artist’s query, and Ms. Epperson incorporated each woman’s story, utilizing a vigorous study of ornithology, anatomy, mythology, and antiqui- ties to create each individual work. The vision was to create portraits that explore concepts of transformation and transmutation.
During the months of work preparing the show, Ms. Epperson became aware of her own physical change — far from being the normal aging process, it was, in fact a genuine trans- mutation, like the morphing of one element into another, exemplified by the alchemy that transforms base metals into gold. This epiphany added fuel to the fire, producing an ironic take on the power of women, challenging the viewer to consider the symbolism of trans- mutation, and the extensive supporting history of women’s transformative energy.
“I come from a woman’s point of view, and make no apologies for it,” says Ms. Epperson. “I believe in the transformative power of women. My job as an artist is to challenge myself and others. I invite the viewer to consider the multitude of clues left by artists and story- tellers over time and place. They tell us of our history and give credence to the capacity women possess to take to the skies and fly.”
The “Women as Birds” exhibit runs through January 31st at the Special Exhibitions Gallery in the Sedona Arts Center, with artist talks and tours, a raffle for the next bird-woman por- trait, and a whole series of events to be unveiled this month.
George Averbeck’s “Snow Storm” Ornaments
Glass is a strangely interactive medium. It has such a way with color and light that simply placing a piece of glass in a window can change its look throughout the day; the same way the sun catches the gold of autumn leaves in the morning or the shimmer of a lake’s surface at high noon. Any colors of the rainbow can be trapped in glass; delicately swirled next to each other, or whipped together like a raging whirlwind, stacked like oil and water in a bottle, or blended like a lazy summer sunset. Blown glass has a wonderful capacity for ex- perimenting with color, but understanding how to bring that out takes years of experience.
Artist George Averbeck has certainly mastered that challenge. He is known in Northern Arizona for his gorgeous ornaments, in fact many locals have made gifting one each year a holiday tradition. He has been working hard to make this year’s selection of holiday orna- ments, his “balls” as he often refers to them with a laugh, “bigger and more beautiful than any year before.” This season he is focusing on a new design; his snow storm pattern. Little swirls bring two colors together around each ball with white in between them, like little snowflakes whipping around on a windy, wintry day. It has a whimsical, carefree quality, which brings out the best of the holiday season.
The creation of an ornament requires fast, sure motions, putting Mr. Averbeck’s over 30 years of glass blowing experience into play. Each piece starts out when it is gathered with a blow pipe from a vat of clear glass, constantly kept in a molten state. The color is added separately with frit; crushed colored glass that is picked up with the blob of melted glass, and then reheated together until they combine. Once reheated the glass again becomes an orange mass. The application of frit is only noticeable as slightly lighter or darker shades of orange on the blob as a whole. Working it is a constant race against time as the glass cools, and a fight against gravity as the natural forces of the world pull it down; like honey slipping from a dipper. It is only malleable from a distance with tools touching its hot surface and blown air giving it volume. Managing to shape and control the glass is a challenge itself, but understanding how to work the colors in the glass — the colors which are difficult to even see once they have been applied — requires a master.
In addition to making sure Northern Arizona has plenty of ornaments to deck the halls, Mr. Averbeck has also been preparing for his upcoming show at the Museum of Northern Arizona. It will be opening in February 2018, displaying a much more serious body of his work. He will be featured alongside long-time friend and fellow Northern Arizona Uni- versity alumni, Serena Supplee. A small preview of his work for the show hints at a bold use of color, not unlike Ms. Supplee’s oil paintings, known for capturing the Southwest in striking hues.
Come by Arizona Handmade/Fire on the Mountain Galleries in downtown Flagstaff to see the ornaments that Mr. Averbeck has created for the holidays this year! During the December ArtWalk the gallery will be offering discounts on purchases of four or more or- naments and thanking customers by paying for an hour of parking with a purchase of Mr. Averbeck’s glass work. He will be there spreading the holiday cheer and Tom Sheeley will be playing guitar. Be sure to put the ArtWalk on December 1 from 6-9PM on your calen- dars, and keep an eye out for more information about the show at the Museum of Northern Arizona early next year!
— Stephanie Stinski
For more information, visit .
— Leon Fredricks | the NOISE arts & news | DECEMBER 2017 • 19

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