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Local artist Denise Henley draws from the joy of local connection

Mountain Fair weekend often has all of the action over at Sopris Park, but this year one local artist is encouraging visitors and locals to take a quick detour to and from the party. Denise Henley is a Roaring Fork resident, and currently sells paintings through digital marketplaces from galleries in far away places. Now, she is selling a large portion of her works to make room for a new phase and packing the walls of Thunder River Theatre. KDNK’s Hattison Rensberry asked Henley about why she chose to have this art sale so close to home.

"Henley: Oh, well, Thunder River is the performing arts. I'm the visual arts. Why not combine the two? And the reason I'm having this event is because artists, they don't like to be contained too much. You can't really put us in a box. When you're selling your work in a gallery, they tend to do that, and that's because it's the only way they can market you. I get it. We will break out from what it is we're known for and try other things. So you end up with a collection of things that normally you will not put in a gallery. So I have this huge collection, and I thought it's time to move it. Why not have a big art sale? And why not TRTC.

Rensberry: This show seems to be a retrospective of your career so far, but the parts that people haven't really gotten to see, what phase of your style and technique might be featured the most prominently?

Henley: So I'm really known as a figurative artist, but of course I dabble in other things, landscapes, still life. This show actually has a variety of all the different styles. I've been experimenting with different mediums, of course, oil, acrylic, pastel. I think I have one pencil in it. You know, I have brush work. I have pallet knife work. I really love working with the pallet knife. It helps me to loosen up and not be so rigid and get caught up in the details and too much realism. I want to sort of get this out there and then start fresh again, and I'm not sure at this point what direction I'm gonna be moving in. It might be more of the same, but I have a feeling that it's, it's gonna be something different and I can't wait to see what it's gonna be.

Rensberry: You do a lot of figurative art and you do quite a lot of portraits. Are there any faces in this show that locals to Carbondale might recognize?

Henley: My daughter, Emily Henley, she is featured in a lot of my work. Oh. And I have a very good photographer friend with two gorgeous daughters who also model for me, so they may recognize them as well. That would be Fiona and Julia Moore. And I'm hoping they will be here to attend the show as well.

Rensberry: Would you like to talk a little bit about what people can expect from your opening and what's gonna be happening?

Henley: Yes. We're gonna have an opening at between five and 8:00 PM Friday. We're going to have wine and hor d’oeuvres. I think it's gonna be a lot of fun. I'm just excited to see all the beautiful faces of our valley. You know, hopefully a lot of them show up from Aspen all the way to Glenwood, and just have a chance to be able to talk with them.

I am going to be giving away a painting. It's a model in a red turbin, and every time I've painted it, I've sold it. Now, having said that, because I will repeat an image, but it's always different every time I do it because all of my work is original. I like to try the same subject. In different mediums a lot of times. So I may paint it in pastel and I might do the same subject in oil with a pallet knife. I mean, I may do it again in acrylic, using brushes, you know, just to experiment a little with it. And so that particular image I've done several times. It's won many awards in, in a show, and I have a version of it this time, and it'll be, it is an original and it'll be given away, but the end of it, we will draw a name and the lucky winner will have a free painting. So we ask people to come by, you know, come by, put your name in a hat, and let’s see what happens.

I have quite the variety. I have anything from an 11x14 to a 30x40, and a lot of prices in between. So really and truly there's something for everyone. Plus my cards, my greeting cards. I have a few of those as well. So even if all you want is a little takeaway. And those cards are done on lovely paper so you can mat them and frame them as a painting if you want to purchase a card and then do that. I have several of my patrons who do that with my greeting cards.

Rensberry: Well, is there anything you'd like to say about what this sale means for you?

Henley: This sale really is a way for me to share my work with locals, not just locals, people visiting too. I imagine there are gonna be a lot of out-of-towners. I hope, I hope they will come. I'm selling my work right now through online galleries, London, Paris, and California. And this is an opportunity for me to have people in the valley show up for me to see their faces, meet them, get to know them, and get to share my love, which is art. It’s, it's my air. And to be able to take a piece of that, and if I can share it with them, that would mean so much to me, and that's why I'm having this big sale. And so the, the pieces are really very much discounted. It's not something I've I've ever done before, so it's new to me. I don't know what to expect, but, I wanna have fun and I really, really hope that people will come by and we will just have a glass of wine and we can talk about art. It's a beautiful thing."

Henley’s art sale is at Thunder River Theatre from July 28th through July 30th. More information on the artist and her event is available at:

Hattison Rensberry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Drawing, but has worked for newsrooms in various capacities since 2019.
She also provides Editorial Design for the Sopris Sun.