Steamboat artist’s show aims to take viewers Over The Top |

Steamboat artist’s show aims to take viewers Over The Top

Nicole Inglis

An opening reception for Jan Maret Willman's show titled Over the Top is from 5 to 8 p.m. today at the Depot Art Center.
Matt Stensland

— It's that feeling when you crest the summit of a long hike up a mountain, when the panorama opens up in front of you and the vista spans out endlessly, local artist Jan Maret Willman said.

"You get that feeling in your gut that it's not just about you," she said. "It's about the whole of creation."

Willman was describing her "creative explosion" in the past year and a half, during which she created more than 30 works of art for her new solo show of boldly colored abstract paintings and clay panels.

The show opens tonight during First Friday Artwalk at the Depot Art Center and will remain on display for the month.

Willman will attend the opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. today, where refreshments will be served.

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Guests will have the chance to peruse two rooms of large oil on canvas pieces and layered clay panels, many of which delve into abstract emotions and colorful dissonance.

The dissonance lies in the fact that a creative explosion is not a wholly positive event. Waves of pain and bliss are part of the journey of life, and Willman's year has been no exception.

The loss of her father and a near-fatal car crash didn't mar her artistic expression — it enhanced it.

"Just like life or any kind of endeavor, you're searching for direction and going over and around obstacles," she said about her painting process. "It will be both beautiful and gruesome."

The loss of her father, specifically, was an experience in deep despair and sorrow, but also beauty and wonder, she said.

It inspired her to name the show's featured piece "Elysian Fields," after the Roman word for heaven where gladiators roam after their death.

Park Myers, Steamboat Springs Arts Council program director, wandered the show along with Willman on Thursday afternoon.

"It's a fantastic group," Myers said about the large paintings hung in the Depot's baggage room. "I would have to say some of them really feel free and exciting, while some have a dark streak that I think people will really grab onto."

He described the works' colors as "bold and bursting," with some unconventional color pairings.

"I have an intimate relationship with color," Willman said with a smile.

She said the show represents a personal and creative journey that she hopes the viewer will ride along with.

Intimate insights into the process are apparent in works such as "La Danse," where Willman once ran out of black paint and started slamming the tube onto the canvas, creating tiny circles.

In the interest of "holding on loosely" to her process, she decided the painting was not meant to be black, and repeated the slamming process with several other tubes of paint, integrating them into a splatter pattern and daubs of sand on the white canvas.

"I'm learning to stop the thinking mind and be open to the raw creative force, open to that voice that says, 'Wait, it's not time yet.'"

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