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Charu Colorado art sale marks end of an era

The life work of the late artist Charu Colorado of Ashland is being shown and sold at a combined silent auction and fixed-prices sale through Sunday, Feb. 3, at Briscoe ArtWing, which will soon be closing. The noted artist died at 98 on Christmas Day, 2018.

The show began during Ashland’s First Friday art walk and will continue through the weekend, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Colorado’s vibrant art loops in oil paintings, drawings, mixed media, collage, found art assemblages and plein air work. She was a voice in the socio-political upheavals of her times, and one notable piece came from a 1966 show that sought to express the passions and visions after the 1965 Watts riots — and actually used objects found in burned buildings of the event.

It’s called “Race, Baby,” and its opening bid is $1,200, with value stated at $3,000. The show, “66 Signs of Neon,” was mounted at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, toured the U.S. and was revived for a 2015 showing at LACMA.

A native of Colorado, she spent most of her career in Los Angeles, moving to Ashland in 1993 when her Venice neighborhood got too dangerous, said her daughter, artist Carol Saturensky-Young, who makes hats at Briscoe and is managing the show with her husband, Jim Young, chairman of the nonprofit Lithia Arts Guild.

Saturensky was the artist’s birth name and, asked why her mother didn’t find greater fame, Carol Saturensky-Young said, “She was on track to becoming famous, but she was Ruth Saturensky and, in the middle of her career, she changed her name.”

According to a bio-sketch by her daughter, the artist’s life included “experimenting with improv theater expanding into art therapy which used art, dreams, astrology and color healing,” working with such notables as Virginia Satir, Noah Purifoy and Pano Douvos. She taught right-brain drawing, a multifaceted approach to coaching called “Transform Yourself.”

Touring the art show, her daughter notes of one assemblage, “Look, she took a lot of disparate things, an old tin car, a McDonald’s lid, things people would throw away, and she would make art of it. She was so creative and self-directed, but needed a team of people to help her make things happen and get her creative power to work.”

In youth, for example, she knew she needed to see the art of Europe but didn’t have the money, so, said Saturensky-Young, she organized a “Painting Safari of Italy and France,” paid for by students.

Her passions for art first burst to life, she adds, when her mother, on a family trek to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, first viewed Van Gogh’s “Wheatfield” up close. “She was a child and she got lost and they couldn’t find her. They finally found her collapsed in front of that painting, crying and knowing what she must do with her life.”

Native Brazilian clothing artist Luciene Cruz of Ashland, who modeled for Colorado, notes, “She was very much a woman’s woman. She was not afraid to tell you if you were doing something wrong. Very few people have the courage to tell it like it is. She wanted the truth, the naked truth. That was the only way for her.”

Saturensky-Young adds, “She pushed it over the edge and just wouldn’t give up She wanted people who were direct, honest and not lying and hiding things from her. She taught art to a lot of children, and some of them went on to be artists for life.”

Colorado lived in Ashland until three or four years ago when rent hikes forced a move to Talent, where her daughter and son-in-law live. She died there peacefully on Christmas morning, they said, surrounded by her family.

Colorado’s show marks a closing event at 6,000-square-foot Briscoe ArtWing, which, for 13 years, housed Lithia Arts Guild, and held an Artists in Residency Program, Midsummer’s Dream Art & Music Festival, Holiday Market and other events. It houses 16 practicing artists.

The city of Ashland in 2018 bought the building at the corner of North Main and Laurel streets, which was Briscoe Elementary School until it closed in 2004. It also houses the Oregon Child Development Center. The Arts Guild will end its stay at Briscoe March 1.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

A portrait of the artist Charu Colorado as a young woman. Courtesy photo
Charu Colorado works on a sculpture in her Ashland studio in 2008. Mail Tribune / file photo