Backcountry venture 40x30 acrylic dvg 95 n.18.17 vkundw

"Backcountry Venture"

Even if you’ve never heard of David Vincent Gonzales, if you’ve attended events in Summit and Eagle counties, you’re probably familiar with his work. Over the years, the Manitou Springs-based artist has painted commemorative posters for the Vail Film Festival and the USA Pro Challenge, Breck’s National Repertory Orchestra and Ullr Fest, even phone books in Vail and Summit. His subjects tend to be runners, skiers, cyclists, and musicians, with his niche being action sports, the energy of motion rendered in abstract strokes with vibrant splashes of color and an underlying exuberance. It’s a style he credits to growing up in a family of artists in Santa Fe, New Mexico, surrounded by the same rust-dusted landscape that influenced the pastel palette of Georgia O’Keeffe, where the galleries of Canyon Road and stalls in the city’s plaza market were both public school and playground.

“My grandmother had this collection of art supplies in her cabinet, and I would sit outside with my cousin Carlos and copy what he was painting or drawing,” recalls Gonzales, who claims noted santo woodcarver Ben Ortega among his many relations. “My dad was always working on different art projects, too—it all just made such an impression on me.”

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Gonzales’s “Air Glide”

Image: Zach Mahone

A resident of Manitou Springs, Colorado, for the past 20 years, Gonzales harnesses his world of vivid blues, greens, purples, reds, and yellows in a small studio space flooded with natural light that straddles Ruxton Creek as it runs through town. He rarely sits while working—even a recent knee injury that left him on crutches for months couldn’t confine him to a chair—exercising, fasting, meditating, and practicing yoga as the river babbles beneath him. He chooses biking over driving (long hauls to galleries in Breck and Vail Village being the exception), and lives the life of an ascetic, crediting a plant-based diet for much of his energy and mental clarity throughout the day. His work also echoes a similarly environmental emphasis, both from the landscapes that come to dominate his work (portraits of athletes are often subjugated by prominent mountain peaks or multi-hued streaks of wind), and the non-toxic paints, eco-friendly sealers, and made-in-the-USA panels used to create it. It all goes back to those formative days in Santa Fe.

“I was always just surrounded by that type of consciousness growing up in New Mexico,” Gonzales explains. “It was always about helping each other out—not just in my family but in our community—and that rubbed off on me, and I continue to practice that today.”

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Live painting in Breckenridge.

That attitude has won him notice, and commissions. This spring, Gonzales once again will be the Vail Film Festival’s official artist, and he will also be an artist-in-residence at Raitman Art Galleries on Bridge Street in Vail Village, where he’ll be live-painting scenes from iconic ski photography as the main event of a monthlong show (“Powder,” March 16–April 15) that doubles as a benefit for Warren Miller ski film star Chris Anthony’s Youth Initiative Project. He’s also working on an original painting to be auctioned off later this year at a fundraiser for an Anthony documentary about a ski race organized by 10th Mountain Division soldiers on Slovenia’s Mt Mangart at the close of World War II. “David did a painting for my foundation that was auctioned off last year, and I explained this project to him and he fell in love with the topic,” says Anthony. As with his appearance on Bridge Street, one thing’s for certain: it’s going to be colorful, full of energy—and maybe even a little messy.

“When I’m working in my studio, I’m bouncing around more, and I always end up splattering paint on the walls,” he says. “When I’m working in the gallery, I have to be more conservative ... It’s still high-energy, but with a lot less paint flying across the room.”

David Gonzales

March 16–April 15
Raitman Art Galleries

227 Bridge St, Vail Village


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