July 4, 2002
It's been a few years since painter Crystal George last roamed the dusty paths and narrow lanes that frame the public market of Cochabamba in Bolivia.
Yet even now her memory is imbedded with dozens of images of it's native people, their colorful attire and edgy existence.
Pictures so powerful that she must render them, lest she deny them.
Fortunately she has a good memory for detail, an eye that recognizes nuance and a true talent for translating them to canvas.
It is no wonder then that local gallerist James Jur quickly seized the opportunity to include George's work in his latest
exhibition at the Artisan Gallery at 2809 Broadway.
The show, which also features the watercolors of Jo Burkhardt, the drawings of Paul Combs and David Gray and glass offerings
from Sharon Owens opens with an artists' reception Thursday, June 27 from 6 to 9 p.m.
The oldest of five siblings of missionary parents, the 23-year-old George was born in California but spent her formative years
traipsing across Central and South America before ending up in Florida where she finished high school and graduated from college.
Prior to the more formal studies of college George didn't pursue art as a subject, only casually rehearsing her deft hand, doodling people,
portraits and animals - 'no straight lines' - as an addiction. She did try her hand in a photography class once and one can detect learned
lessons of frame, field and composition in her paintings.
But mostly the young artist comes through as an illustrator where she unabashedly mimics her major influences,
Norman Rockwell, the Wyeths, especially N.C. and Howard Pyle. In painterly terms, George confesses her
admiration for the old masters like Rembrandt and John Singer Sargent but also includes the modern master
Richard Schmidt as a major hero.
Perhaps her strongest offering in the current collection features
a tidy rendition of a small girl in native clothing entitled ¿Casarita?
"The girl was just there more or less along the road near where her mother was
minding a small stall at the market. The mother would repeatedly announce her presence by crying out 'Casarita' again and again.
I guess it just captured the moment for me," explained George.
More and more, according to George, native Bolivians lose their cultural identities as they
move from the countryside into larger towns and cities in search of a better life.
Moreover the various ethnic tribes whether Quechuan, Aymaran or mestizo also leave
behind their brightly colored native clothing and pick up the drab browns and greys of urban camouflage.
Most recently George and her husband Ryan, a writer and graphic artist,
have lived and worked in Columbia City. They were seemingly content with
life in the heartland, however the couple is now considering a move somewhere "out east" where they
hope a larger population center will provide more opportunity for recognition and work.
Stop by Thursday at the Artisan and oogle at George's pequena chicas before they too lose their vibrant colors.