Local painter, gem sculptor art on display at RED Contemporary | SteamboatToday.com

Local painter, gem sculptor art on display at RED Contemporary

Diane Cionni discusses her mixed media artwork at RED Contemporary on Tuesday, where she will be featured through the end of the ski season. Cionni paints naturescapes with influences from contemplative traditions.
John F. Russell

If you go

What: Wild West Wednesdays art opening featuring Diane Cionni and Perry Brent Davis

When: 4 to 7 p.m. today

Where: RED Contemporary gallery inside the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, 2200 Village Inn Court

— Just in time for the snow to melt and the snowdrops to push through the muddy ground, spring has sprung in RED Contemporary gallery.

But the mixed-media artwork of local painter Diane Cionni is not bursting with florals, nor does it portray a traditional landscape view of the Yampa Valley.

“Beauty isn’t pretty,” Cionni said.

Ethereal and bordering on psychedelic, Cionni’s botanical paintings tap into her contemplative and metaphoric thought process, which is heightened by experiencing the outdoors.

“Nature is a link to the absolute,” Cionni said. “Some people would call that God; I tend to be more interested in science, philosophy and contemplative traditions. The kind of thought that makes you ask the big questions, like, ‘Why are we here?’

“When we’re in nature, we’re unconsciously asking those questions and unconsciously getting those answers.”

Her mixed-media paintings, along with the gem sculptures of Perry Brent Davis, will be featured at RED until the end of the ski season, the last show before the gallery closes for mud season.

“It’s exquisite,” said Pat Walsh, who co-owns the gallery with Susan Schiesser. “The gallery is just sparkling; it has come alive. You just feel energized when you look at this work.

Cionni “is a very thoughtful person and deliberate.”

Cionni said she used to paint traditional landscapes from the perspective that one might see through the lens of the camera.

But as her art evolved, she realized that people don’t really perceive nature that way.

“You’re intuitively picking up on pollens or small animals in the water,” she said. “There’s a lot of invisible worlds.”

Diving deep into those alternative perspectives, Cionni took a digital camera and immersed it in the weeds around her Steamboat Springs studio, taking pictures from the perspective of an ant.

She then adjusts the photos digitally to allow the viewer to “dream into” the work, ascribing their own experiences to the painting. Sometimes she layers the photo onto a panel, and other times she paints it free hand.

The result is a work that references nature, but the colors and perspective take the viewer somewhere else.

“It’s not based on objective realities,” Cionni said. “There are lots of different realities, and you kind of fall into them.”

Cionni finds herself immersed in those realities while she’s painting. But it doesn’t pain her to see them go, whether it’s on the walls of a gallery or into the home of a buyer.

“While I’m doing them, they are so important to me that they wake me up in the middle of the night,” she said. “But then I move on to something else. I want them to go out into the world.”

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