Common Currency

“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf. We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what’s going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.”

Annie Dillard
artist studio with lots of collections and paint
Jody’s studio.

The pandemic reminded us of all we took for granted, including the importance of gathering with the communities that feed us. Artists are no exception. Even the most reclusive among us struggle with working alone, day in and day out. Since many creatives grapple with navigating a left-brain world they gravitate toward other artists. I lucked into the extensive Aspen artist community. For starters, my husband is a writer and producer. The majority of our friends are fine artists, musicians, designers, architects, filmmakers, writers, ceramicists, woodworkers, and fanatic gardeners. We gather as often as possible.

My friend Jody Guralnick is an active part of the Roaring Fork Valley’s creative community and is one of its most established painters and ceramicists. Her spectacular studio overlooks Castle Creek and is surrounded by a mature Aspen tree grove. Recently, the entire studio dropped by for a sneak peek of her new work and photographed Jody in our new scarves.

I joined her dog Possum on the well-worn studio couch to gab and watch her paint. Her home studio is a modern-day cabinet of curiosities filled with botanical specimens, books, and ephemera all of which find their way into her ceramics, sculpture, and her vast, lush paintings.  Every time I visit, I see something I had previously overlooked.

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.”

Joan Didion

Joan Didion tapped into a common denominator for many artists when she wrote “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” Words were Didion’s most powerful tools. Her writing enabled her to process our complex world, and also contributed to her psychic survival. Jody uses similar methods. She employs an abundance of layering, patterns, and hues to catalog her observations and tap into a more universal narrative. Each brushstroke invites a second glance. The marginalia and the microcosmic are Jody’s inspirational jet fuel. She sees her labor-intensive process as “an ongoing excavation” of both her conscious and subconscious worlds. Each piece prompts me to pause, to look carefully, and illuminates an invisible world that I take for granted. Who doesn’t need that?

woman painting
Jody working away.

Jody’s collection is ever growing. She is an archivist of the natural and fabricated worlds around her. Pine cone scales, figurines, branches, mushrooms, and seed pods fill her studio. Her sculpture combines natural specimens with fabricated ornaments – hearkening to some chemical connection in eons past.  

Her approach to collections is thoroughly curious. She is drawn to the natural history of these things. Her observations create a duality in the creation of her work, where structure looks to be natural but is manipulated. For example, she uses the imbrication of pine cone scales to demonstrate movement, as if the scales are consuming a figurine. They are grown to maintain their structure – these objects lie in order. 

Her landscapes are an ode to the tiny worlds within our world, and to her love of natural history. Jody’s work is imbued with curiosity and engagement. She gathers what she seeks to learn of, creating an enhanced appreciation of the intricacies of the forest floor. 

Jody currently has a show at Michael Warren Gallery in Denver (through July 9, 2022). I am thankful for Jody and for our Aspen Artist community.

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