Art Trek Allows Personal Visit With Rim Country Artists

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Going by its name alone, the Payson Art League's Art Trek open studio tour might lead you to believe that all that will be on the menu is art.

The Saturday and Sunday event offers much more than that starting with a journey into creativity itself.

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Payson's Donna Rokoff is one of 16 artists whose work and works in progress will be on view during the Payson Art League's Art Trek open studio tour this weekend. The self-drive event will take participants through nine private art studios and one gallery.

"When a visitor comes to an artist's studio, they share a certain intimacy with the artist, and that intimacy then lends authenticity to the artist's work," said Barb Bourscheidt, one of the organizers of the twin all-day tours of actual private studios in and around Payson. "When you contact artists on their own home turf, they become more real to you, and you have a greater appreciation for who they are and how and what they create."

Oil painter Ruth Overton loves the contact with visitors, too.

"Usually when people come to my studio, they ask me how I get certain colors, how I create certain atmospheres, that sort of thing," Overton said. "Maybe it's because I taught art for 17 years, but I probably enjoy explaining those things more than anything I've ever done."

Such self-driving, open-studio tours have been popular in other art communities for years, and Bourscheidt has no difficulty in understanding why.

"How else can you actually see work in progress? People like to be up close and personal, and there's nothing more personal than being in someone's private studio and conversing with the artist to find out what makes them tick, how long they've been working in their medium, what inspires them," Bourscheidt said.

For the 16 participating artists, nine studios and one gallery that will be featured, Art Trek will be beneficial, too.

"Frankly, we're trying to build our customer base," said Bourscheidt, who creates functional, hand-built and wheel-thrown stoneware in her studio, Nature Lovers Clayworks. "We want as much exposure as we can get, and a large number of artists live in this area, but who take their work elsewhere to market it and you just don't see them."

This weekend, Rim country art aficionados and related wannabes will not only get to see and meet some of those artists, but dig into their minds in much the same way that Payson's Donna Rokoff digs her hands into mud to create terra cotta claywork, handmade tiles, sculpture and majolica pottery.

"For instance," Rokoff said, "I have two pieces based on photographs I've taken ... and those on the tour will get to see those photographs, and see how they were translated into a wholly different form. In a gallery, you don't get any real sense of how a piece developed. On this tour, you will."

Rokoff has been an artist for as long as she can remember, having once operated her own art gallery and worked as a staff sculptor for the Hallmark card company. Still, because she is just now coming off of a five-year hiatus from public showings and sales, she called herself "the new kid on the block here."

"I love Donna's work," Bourscheidt said. "She uses the simplest material clay and the simplest techniques. But when she puts it all together, it just becomes this unimaginably artistic piece that is complicated in its entirety."

In other words, Bourscheidt said, "Donna's art is just like Donna.

"On the surface, she is very pleasant ... but as you work through the layers, you find that she's complex and fascinating."

Working through the layers is, of course, what the Art Trek tour is all about. And those who participate will get the opportunity to see what lies beneath the art of Bourscheidt, Rokoff, Jim Hagen (original oils and prints), Marlene Hagen (stained glass), Linda Nannizzi (stoneware pottery), Dan Bazinski (functional items carved from exotic woods, bronze sculpture and wildlife wall sculpture), Elizabeth Silver (painter and acrylics/papier machculptor), Annelle Henson (watercolor, clay sculpture), Donn Morris (multi-media), Ruth Overton (oil paintings), Pamela Webb (mixed-media collage), Alan and Carol Snyder (stoneware pottery), Alberta Cook (watercolor and oil paintings), Carol Kane (bronze and cold-cast sculpture, wall sculpture, angels and retablos), and Claudette Barket (watercolor and monotype).

"One of the things about all the artists on this tour is that every single one is an individual," Bourscheidt said. "There are three or four of us who work in clay, for example, but none of our clay looks anything like anybody else's.

"That's another wonderful thing about art: you can use the exact same materials, but because our hands, minds and spirits are different, our work is completely different."

It is the chance to see that work in progress which makes the Art Trek tour such a rare event, she said.

"Many artists tend to be private about their creativity, which is such a personal thing. So to bare yourself, invite people to come into your personal space, and then dissect you," she said, "a lot of artists have to take a giant step forward to do that ... But the motivation for doing it is that deeper yearning to share what you so love, to share what you are so passionate about."

Art Trek driving tour

The Payson Art League's Art Trek self-driving open studio tour will be held Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Participating studios and galleries may be visited in any order. Tour maps and $5 admission tickets to all studios are available at the Payson Public Library, Eagle's Nest Art Gallery, and the Wild Brush Art Gallery. For more information, call Barb Bourscheidt at 474-0373.

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