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Women's Caucus for Art explores Contemporary Icons

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With the big-screen revitalization of The Da Vinci Code craze, there's no better time than the present to highlight symbolism and iconic artworks. People are hungry for hidden meaning and interpretation like Godzilla was hungry for Tokyo.

"It's a lucky coincidence," insists Jean Smith, Women's Caucus for Art member and organizer of Contemporary Icons: Symbols and Signs of the Times. "We picked the theme of our show almost two years ago it wasn't timed."

Contemporary Icons seeks to examine our culture at-large and the icon's modern manifestation. National and regional participating artists contributed works that play on familiar imagery more in the realm of camp than cryptology.

"I was influenced by the pop art of the '60s," says Smith. "I work with subjects that are common knowledge ... but [our show] is more than just [Andy] Warhol-style pop icons, though there'll be some Barbies, Madonnas and cowboys."

Smith says the WCA exhibit isn't so much emphasizing any particular religious or historical tie-in to classic Eastern European iconography as it is attempting to create a dialogue and commentary on present-day culture. Some artists will assert political messages relating to war and broader topics, while Smith who constructs small clay shrines has opted to pay homage to the Boy Scouts of America and fishermen with her two entries.

Another Smith, Salida's Roberta Smith, submitted "From Peace to the Preposterous" (pictured above) to the show. She says she tends to naturally incorporate iconic symbols into her work.

"For me, the images are just metaphors of my feelings or reflections on political or sociological situations," says the artist. "I tend to use ravens a lot. They have opposite connotations across cultures; sometimes positive, sometimes negative. I like their dichotomy and duality."

Roberta believes that it's ultimately up to each viewer to discern what the symbolism in her artwork means. She says she often receives elaborate interpretations from art patrons that bring new meaning to the work for her.

"My pieces always evolve intuitively," says Roberta. "I let them tell me what needs to be there to complete what I'm trying to say, then I find the meaning when I'm finished."

When asked how pop culture and outside fads affect her craft, the artist responds that she views herself as working in isolation. Though certain themes inevitably emerge in her work, she says she doesn't specifically aim for them.

"I just do what I do."


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Contemporary Icons: Symbols and Signs of the Times

Business of Art Center, 513 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs

Opening reception, Friday, June 16, 5-7 p.m.; show runs through July 29.

Free; call 685-1861 or visit thebac.org for hours and more information.

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