Never a dull moment

Crystal Hartman lives an artistic life without pretense

Crystal Hartman paints on a wall-sized canvas on a work in progress titled “X” at her home studio outside Durango. Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Herald

Crystal Hartman paints on a wall-sized canvas on a work in progress titled “X” at her home studio outside Durango.

Crystal Hartman is an artistic force to be reckoned with, not just because of her command of numerous mediums, but also in her vast curiosity and where it has led her in life.

Still in her 20s, Hartman has explored painting, printmaking, drawing, batik, sculpture, videography and jewelry. She is a single-speed bicycle fanatic, skis, has traveled through Argentina on a research grant and to Barcelona to study the architecture of Gaudi. She has spent considerable time in Thailand and lived in Bali as a youngster with her family.

Hartman’s parents, owners of Durango Silver Co., encouraged her and her brother Dillon’s creative interests and nurtured their talent as jewelry designers. As a high school student, her fascination with biology and relentless sketching of organic subject matter led her to intern with a plastic surgeon and eventually to enroll at the University of Colorado–Boulder as a pre-med student. Her transition into full-time art grew out of an honors humanities program.

“I was exposed to printmaking and felt a kinship toward artists more than with doctors,” she said.

Hartman’s art is distinctive, skilled and forever evolving. She constantly is experimenting and usually is involved in multiple projects at the same time, often in different mediums.

“I love the process,” she said. “All of it. I discovered printmaking to be a stepping-stone to conceptual thinking, but there are similarities with it and jewelry design: the coating, burnishing, etching, soldering, engraving. ... I (also) love the stacks of paper, the smell of kerosene.”

Pausing momentarily between hyper-thoughts and a running stream of consciousness, Hartman reflected on her experiences. Linking the seemingly disparate disciplines of plastic surgery and printmaking, she gives an idea of how things have always tied together for her.

“Even plastic surgery, for me, is the ultimate form of sculpture,” she said.

Her imaginative exploration includes poetry and prose, and she currently is working toward a submission deadline for the Brooklyn Art Library’s Fiction Project, a touring sketchbook and written-word exhibition. And while that is in progress, she is pulling together a solo show to be held at the Rochester Hotel in October.

Some locals, particularly artists, know Hartman as the creator/producer of the 2009 and 2010 Durango Open Studios tours. As monumental a task as that was, she pulled it off with aplomb. However, it kept her from pursuing her own art, and she since has relinquished control to Denise Leslie, publisher of Arts Perspective magazine.

Hartman refers to her style of artwork as “storytelling,” and although the message may be obscured at times, her draftsmanship is impeccable. Her video work focuses on people, not as direct portraiture but rather “to portray everyday life. I’m interested in connotation and context, imagery that draws them out and (depicts) their interaction with simple things.”

Although her intentions may seem fundamental, there is nothing simple about Hartman or her work, and there aren’t any pretenses, either.

Stew Mosberg is a freelance writer and has written about art regionally and nationally. Reach him at wrtrf@aol.com.

Crystal Hartman pauses between creations for a playful moment with her dog Lola-Honey Dew at her home studio. Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Herald

Crystal Hartman pauses between creations for a playful moment with her dog Lola-Honey Dew at her home studio.

Crystal Hartman works on a book project titled “The Poorest Florist” on a vintage typewriter at her home studio. Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Herald

Crystal Hartman works on a book project titled “The Poorest Florist” on a vintage typewriter at her home studio.

Crystal Hartman works on a book project titled “The Poorest Florist” on a vintage typewriter at her home studio. Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Herald

Crystal Hartman works on a book project titled “The Poorest Florist” on a vintage typewriter at her home studio.

Crystal Hartman paints on a wall-sized canvas on a work in progress titled “X” at her home studio outside Durango. Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Herald

Crystal Hartman paints on a wall-sized canvas on a work in progress titled “X” at her home studio outside Durango.