Just as the earth’s geological formations present a layered landscape, so, too, do Sarah Winkler’s acrylic works. She mimics the process of erosion by applying paint onto wood panels, then sanding layer after layer. Sometimes, she incorporates crushed minerals, like pink granite from Pikes Peak, that she collects on hikes, into her paintings.
“It’s subtle, not obvious,” she says of the mineral integration. “It (offers) moments of discovery, a surprise, like the thrill of hiking a new trail or exploring a new place.”
The artist is presenting a solo exhibition called Peak Perspective at Vail International Gallery February 18 – March 11. Meet her at an artist’s reception on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 5-8 p.m.
Winkler has developed a strong fan base in Vail over the past few years. Her work really resonates with anyone who’s drawn to the Rockies. She recently was asked to create the backdrops for an original ballet production with Danse Etoile.
“For me, Colorado is Oz. A fantasy-style landscape of epic views, soaring ascents, dreamy wildflower meadows, yellow aspen forests, candy colored rocks, wildlife, bright, high key colors in a clear dry climate. It is nothing short of magical from season to season.”
“I’ve always thought of my landscapes as an unrolling backdrop waiting for characters who have yet to appear,” she says. “I have secretly wished for years for the right opportunity to present them as a tall stage curtain backdrop that would be animated by actors or dancers. When I painted my alpine wildflower series last year in bright summer solstice colors, they were instantly a match for an 2023 original ballet production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at Broomfield Auditorium, Colorado.”
Winkler met Danse Etoile Executive and Artistic Director Marie-Jose Payannet connected through a mutual friend, the composer of the original score for the ballet, Bruce Klepper.
“He introduced my art to Marie and she immediately wanted to work with it and create costumes that played off of the artwork,” explains Winkler. “A dozen or so images were selected to be projected onto the stage that featured my Rockies as landscapes within the Oz story and many that became the ‘Yellow Brick Road’ backdrops. The art, the music and choreography was a great match for this classic American fairy tale by L. Frank Baum as all of the creators dip into the world of magical realism through their art forms.”
According to Winkler, the natural beauty of the Colorado Rockies share some similarities with the magical land of Oz.
“For me, Colorado is Oz,” she states simply. “A fantasy-style landscape of epic views, soaring ascents, dreamy wildflower meadows, yellow aspen forests, candy colored rocks, wildlife, bright, high key colors in a clear dry climate. It is nothing short of magical from season to season.”
Her unique style emerged after studying art in the United Kingdom and the United States — in addition to earth science and creative writing — and stepping away from representational art, into a more abstract, mixed-media style. Once she learned exactly why some landscapes are more spectacular than others, she set out to mimic erosion, albeit on a faster timeline.
“When people ask how long my paintings take, I say three weeks and 2.5 billion years,” she says with a chuckle.
The hues reflected in leaves, rocks and mountain and desert landscapes inspire her own palette.
“I love color,” she says. “Color is life. It is oxygen. It carries the emotion we place on the painting.”
Through her paintings, Winkler promotes the same love of wild spaces — and conservation — to others that she has. Born in England, she spent a good portion of her childhood in Africa and Borneo, where she experienced the intimate relationship people had with wildlife.
“I was always taught, at an early age, that nature is special,” she says. “I think people have to love something to care for it, and that’s the element I’m trying to put in the paintings: care and appreciation.”
Her more abstract approach to landscapes “allows for those ideas, like conservation, to be passed through the painting. … and it carries a little more wonder, versus a straight landscape,” she says. “It’s almost abstract realism: You get a sense of what it is, but there’s so much more left open that you can bring your sense of wonder; it energizes you. It brings elements of imagination and play. You can discover something new.”
Winkler also recognizes the healing power of both nature and art, which is why she accepted a commission to create a mural of the Gore Range for Vail Health.
“I love art in healing places,” she says. “Art can transform you mentally.”
In addition to several major public art commissions nationwide, Governor Polis invited her to exhibit her work at the Colorado governor’s residence, and curators of the Art in Embassies program selected her to participate in a three-year international exhibition at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Next on the horizon is a commission for the Maker’s Mark Whisky.
“It’s a large-scale original painting that interprets the flavor profiles in their bourbon as it relates to their landscape that produces it,” Winkler says. “The painting will be installed this spring and will greet tour guests alongside a Dale Chihuly chandelier at their distillery atrium gallery in Loretto, Kentucky.”
Vail International Gallery started showcasing her work in 2020 and she’s been a celebrated favorite since then. As gallery co-owner Marc LeVarn points out, “she’s one of the most exciting contemporary landscape artists I’ve seen in a long time.”
Source: Vai Daily