Winners named in Steamboat Art Museum’s ‘painted word’ contest

First place went to Kathi Guler and her writing entry, “The Last Light” about the painting titled, “Out of the Rain” by Oil Painters of America artist Michele Kondos.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The range of imaginative stories stunned the judges during the Steamboat Art Museum’s “Ekphrasis: The Painted Word” event and contest.

“What the visual art inspired in the writers and how that was translated into the written word — it was fascinating to see,” said Ron Krall, who served as one of the contest judges and owns Off the Beaten Path bookstore with his wife, Sue.

Inspired by more than 250 paintings in the 27th annual Exhibition of Oil Painters of America, authors of all ages entered the contest. In all, 29 entries were received.

“We all go to art museums, and as we stand and stare at the paintings, we have emotional reactions and thoughts and inspirations, but it’s rare we share those,” Krall said. “To share those in this particular way and to see how the writers were taken places maybe I would never have imagined, it’s really intriguing to me and made this event so much fun.”

Winners of the contest were announced and the winning entries were read Thursday night.

First place went to Kathi Guler and her writing entry, “The Last Light,” about “Out of the Rain,” a painting by Oil Painters of America artist Michele Kondos.

Honorable mentions went to Jennifer Paquette for “Bison Eyes” written in response to the painting “Resilience” by Cindy Baron as well as Nancie McCormish for her piece, “Flickers,” about the painting, “Last One Up” by Lyn Boyer.

The Young Writer Award went to Carson Gerstell, who was inspired by the painting, “Preparation,” by artist Andrea Clague.

“I was so surprised, shocked and delighted,” Guler said.

The contest was created in honor of Susan de Wardt, a longtime local writer who recently died. One of her handmade journals was the prize for the contest winner.

“I will treasure that journal forever,” Guler said. “She was a friend, and although I never got to spend as much time with her as I would’ve liked, she was a lovely person who I learned a lot from. I will treasure this gift very much.”

In choosing the winners, Krall said, they didn’t approach this inaugural Ekphrasis event with any predetermined set of criteria. Judges read each entry first, then looked at the painting that inspired it to help them identify pieces they felt were well written and matched the paintings. Then, they read each of those again — a process that inspired hours of discussions.

“Two or three people could look at the same painting and have completely different reactions to the same painting,” Krall said. “This event really showed a gutsiness of the writers, because they are able to share something that’s not often shared.

“I hope for future events people will think of the judging component as secondary and recognize that this is in and of itself, an art form based on what the visual experience inspires in you and is a way to share that,” Krall added.

Steamboat Art Museum Executive Director Betse Grassby said the museum plans to make this a regular event with upcoming exhibits. The writing entries are currently on display next to the inspired painting.

“It has inspired writers and non-writers to look at the paintings differently and truly let their imaginations go free,” Grassby said.

This oil painters exhibit is open through Labor Day Weekend and will close Monday, Sept. 3.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

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