Painting backward

David Bergeland/Durango Herald

This is Jacob Brooks’ interpretation of Tracey Belt’s title “Missing Duke.”

By Margaret Hedderman
Special to the Herald

At this time last week there were nearly 21 Durango artists in various stages of meltdown.

The task seemed simple at first: Create a piece of art based upon a previously created title. But with a deadline looming near, the project for Studio &’s next show, “Previously Entitled,” was causing more than one calm façade to crack.

“I (was) getting really frustrated,” Tim Kapustka said.

That is funny, because it was Kapustka’s idea. Last summer, while camping near Telluride, Kapustka awoke with a fully fledged concept for a show. Six months later, it came to fruition and will open to the public Friday.

“Previously Entitled” brings 21 Durango and Cortez artists together with 21 “titlers” from across the country. The titlers were writers, bloggers and other wordy people who were instructed to name yet-to-be works of art.

“I started putting words together,” said Dan Smarsch, a titler from Rochester Hills, Mich. “I chose to come up with something a little more abstract - something I felt like I could interpret many ways.”

Smarsch eventually came up with the title “Broken” but has yet to learn who will be creating the piece.

“I’d rather see what they did with the title (and not) color or influence (it),” Smarsch said. “It’s like it’s own little petri dish, free from outside influences.”

Durango artist Elizabeth Kinahan, on the other hand, had direct contact with her titler, Matt Schwarz from Chicago.

“We’ve been talking back and forth a couple of times about what he had in mind,” Kinahan said.

“But he absolutely (didn’t) want me to be influenced by what he was thinking.”

For many artists, coming up with an idea wasn’t the problem, but rather adhering to it once the barrage of tangents and other ideas occurred.

Therein lies the complexity of Kapustka’s seemingly simple idea: How do you promote the artistic process while simultaneously containing it? Previously Entitled is essentially an exercise in testing the adaptability of creativity.

“You start with this rigid confinement – no matter how abstract your title,” Kapustka said.

Even longtime Durango artist Maureen May was not immune to the challenges of the project. May’s title, authored by local Clint McKnight, was “Cinnamon Teal.”

“Instead of (working) with what grows and comes from your head, you’re working with somebody else’s process,” May said.

However, she said, “To me, it’s thrilling. That’s what art is about – putting yourself in situations and solving problems.”

These unconventional shows and experiments is what Studio & has become known for since opening in 2010.

“We’ve set it up so we can do any theme of show,” Kapustka said. “What makes it possible is the wonderful art community.”

Previously Entitled brings together familiar names: Miki Harder, Stew Mosberg, Haz Said, Shay Lopez and many others.

“I’m totally confident that people are going to love this,” Kapustka said.

“Knowing the process myself and knowing the talent of the artists involved, it’s going be good.”

Margaret Hedderman is a freelance writer based in Durango. Reach her at

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