A young man in a hoodie and jeans sits solitary on a stoop, seemingly unaffected by the surreal red realm swirling behind him. He's focused on his palm, in which is embedded a small door that he's just beginning to open with his other hand.
The image belongs to Erin Jones, a 21-year-old Palmer High School graduate. "Doors," she says, was inspired by her friend Shane, a musician who not too long ago struggled with his path in life, she recalls.
"He's opening a door in his hand," she says, "because it took really investigating himself to choose the path he chose, which was music."
As in much of Jones' work, mementos from a friend, gleaned from Jones' observations, get carefully translated into her style — which she describes as realistic mixed with "unworldly."
"I'm always attracted to capturing somebody," she says, "capturing something outside their physical appearance."
In many ways, Shane's journey reflects that of Jones herself. Born and raised in the Springs, the painter had a grassroots arts education, beginning in the Colorado Springs School District 11 school system and blossoming through FutureSelf, the after-school arts education program. From the time she was 13 until FutureSelf shuttered in December 2011, Jones was there — as a student, a teacher's assistant and then a teacher. According to former FutureSelf executive director Amber Coté, Jones logged in nearly 2,000 hours of arts instruction there.
"In the years since Erin discovered herself as an artist," Coté writes in an e-mail, "she has been driven like no other artist I know — her passion to learn, create art and share it with others is astonishing."
Two years ago, FutureSelf gifted Jones a class with Brett Andrus, a local artist who teaches in the galleries he co-owns and curates. There she had an "epiphany," in painting in oil.
Today, her art speaks for itself in group efforts at Andrus' Modbo and S.P.Q.R. galleries, the blacKiowa Gallery, and even the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. And she's slated for even more improvement and inspiration after four months in Italy and Greece, studying at the exclusive Aegean Center for the Fine Arts.
Only 20 to 24 people worldwide are chosen to participate each summer. Applicants aren't vetted purely on artistic talent, but also, as Jones says, "how much the experience could benefit your life."
The Aegean Pursuit, her second solo exhibit, is a fundraiser for her tuition, and charts her journey through oil painting, beginning with early, rougher efforts all the way up to the more ambitious and technically advanced new pieces. At the opening, Ormao Dance Company repertory member Oksana Kuzma will perform a work inspired by "Doors" with the senior repertory troupe, and members of the student outreach program at the Colorado Springs Conservatory will sing.
It's all a loving homage to one of the scene's youngest stars, who is still painting away, this time in a series based on personal attachment to material objects. It's a timely subject, given Jones' need to downsize before going overseas for the first time.
"I've mostly just been really been craving a life experience that will be really inspirational," she says. "Because I've been here my whole life and I've always wanted to do something really intense and really pursue art in a big way."