When I think of Cris Winters' work, I think texture. Her Pink House Gallery downtown is full of different layers.
Sometimes it is overt, as when she uses multimedia techniques to create a mood or landscape. Other times it is conceptual, where her work suggests depths that are not physically there.
But always, there is a great engagement with nature, which is a constant theme in her work. She is adept at many different mediums, from printing on silk scarves to using the pressed flowers, leaves, and bark she adds to paintings and photographs.
Celebrate the Adirondacks
Cris has a background in ecology and a love of the Adirondacks. Both of these combine to inspire art from her experiences.
A favorite medium is eco-prints, which are also called botanical contact prints. The idea is based on the process of taking plants and plant parts, flowers and stems, and laying them on fabric or paper that has been treated to accept the plant pigments. Like pressed flowers, the base layers are stacked or rolled (in the case of fabrics) with steam or solvents to help the pigments transfer.
Cris says, "I get all kinds of really amazing results, often unexpected things. Not all good, of course, sometimes it's mud, like it got dropped in the road. But it is exciting to see what happens, learning all the time what really works."
I am a big fan of her work. A few years ago my holiday gift from my husband was a paired winter landscape piece, "Fresh Snow, I & II." The soft fabric parts reminded me of snow, and the colors were reminiscent of all the cool colors trapped in fresh snow, which tends to be blues and pinks and purples.
I also love how this piece can be hung in different configurations, letting me add my own compositional outlook.
Cris does a lot of work with nature's blues and greens, some of my favorite colors.
As seen below, her deconstructed screen printing technique creates three dimensional texture and shadow.
I really enjoy the way Cris' work encourages my eyes to see nature with a different slant.
A practical side
I like having pretty things around me that also have a purpose — a scarf that is lovely to look at and also keeps the breeze off my neck, or a beautiful bowl to keep my flash drives in. This is a way to enjoy art without setting it off in a place by itself. I get to see it every day when I use it every day.
As Cris tells me, "Artists need to be supported, so why not go into a local store and buy a card or pair of earrings?"
I find such gifts to be extra special for the person I am buying for, because it's unlikely they have ever gotten anything like it before.
One of the attractions of the Pink House Gallery would be the classes Cris offers. They make a delightful addition to that next girl's weekend. Cris says, "I have invented a way of printing on silk with plants using acrylic. Choose a dye color, and then people can go home with a finished scarf from a two-hour class."
The gallery is also open for the popular fall studio tours (see last year's schedule) and Third Thursday Art Walks. Cris is all about what art can bring to a community. She says a group of three or four is ideal for her classes, and then everyone gets their own work to take home.
As seen below, this "memory piece" suggests all the different layers that connect our memories; in this case, her childhood in the Girl Scouts.
"I was a girl scout from 8 to 18!" Cris says. As explained on her blog, crisniche.blogspot.com:
My fondness for so many of those experiences led me to collect a modest number of old Brownie and Girl Scout manuals, including two elderly versions of the Girl Scout Handbook, third (1936) and fourth (1938) editions. For quite awhile, I have thought about using those books in my art pieces to pay some kind of tribute to what I owe Juliette Gordon Low and all my troop leaders. The materials above are being made into a collage with the pages from one of my books, fabrics, embroidery thread, paint, and some of the buttons from my friend Joan's vast collection.
Though to Cris, art is an aesthetic, not so much a purpose. Her great love of eco-printing combines with her multi-model approach for her own interpretation of what she experiences. She never stops learning, as she is currently enjoying online classes with a fiber art teacher. “I need a kick in the pants and she is going to give it to me.”
This is part of a new phase in her career in the different ways she uses her gallery. "My dream did come true, I had wonderful artists, it was really fun, but at a certain point, it started feeling like having openings every month all by myself was exhausting. I've been tapering off since the end of 2016."
In any season, there's a great excuse to get in touch for her opening hours. Look for her work in other area galleries!