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Two-man exhibition at Mirada soars

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By Sara Miller

William Butler Yeats wrote, “I know that I shall meet my fate somewhere among the clouds above.” Although Yeats was referring to an Irish airman, the same can be said for the latest exhibition at Mirada Fine Arts Gallery, “in the CLOUDS.” In this innovative show, Mirada has combined the talents of two disparate artists to create a show that is full of color and whimsy, as well as those moments of emotional reflection that can be found in the clouds above.

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“in the CLOUDS” is a show that combines the work of contemporary Western and abstract painter Paul Cunningham and sculptor Allen Wynn.

“A few months back, I was moving one of Allen’s pieces around in the gallery. As I passed by one of Paul’s paintings, I realized that they work together in a wonderful way. There is an interesting juxtaposition between Paul’s abstract works and Allen’s whimsical grounded characters,” says Steve Sonnen, founder and director of Mirada.

Sonnen approached the artists about a collaboration in the form of a two-man exhibition. Both got to work creating original pieces to include in the cooperative show. Many of the vignettes placed throughout the gallery feature Wynn’s whimsical bronze figures placed in front of Cunningham’s vivid abstract canvases. Although the placement creates a foreground/background scenario, both pieces contribute to each artistic statement. 

In one especially delightful display, Wynn created a serene young woman on a swing. Cunningham has created an equally eye-catching canvas filled with the rich colors of a sunset layered beneath stacks of cumulus clouds. The combination pulls the viewer into the scene — you can almost feel the last rays of sunshine as they reflect off the woman’s shoulders and hear the gentle breezes blowing through Cunningham’s landscape as Wynn’s swinger perches with her head in the clouds.

Cunningham, the two-dimensional artist behind these artistic sensory experiences, is a Colorado native who recently opened a studio in Evergreen. Cunningham, a self-taught artist, began his career painting carefully constructed Western portraits filled with painstaking detail and colorful backdrops.  As time passed, Cunningham’s vibrant backgrounds began to take center stage, and his career took a turn into the world of abstract art. It is these opulently hued canvases that have been so warmly received by Mirada’s patrons.

Wynn is also a self-taught artist whose sculpting talents emerged in his home state of Ohio. A resident of Cincinnati, Wynn shows his work in Santa Fe, Boston, New Orleans and exclusively at Mirada in Colorado. According to Suzanne Deats, a Santa Fe arts writer, “Wynn’s archetypal sculptures call up personal associations from all who see them. These figures may represent any kind of person, anywhere in the world, because the artist has freed them from extraneous detail and has stated their meaning in the simplest terms. Allen Wynn has taken his impressions from earliest childhood memories through very recent experience and has interpreted them in a universal language.”

This language, which echoes in Cunninghams’ work as well, is the language of human emotion. The universality of both artists’ work is what captures viewers — allowing each to find their own meaning in the artwork. One might say that it is this commonality which brought the work of these two distinct artists together. Others might say that Sonnen, upon passing Cunningham’s canvas with Wynn’s sculpture in hand, discovered fate among the clouds.

“in the CLOUDS” opens with an artists’ reception on Friday, Aug. 5, from 6 to 9 p.m. The show runs through Aug. 28 at Mirada Fine Art Gallery. For more information, call 303-697-9006 or visit www.miradafineart.com.