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Art mentor teaches meaning

Braziel inspires artists, does 'not teach imitation'

Autumn Phillips

Eileen Braziel most often has been described as a mentor. On canvas she may be an outsider, but in life she has the ability to inspire everyone around her.

Ask almost any artist in Steamboat Springs and they will point to Braziel as an influence.

“(Eileen) was my mentor and the biggest influence on me as an artist,” said artist and Steamboat Pilot & Today employee Deb Proper. “It’s probably because in her method of teaching, she pushes you to where your strengths are. It’s not a cookie-cutter, how-to method. She can really take someone and push them to their limits in the direction they need to go.

“And as an artist, she pushes herself to the limits all the time.”

Braziel taught her students to work from the gut.

“I do not teach imitation,” Braziel said. “I show techniques, but I also tell them that it is about more than process. Many artists will discredit this, but I think work should have meaning. You should know what it means.”

Braziel lived in Steamboat for 18 years. In that time, she taught art at Colorado Mountain College and filled the walls of the Depot Art Center and galleries with her ever-changing work.

Her work went from bright landscapes to a series of mixed-media works that incorporated written word and symbols. Eventually, she left the canvas completely.

Braziel left Steamboat for Santa Fe, N.M., in the summer of 2002. She and her husband kept their home in Hahn’s Peak but wanted to expose their 13-year-old daughter to the wider world beyond the walls of the Yampa Valley.

“My daughter is blossoming as an artist,” Braziel said. “We decided to move to Santa Fe so she could advance more. And I wanted to do more with my career.”

She needed to experience new things, she said, not only for herself, but also for the many people she teaches. In moving to Santa Fe, she found herself among her peers in a city famous for its corps of artists.

“I’ve been coming to Santa Fe for 15 years,” Braziel said. “It used to be just regional art. It is more international now. I am very welcomed here. I fit right in.”

Braziel has been an artist for almost 20 years. Her work incorporates symbols using the imagery from her dreams.

“It’s all unconscious for me,” she said. “I don’t know what I’m doing when I start. And I’m always asking questions like, why does art have to be on the wall?”

Braziel will be in Steamboat for the weekend to present her latest abstract work at a reception today at Cafe Diva.

The work she has in the dining room of Cafe Diva looks like the decay of manmade objects as they become useless and nature grows around them — weeds growing through cracks in the sidewalk, roots choking an abandoned concrete structure. The pieces mostly are made with fabric. One is a weaving made of black velvet, then burned, then painted on.

Cafe Diva is the only place Braziel is showing in Steamboat, and some of the work on display this weekend will go back to Santa Fe with her Monday.

To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com


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