Taking a big view toward art
Where once stood a bear, two rivers now meet.It all came about when Bob Durand and Annie Hoghaug, owners of Colorado Canoe & Kayak at 910 Grand Ave., in Glenwood Springs, decided after two years in their current location that it was time to say farewell to the 22-foot tall bear mural painted on the outside, north-facing brick wall of their store. The bear, which held in its massive paw a basket of toys, including a small teddy bear, had once attracted attention to the Giggling Grizzly gift shop.Prior to the gift shop, the space housed a bar. The canoe shop, which was located across Grand Avenue for seven years, moved in shortly after the gift shop closed. “We wanted something a little more appropriate for our store,” said Durand.The store owners were familiar with a local muralist, Fred Haberlein, and had seen his work. “I’m a fan of big murals,” said Durand. “I’m pretty in awe of Fred. He’s a neat artist.” They contacted Haberlein, who accepted the challenge without hesitation.Haberlein, who also goes by Lightning Heart, a name given him by the Yaqui Indians, is one of America’s most prolific muralists. The No Name artist currently has 119 murals to his credit, including several at various locations in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Leadville and Snowmass Village. Most of his works are located in southern Colorado. “I’ve been wanting for so long to get one on the main street of Glenwood Springs,” said Haberlein as he stood back to observe his work. In just two days, he had managed to paint over the bear, sketch in Mount Sopris, and create the rocks and plants along the riverbank where the Roaring Fork and Crystal rivers meet just below Carbondale.A closer look, however, reveals a small bear face about halfway up the 10-and-a-half-foot wide, 22-foot-tall mural. “I couldn’t quite cover him up,” said Haberlein, who incorporated the face out of respect for its unknown artist. “He’s sort of the resident spirit of the thing, you know, the `Spirit Bear.’ I wanted to preserve some little hint of that painting.”Haberlein doesn’t only paint big art. Several of his smaller works are located in homes and offices throughout America, including one in New York City and one in Quito, Ecuador. He also instructs art classes, including “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” through Colorado Mountain College. But his heart is in painting murals.When he passes down Grand Avenue, he said, he doesn’t see blank walls on the sides of buildings. He sees giant canvases and showcase places for works of public art. He is very passionate about public art and hopes, through his work, to raise awareness of art and how it can enhance and improve a community’s image.”If done right, murals really do enliven and enrich a town,” he said.He has a series in mind for Glenwood Springs, he said, one that is in reverence for the Native American Utes that once occupied this land, and for the vast nature that surrounds the area. His target canvases lie on the side of Anderson’s Clothing, the CMC district office, perhaps the Springs Theatre, and other locations.”Us artists, we are always scheming, always thinking,” he said with a grin.Haberlein doesn’t work from sketches. Rather, he surveys his canvas, considers what message needs to be exuded, then lets each wall tell him what it wants. To a skeptic, that may sound a bit New Age-ish, but it works for Haberlein, and it works well. “Of you just look at it with that eye, then it just tells you how to compose it,” he said.With this particular mural, one of his main concerns was how people will see it at a glance as they drove past, since that’s exactly how most people will see it. He also considered how people waiting at the bus stop in front of the U.S. Forest Service next door will see it.”It has to be real strong,” said Haberlein, again surveying the mural. Mount Sopris and the confluence immediately catch the eye. The waves push off of the riverbanks, and from a side window of the wall, which he also incorporated into the mural. Using acrylic paints (they work best outdoors, he says), he quickly fills blank white spaces with waves, waterfowl and other wildlife.Originally, he said, he envisioned a lady kayaker hitting the large wave in the center. But since the store caters to all whitewater sports, he and the owners agreed that a pure and simple river scene would please lovers of waters sports as well as those who simply love the river and surrounding scenery.As he worked away on Monday, several people stopped to admire his work and exchange salutations. Others just sized up the mural as they passed by. “There’s just something different about doing a really big painting,” said Haberlein, as he prepared to go back to work. “I just really like it.”
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