Gail Wanman Holstein, a student of CMC art faculty member and artist Chris Anderson, writes about Anderson’s work, life and her exhibit at CMC Aspen
By Gail Wanman Holstein
For most artists, mounting an exhibit of 30 years of one’s work would be a daunting task, fraught with pressure and self-doubt. But for Colorado Mountain College instructor Chris Anderson, it’s just another pearl in the long string of joys in her life.
Because Chris Anderson is happiest when she’s making, teaching or showing art.
Her work will grace the halls and gallery of CMC this fall, starting with a gala opening Thursday, Sept. 22, from 5 to 7 p.m. The public is invited to share Anderson’s visions, in the many mediums she works with. Clay, canvas and oil, glass, textiles, drawing, printing: they’re all fair game for this multitalented artist.
Anderson seems to have done it all. After earning her master’s degree at the University of Denver, she worked at the Aspen Art Museum and Anderson Ranch. But in the tradition of true artists, she has also been employed at an upholstery shop, a supermarket, the Aspen Meadows and public schools. Not to mention her roles as a balloon lady, Girl Scout leader, makeup artist, costume and set designer, and clown. At CMC since 1986, she helped to establish the curriculum for the K-12 and adults’ programs.
Anderson is accessible, a good listener and quick to laugh. Her tastes are eclectic, as demonstrated by a willingness to try almost anything in her art, an adventurous approach to thrift-shop dressing, and being at ease with “being lost.” She considers searching for the way out of the messes she makes as interesting steps along her creative journey.
Early in the journey, in graduate school, Anderson began making her own “maps.” Some of them are exhibited in this show. A few years later she moved on to animals (such as four-legged ceramic chickens on wheels); after that she spent 20 years making angels – some who tote purses and give off a lot of attitude.
Recently, some new women have taken up residence in her head. Many of them are simultaneously beautiful and humorous. “Naked, not nude,” is how she describes them.
As a certified art therapist – another of her qualifications – Anderson has learned to look at her work dispassionately, to
analyze where it came from. What’s with all those armored stegosauruses? Those spiny, defensive porcupines? What about the soft, peaceful doves? They’re all part of an ongoing relationship that she has with her art.
The other relationships that Anderson cares most about are with her daughters, Lily and Katy (neither is an artist, but that’s all right), her significant other Steve Sanchez and Stella the wonder dog.
Somehow, as only a dexterous artist can do, Chris Anderson has managed to distill so much of her life into this one exhibit.
It’s a life well worth examining.