Acrylic paintings by Robert Spellman. From left to right: Garrison Beetle V, Garrison Beetle VIII, Lateral Lady Beetle.
“I often paint in series,” shares recently retired professor Robert Spellman, the artist behind this issue’s cover image, Boulder Creek III. “[I do this] partly because it is an accepted custom among painters everywhere, and partly because I can never quite make up my mind what a painting ought to be, so I try different approaches to work that out.”
This was the approach he took with the Boulder Creek series he painted for a solo exhibition at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder in early 2018. The three paintings are quite large—nine and a half by ten feet—one of which is covered in pre-owned clothing splashed with acrylic.
“The Boulder Creek paintings came out of a sense of respect for local water courses,” says Spellman. “Respect for water courses is a very ancient and universal custom incompatible with a dualistic worldview. I heard that in the 1960s, Boulder Creek was a neglected mess, the go-to place to dump old tires and washing machines. Imagine! I’m grateful that it was well cleaned up by inspired citizen initiatives by the time I moved here in 1991.”
As Spellman ends his time teaching at Naropa, he is beginning a new chapter of Dharma Art and contemplative practice offerings. “My wife Joan Anderson and I are currently building Mountain Water, an artists’ refuge and land restoration laboratory in southern Colorado, the culmination of a twenty-five-year vision,” he says. “It’s not hard to imagine the facility we are building becoming a satellite of Naropa University, where students can experience immersive meditation, creativity, and land stewardship.”
As Spellman looks back at his time at Naropa, he says he was always surprised how naturally artistic so many of the students were. “Many of them see creativity as a way of being rather than a career choice,” he says. “This has been continually instructive to me.”
Robert Spellman with MFA Theater: Contemporary Performance students and faculty the day of graduation. Photo courtesy of Chie Saito.
Robert Spellman teaching the final ‘Introduction to Drawing’ class of his career at Naropa. Photo: Cassandra Smith