Walking in Shay’s shoes

Durango artist exhibits versatility in one-man show

Artist Shay Lopez isn’t one to dabble in just one medium. He’ll debut new sculptures tonight with “Off the Cuff & Underfoot” at Studio &. Enlarge photo

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald

Artist Shay Lopez isn’t one to dabble in just one medium. He’ll debut new sculptures tonight with “Off the Cuff & Underfoot” at Studio &.

Ask Shay Lopez about his artistic process and what you will get is a series of nouns.

“It’s like jazz or improv, like playing with an EtchASketch. I pick one line and go with it,” Lopez said.

Probing a little deeper uncovers a philosophy that boils down to consistent receptivity without fixed expectation.

“The way I make art and live my life is ‘take it as it comes, create it as it comes.’ It’s not like I set out to create a particular body of work. I didn’t know what it would be until it was done,” he said.

Lopez will debut his newest works tonight at “Off the Cuff & Underfoot: Paintings & Flip Flops,” at Studio &. They reflect a range of passions. Hanging sculpture, figures painted on wood and a family of nonrepresentational pieces struck in bold color sum up an artist who has never liked to work in just one medium, artistically or literarily.

Born and raised near Tucson, Ariz., Lopez earned amasters in fine arts in nonfiction writing at the University of Arizona. The MFA was a chance for him to not only deepen his writing skills but also to live in Tucson in a different capacity than when he was growing up.

“There, I could explore my roots, hone my craft,” he said.

Lopez continues to hone his writing as a contributor to the Durango Telegraph and by writing his fictionalized memoir.

Lately, however, it has been painting and sculpting, not writing, that fuel Lopez’s expression. His striking new paintings, worked onto found-wood canvases, are a medley of primary color, leaping at the eye in broad strokes and circular swirls. This colony of paintings plays with a unified color palate and experiments with scale. But even in the largest painting, people get the impression that they’re looking at a section of a larger cacophony. These works, as yet unnamed, were”a nice break” from his other projects, inspired by “the beautiful weather and coming of spring ... full of energy.”

Tapping history for inspiration, Lopez painted “Young Gun,” a ghostly black-and-white figure on discarded wood, as part of a series based on Augustine Casasole’s photographs of the Mexican Revolution. He characterizes his figure paintings as “more deliberate” than the bright mash-ups that visitors will experience on his larger canvases.

Lopez’s sculpture takes a macabre turn. “To a Desert Childhood,” a piece mounted to the wall, features “found, dead things,” including a large succulent leaf, now dry, and a cat skull. All of these items, he said, were once sitting on top of his refrigerator until he felt moved to unite them.

Today’s show will mark Lopez’s second solo exhibit at Studio &, a collective that he joined in January 2011. The collaborative energy at play in &’s combined work space and gallery revealed new horizons for Lopez.

“Since being with &, I have discovered how fun and powerful it is to work with other people. The art thrives from a sharing of ideas,” he said.

That group awareness has helped Lopez undertake his most surprising project yet – handmade flip-flops. After meeting local cobbler Mervin Stilson, their friendship and mutual shoemaking took off. Lopez’s line of all-leather flip-flops, branded “& Friends Footwear,” brings together the extended members of the Studio & family and represents the gallery’s inclusive vibe.

For Lopez, choosing one passion is out of the question.

“The way I live my life, I enjoy many things. I don’t ever want to be known as the guy doing ‘that thing,’” he said.

With a body of work this diverse, you could credit Lopez with making something for everyone.

chelseaterrisrose@hotmail.com. Chelsea Terris is a freelance writer and social-media specialist.

Shay Lopez dresses up his custom-made “& Friends Footwear” with hand-painted canvas top soles. Enlarge photo

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald

Shay Lopez dresses up his custom-made “& Friends Footwear” with hand-painted canvas top soles.