Studio tours offer a peek into the workspaces of the largest pool of creatives to date

Sep. 29—The pandemic took a toll on major art events, but with more folks getting vaccinated, many shows are making a comeback. In October, the art meccas of Boulder and Loveland are showcasing the work of area creatives with ongoing studio tours that give an intimate glimpse into the process behind an array of mediums.

From potters transforming hunks of clay on wheels to painters mixing shades and applying them to stretched canvases, onlookers can revel in the mesmerizing steps that take place long before a vase makes its way to the kiln or the watercolors dry.

"We are really pleased that so many artists — over 160 — are participating, more than ever before, in fact," said Mary Horrocks, executive director of Open Studios in Boulder. "After so many avenues for exhibition were closed last year, they are eager to show what they've been working on and patrons are eager to see their art and to support them."

In keeping with the mask mandate, artists and tour-goers will be required to wear face coverings while indoors.

"Some artists will put up tents in front yards and driveways to showcase art and allow people to visit with them out-of-doors," Horrocks said.

After last year's cancellation — the first one since Open Studios kicked off in 1995 — participants and organizers are eager to bring back this staple of autumn in Boulder that starts Saturday and will run the following two weekends from noon to 5 p.m.

"We're excited about having so many new artists and seeing how returning artists evolved their practice during months of COVID isolation," Horrocks said. "Each brings something exciting and new. Take Whitman Lindstrom's novel twist on plein air painting, where the neon underpainting shows through to emphasize shapes in the landscape and artist Roger Reutimann's societal commentary in his sculpture, 'Corporatocracy.' Some artists have begun working in new-to-them mediums that are informed by their former bodies of work."

Swiss sculptor Reutimann — who crafts captivating large-scale works, bold responses to social, cultural and political climates and factors — will return to the tour after a hiatus.

Soaked in irony and wit, his pieces prompt thoughtful reflection and may even coax out a chuckle.

"I strongly believe that a message or concept in a work of art is essential for making an emotional connection with the observer and, as a result, become meaningful," Reutimann said. "Most of my sculptures take on a critical world view. The challenge is to turn a particular point of view into a work of art, which displays artistic qualities in addition to aesthetic attributes."

Reutimann's studios are located at 5575 Arapahoe Ave., Units 3 and 4 in Boulder.

"Some of my new works contemplate the negative effects of social media, the spread of gossip and misinformation," Reutimann said.

"Cyber Droppings" features a herd of those highly recognizable Twitter birds perched on a column — or what could be a bird bath — with their mouths agape. A splattering of blue paint — meant to resemble excrement — disrupts the white surface.

The powerful piece — made from concrete, fiberglass and automotive paint — is representative of "social media and the spread of lies, conspiracies and their consequences."

"My most recent bronze bust called 'Corporatocracy' is a satirical take on the serious subject of corporate greed and corporate influence in politics," Reutimann said. "It is showing a Renaissance-style bust of Caesar wearing a helmet that resembles Mickey Mouse ears. On the breast plate there is an image of a hissing Scrooge, referencing the Disney corporation. I oftentimes like to add some humor to lighten up a serious message."

Even in his early years Reutimann was drawn to the arts, and throughout his life has dabbled in various mediums.

"Since childhood I have been interested in everything creative," Reutimann said. "I played the piano all my life, went to culinary institute in Zurich, organized art fairs and worked as a product designer. I also used to paint, but to me two-dimensional art has always seemed to be only an image of the physical world, the third dimension is what creates this connectivity with reality, which to us is very familiar within our own existence."

Reutimann will be showing over 50 — mostly bronze and stainless steel — sculptures arranged in chronological order form earliest to newest.

"Visitors can learn about various techniques — how to work in different materials like clay, plaster, wax, bronze, stainless steel, fiberglass, concrete, resins, etcetera," Reutimann said. "Additionally, there will be displays teaching about mold-making, welding, working with automotive finishes — basically all steps from clay to finished sculpture in different mediums."

Like so many creatives, 2020 was a time when business inevitably slowed for Reutimann.

"I think artists had a particularly difficult time during the pandemic," Reutimann said. "Art is a luxury item and the first item to be cut from a budget list. All art exhibits and art fairs were canceled and still today they are reduced in exhibitor numbers or postponed to later dates. In my case, I even lost some previous sales/orders due to the uncertainty of the times."

While the year wasn't beneficial in regards to connecting with potential collectors, it did allow Reutimann plenty of time to create new work.

"On the plus side — although I was working by myself — it turned out to be a productive year of uninterrupted studio time," Reutimann said.

During the pandemic, he created a series called "Quilted Concrete Flags" that were constructed by casting concrete into a mold made from many different textured fabrics. Detailed imprints in the concrete flag represent the vast diversity of people in the U.S., he said.

Although many art lovers kept up with creators on social media channels and viewed virtual galleries, Open Studios Tour allows folks an unmatched tangible experience.

"Online exhibits are no substitute for in-person experiences, which is why this year's Open Studio Tours are particularly important," Reutimann said. "Besides the art experience, it is a fun event to meet local folks from all walks of life."

With studios stretching into Longmont and Gunbarrel, visitors can plan out how and when they wish to navigate the various stops over the course of three consecutive weekends.

"Material delivery problems and labor shortages have delayed delivery of our printed tour maps, so we've made frequent use of QR codes to allow patrons to scan and link smart devices to artist pages on our website," Horrocks said. These can be found at "You'll find these codes on artists' wall tags at the 'Tour Preview' exhibit at the Museum of Boulder and on ads and other promotional pieces."

Loveland's tours return

Loveland Art Studio Tour — taking place Oct. 9-10 and Oct. 16-17, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. — will feature 30 unique spots, including Artspace Loveland Lofts, whose on-campus gallery will contain work by a handful of creatives.

"We are really excited to be open for the 2021 Loveland Art Studio Tour," said Jill Atchison, executive director. "The past year has been extremely hard on the art community in Loveland."

In addition to heading up the event, Jill and her husband Dale Atchison are also participating sculpture artists and owners of Clay on 4th.

"We are ready to invite you into our studio at our home," said Jill Atchison, whose space is located at 542 W. 4th St. in Loveland.

The Atchisons will also welcome guest artist Bon Stahlin, a creative whose vibrant work — some utilizing cold wax — can be seen in galleries locally and in Arizona.

Visitors to photographer Laura Cofrin's studio at 310 N. Railroad Ave., #119, Loveland, can expect to observe the mesmerizing and time-honored process of wet plate collodion photography.

From the color palette to the subject matter, Cofrin's work manages to be slightly haunting while at times also joyful. From vintage figurines to stirring portraiture, subjects are washed with a gripping essence that feels both cutting-edge and nostalgic.

"My first experience making wet plate collodion tintypes was at a workshop at Anderson Ranch, in Snowmass, in 2018, taught by France Scully Osterman," Cofrin said. "I feel incredibly grateful for the impeccable instruction I received and owe my successes to this teacher. The quality demonstration of the process has enabled me to avoid common work flow issues."

While Cofrin has also been known to shoot digitally — capturing rodeo life — she prefers the magic that coincides with the bygone practice.

"I love the required attention needed to execute the photograph, from pouring the plate, to manipulating the old camera framing the scene, controlling the development, to finally varnishing the plate," Cofrin said. "So many steps, each open to a unique alchemy, unexpected anomaly with the chemistry, operator error and/or dust."

Prior to the invention of roll film, photographers utilized the collodion wet plate process that often involved a portable darkroom, of sorts, to produce images in the field.

"I enjoy the immediacy of the medium — seeing the finished plate materialize before one's eyes, flipping from a negative image to a positive one in the final fixing step," Cofrin said. "This magical moment will never grow old. All this in only a few minutes, to produce a timeless archival object."

From a bouquet of faintly dried blooms to stylized vignettes that seem to tell a deeper story, much of her work encourages pondering.

"These dark, funny narratives in the work, using toys and other collectibles, are drawn from the tragic miasma that comes with human life — laughter-through-tears moments that cut close to the bone," Cofrin said. "I am referencing the universal pathos of living in the 21st century. I approach it with a persistence in finding a light in the darkness and I hope to evoke contemplation, trigger memories, bring joy and laughter to the viewer."

The way in which Cofrin chooses to produce her work is no accident. It's vital to the art's hazy end result and a slight jab at the instant gratification that comes with the easy click of a smartphone camera and an added filter.

"I use historic methods of photography as a conscious way to slow down the process of making photographs," Cofrin said. "This is an act of rebellion against the billions of images uploaded online each day."

It's Cofrin's hope that her work gets onlookers excited about the photographic practices of yesteryear.

"I hope the viewer can gain an appreciation or — due to a lack of arts education in our schools — just become aware of the history of photography, to really take time to look, put the phone down, stop scrolling and truly see. See what came before, how it has brought us to where we are today and consider where it can bring us, with photography specifically but also as a society and within our civilization as a whole. I want to create photographs and experiences that are unique, memorable and lasting."

For Cofrin, working with vintage machines is vital to her work.

"I love using old machines to make contemporary objects, keeping the usefulness and functionality alive in these antique cameras," Cofrin said. "I love the timelessness of the medium, often playing with time by mixing old and new objects in my still lifes and making portraits in unusual ways."

From woodworking spaces dusted with fresh shavings to the spark of silver jewelry being soldered, studio tours allow patrons to embark on an in-depth journey for the senses.

"Visitors will experience strange smells and a feeling of traveling back in time." Cofrin said.