Steamboat Springs artists create conversations without words |

Steamboat Springs artists create conversations without words

Artists Christie Stephan, right, and Diane Cionni work Friday to set up their exhibit, Topo Typography. at the Depot Arts Center on Thursday. The exhibit opens at 5 p.m. Friday.
Courtesy Photo

If you go:

What: Opening night of "Topo Typography" exhibit

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7

Where: Depot Arts Center, 1001 13th St.

— What a difference a letter makes. Consider the words “topography” and “typography.” One is the arrangement of physical features on a map; the other is the arrangement of words on a page.  

It is this interaction that local artists Diane Cionni and Christie Stepan explore in their exhibit, Topo Typography, which opens Friday, Oct. 7 and runs through Nov. 28, at the Depot Arts Center, 1001 13th St.

Through ball-point pen drawings on Japanese handmade paper mounted to birch panels and through elaborate etchings, the artists explore patterns, repetition and form.

“Each geographic region uses patterns that reflect the meaning of the culture,” Cionnie said. “We use patterns as it reflects our culture, our geography.”

Working in tandem on the same piece at the same time, the artists engage in a non-verbal “conversation” about the nature of a piece as they create it. They consider their work a playful collaboration, much like a game of cards, where one responds to the other’s hand, Cionni explained.  

The two artists may create side by side, completing each other’s thoughts on paper, or they may begin a piece in one studio and finish it in another. But they are speaking the language of the visual arts — of color, texture and pattern.

And as they bring the viewer into that conversation, “it’s the viewer’s job to create the meaning,” Cionni said.  

“It’s not that common to see work done by more than one person” on the same piece at the same time, said Cionni. Their collaboration is “about the process of the creation of the product.”  

“We process in words,” Stepan added. “If I have a dream, and I want to tell you about it, I use words.”

But for the visual artist, she said, the message must be conveyed without words.

“Language doesn’t work,” Stepan said. “How do you represent time, texture, density of air? How does that relate to language?”

In this unique display, the artists will also use the space of the Depot Art Center to convey their message. They strive “to activate the space as another medium,” Stepan said, “to use the space as sketch book.”

“They’re doing less art pieces and more of an installation,” said Steamboat Springs Art Council educational coordinator Madeleine Mason, who describes the exhibit as playful but powerful. “They are going to push some of the boundaries of the space and the perimeters of the traditional exhibit.”

Cionni and Stepan will host an artist talk at noon Saturday, Oct. 9 at the Depot Arts Center, followed by a hike on Rabbit Ears Pass. Cionni and Stepan use hiking both as inspiration and as metaphor for their collaboration.

“The conversations you have,” while hiking, “the choices you make about where you’ll go and where you end up,” are part of the process of discovery, the artists said.  

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