Murder brought end to career of up-and-coming artist
The shock from the shooting death of artist and Glenwood Springs resident Tom Lubchenco had just begun Monday to ripple through the local arts community Monday.
Lubchenco was working the night shift at Wal-Mart when he reportedly confronted a robber and was shot.
“He was one of our most loyal artists,” said Gayle Mortell, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts. He had entered every art show in the past year and was excited about future shows. “His talent was just growing by leaps and bounds,” she said.
Two of Lubchenco’s paintings, “Enfant Terrible” and “Muse,” are on exhibit through June 24 at the Center for the Arts.
Lubchenco was known for his thought-provoking, tantalizing, and award-winning realistic and abstract paintings. “Enfant Terrible,” an oil on canvas, took fourth place at the 2001 Valley Visual art show in Carbondale.
In his own brief autobiography, Lubchenco explained how he was in his third year at the University of Colorado Medical School when he decided, after belatedly following “the philosopher’s dictum to know thyself,” that he would rather be a painter than a doctor, “whatever the consequences.”
He was a self-taught painter who learned by trial and error and made many messes along the way. He admitted to borrowing from other painters. “To a point, you are what you steal. (That’s original.)” he wrote. He admired many painters, including local still life painter Daniel Sprick, whose works he described as, “whimsical poetry, exhilarating use of color, damned difficult subjects …”
In addition to being a great artist, Lubchenco had a great personality, said Mortell, a “wonderful presence.”
“He will be missed, there’s no doubt about that,” said artist Nancy Martin. She recalled the first time Lubchenco entered the Glenwood Springs Art Guild’s Fall Art Festival about five years ago. All of his works in the bargain bin, where the public can purchase original, signed art for $100 or less, sold out, and his gallery pieces gained a lot of attention.
“We were all curious to meet the guy,” she said.
Lubchenco was “quintessentially involved in so many levels of art,” said Martin. He took time to investigate his subjects and look deep into the meaning of his work.
“He was an allegorical painter,” she said. “Everything he painted told a story and had lasting depth and meaning and was identifiable to many people.”
One such “identifiable” painting was titled “Cora Foreshortened.” Lubchenco had captured his own daughter in a defiant and most obstinate pose, with an equally determined expression on her face, standing arms crossed and looking up from a black and white tiled floor. The piece was a finalist in the American Artist magazine’s Realism Today competition, and was featured in the magazine’s October 2000 issue.
“Every parent in the world has seen that look,” said Martin.
Lubchenco also a frequent writer of letters to the editor, and didn’t hold back on opinion.
Lubchenco was pleased that he had sold many paintings, won numerous awards, and had had his paintings displayed in shows, on restaurant walls, and in local papers.
“A painting,” he wrote, “can be a thing of beauty, an intensely personal statement, or a tool of protest or subversion. Whatever the goal, it is a painter’s job to communicate, and I use realism to reach the most people. Realistic art meets squarely the challenges and risks of drawing and color mixing; and if a painting is to unsettle someone, which is no small achievement for a painting, it must be an idea that is at least recognizable.”
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The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association is working with local businesses and organizations to celebrate the spirit of Strawberry Days with a Berry Special Weekend from June 18-20, according to a news release.