What a fabulous experience we had a few weeks ago! At the Gage Academy of Art fundraiser we received tickets to a cocktail party at Utopian Heights Studios, the home of artists Nancy Mee and Dennis Evans. From the moment we stepped off the sidewalk and into their front gate, we were transported into a place of creativity and wonder. Wide glass doors with adorable dragon handles lets you know that something special is inside. Fascinating Northwest Native masks and Asian objets d’art covered the walls of every room, and Dennis & Nancy have used their considerable artistic talents to craft metal, wood, stone, and found items into functional elements that are part of the architecture. The bathroom counter is one long sweeping curve of wood, the stair and loft railings are unique arcs of metal inset with frosted glass that they crafted in their own workshops, and metal plumb bobs on wires climb their way up the narrow staircase to Dennis’s studio. After welcoming us into their home and letting us explore (every room was a different theme), they fed us and took us on a tour of their artist’s studios.
Nancy and Dennis were delightful, funny, and down-to-earth. They told stories reaching back to their early days as young fledgling artists with hardly a nickel to their name, and how Nancy discovered her talent for welding and glass was a fabulous “Well-I’ll-try-it-why-not” story that had everyone laughing at her nerve – and in awe of her talent. We had a wonderful time.
Dennis and Nancy also created two wonderful gardens – not only around their primary home, but they bought the home next door as well and refurbished it. Then in September of 2001, they and several friends and staff members planned to rip out weeds and start something new … just on the day the Twin Towers fell. September 11, 2001. Of course Dennis and Nancy told everyone the garden work was off for that day…but after a few hours, people started showing up at the little house next door anyway. Deeply affected by what had happened, they came together unasked to be together in a collective desire to build something beautiful. The result is the wonderful Garden of Souls and it is open to anyone who wants to come by for a quiet moment in a truly tranquil and wondrous world. (Much thanks to “The Intercontinental Gardner” for borrowing some of her pictures for this post.)
For their latest artistic endeavor, Nancy and Dennis had just finished preparing a whole group of paintings and sculptures for an exhibition and sale called “Prospero’s Books” and we got to see them before they were sent to the Friesen Art Gallery in Sun Valley, Idaho. They were absolutely beautiful and the story behind them brings adventure: it’s based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, where magician Prospero was the Duke of Milan until his brother Antonio betrayed him and took his position. Antonio left Prospero to die on a raft at sea, but his servant Gonzalo gave him supplies and his magical books so he had the source of his power. Prospero landed on an island, where he’s been for twelve years. He uses the magic from his books to make things right and get justice from his brother Antonio. I’ll post the pictures of those wonderful creations in a few days…