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Sangre exhibits feature abstraction, violence

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Untitled by Jacek Nowacki.
  • Untitled by Jacek Nowacki.

While the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center gets most of the attention, the tasty local exhibits at the Sangre de Cristo Arts & Conference Center are nothing to sneeze at. Alongside the inventive installation collaborations by Colorado College instructors Dan Raffin and Monica Escalante (and the works of many other talented folks) are pieces by Jacek Nowacki and Peter Stone, two painters with distinct voices. Nowacki, a Polish-born Minneapolis transplant living in Monument, paints in vibrant, bold strokes. A true abstract expressionist, his work is evocative and sometimes even a bit brutal.

"I was born after the war," Nowacki explains, "and I got interested in abstract expressionism when I was in high school. I was very interested in Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. My art teacher wouldn't let me do it in class, but I did it at home."

Nowacki discovered his forte at an early age.

"Some of the artists of the higher echelon had a little studio, and I did some abstract expressionist paintings there," he says. "My teacher wasn't a big fan, but she did end up entering it in the 100 Best competition [a prestigious art competition in the Twin Cities], and I got in. And then I kept doing it. It just works for me.

"I use acrylic because I can't wait for oils. I work very fast; otherwise it's too calculated, and loses the emotion. I do my work in series, and when I dry out, I move on to the next. I'm just not the type to sit for hours and paint pretty pictures."

Salida-based Peter Stone isn't "that type," either. His paintings are large and filled with violent imagery that he sees in today's society.

"Everything comes down to violence. [Chairman] Mao once said, 'All power comes [from the barrel] of a gun,' but it all comes down to that -- emotional, personal, political -- it's all crazy," he says. "I don't think it is art's duty to make beautiful things, something pleasing to the eye. That's wallpaper. And paintings are just wallpaper for rich people."

Not that he thinks that's right.

"I think more people should go see art. Maybe that would make it less meaningless. But there's a division. Art has become something that belongs only to a class, this land-owning aristocracy," Stone expounds. "I'd like people to read my paintings like they are something that was written. They're full of symbols, about art and society, and violence in relation to those things. The paintings have overtly violent images in them -- bullets -- but there are also innocuous forms.

"Czanne, the father of modern painting, once said that everything in the universe is made of spheres, cones and cylinders. But that -- art -- doesn't count for shit, because the bullets override all of it. I would love to paint Pollyanna pictures, but I can't. It would be a lie.

"I do get a kind of joy out of [painting]. I don't skip through the tulips, because it's serious work, but it gives me more joy to paint paintings than go to Iraq and shoot a bunch of people. I don't have any great hope that it will change things, but if it makes another person think, 'Yeah, this is all bullshit,' then that's worth something.

"Art is a drop in the bucket. The only way to fill the bucket is to have a whole lot of drops."

-- Bettina Swigger

capsule

Jacek Nowacki and Peter Stone's Home Suite: Home

Sangre de Cristo Arts & Conference Center, 210 N. Santa Fe Ave., Pueblo, 719/295-7200

Through Feb. 4

For more info, call 719/295-7200 or visit sdc-arts.org.

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