Banning uses twigs, threads to create sculptural pieces |

Banning uses twigs, threads to create sculptural pieces

Margaret Hair

Beth Banning was driving through downtown Steamboat Springs on a summer afternoon when a pile of twigs caught her eye.

The thin, pliable willow branches were perfect for the kind of fiber art Banning practices, a sculpturally influenced creation that pairs parts of trees with synthetic and natural fibers. All Banning had to do was knock on the door and ask the home’s owner if he minded her digging through the mound of yard clippings out front.

“A lot of times, if I’m driving around and I see stuff I like, I’ll stop and ask if I can trim their shrubbery,” she said.

The resulting piece, “Spring Creek,” is on display as part of an all-artists show at K. Saari Gallery. Banning is one of several gallery artists represented in the show, which will be on display through May 24.

Digging through roadside tree trimmings isn’t Banning’s preferred method of finding material – she picks branches near Spring Creek often, and looks for willow trees in friends’ yards.

Banning studied fiber and textile arts with a minor in costume design while she was working on an undergraduate art degree at San Diego State University and California State University-Bakersfield, and in graduate school at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She worked with fibers when she had studio space, but had to change her artistic habits when she had children.

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“When I had kids and I had no studio space anymore, I started looking for ways I could still work in fiber art but on a smaller scale,” Banning said. That means a combination of bendable branches, synthetic sinew and natural linens, woven together in pieces that are part sculpture, part fabric. Banning also has built large-scale installations and non-functional vessels.

“You can consider her a fabric artist, but I like her because she’s got this sculptural aspect,” said K. Saari Gallery owner Kimberly Saari. “I just love the organic effect of it.”

As the work sits in galleries, leaves turn and fall off, scattering onto white sculpture platforms. It adds a dynamic level to the art, Saari said.

“The work takes on a lot of dimension,” Saari said. “It’s almost a performance piece : you see what’s happening to it.”

Banning was visual arts director for the Steamboat Springs Arts Council from 2000 to 2007, and served as the local coordinator for the Colorado Art Ranch – a nomadic artists’ residency program – in summer 2008. She helps hang many of the shows at K. Saari Gallery, and recently has started volunteering with the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, helping revamp the organization’s visual arts component.

Key points

Two of Beth Banning’s fiber art pieces are on display through May 24 as part of an all-gallery show at K. Saari Gallery. For more information, call 870-0188 or go to http://www.ksaarigallery…