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03 Jan 2018

Putting It All Together: Richard Curtner Is One of the Many Local Talents Taking Part in the Southwest Arts Festival

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"Open Book" by Richard Curtner. "Open Book" by Richard Curtner.

If you resolved to support small businesses, local art and local newspapers in the new year—and you most definitely should have—you can help fulfill those first two resolutions by attending the annual Southwest Arts Festival, coming to the Empire Polo Club Jan. 25-28.

Richard Curtner is one of the local artists who will be featured at the Southwest Arts Festival. How does he describe what he does?

“I call it word-collage art,” he said. “It’s collages created by using hundreds of cutouts of written texts, which form a visual image that can be read and seen.”

He uses donated magazines in his work.

“I am not creating any papers; I use what I find—whatever text and colors to make up the images,” Curtner said. “People have given me magazines for years. Many people would rather give them to me to make a piece out of them than have them end up in a landfill. I am happy to be able to give them another life. My wife keeps telling me, ‘No more.’”

How does Curtner know what to look for as he’s flipping through a donated magazine? “I have been doing this medium for over 18 years,” he explained. “When I look at a magazine, I see things very differently than other people see.”

Curtner came from an artistic family; his mother and grandmother painted, and he started out using oils.

“I really wanted something that was unique, something that was different,” he said. “I always liked the literary arts. That was my way to combine the two together. … I realized that no one at the shows and galleries had been doing anything quite like this.”

I asked how Curtner keeps his art fresh. “I usually just work on one piece at a time,” he said. “I start with an idea or theme, and then I search for the materials. I am constantly looking for colors and words, and then I file them away. It’s my palette. I have a filing system I use to keep organized.

“Lately, I am doing more cityscapes. It gives me an excuse to travel and visit other cities to take photos.”

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Curtner and his wife moved to the Coachella Valley 15 years ago due to the better affordability.

“The weather is perfect during the winters, and I try to do as many shows during the summers as I can,” he said. “The valley shows are during the time of year when the weather is awesome. I personally like the fact I can be at home at night with my wife and two children. I can take the family out to the show, and sometimes I can have my son help me set up before the show.”

Curtner said he’s a big fan of the Southwest Arts Festival.

“Southwest is one the top shows in the country,” he said. “I have been involved with this festival for 12 years consecutively now. I started to go to it as a patron. I really liked the variety of all the different kinds of artwork. I have consistently done well there every year—in fact, I have done better and better each year. I have my collectors who come to this show, because they know I will be there. I wouldn’t be able to keep coming on back if I didn’t get the support, and that’s a big deal.

“The best way to see art is to see it in person. You have to go to a show to really see it. It’s never the same if you see it online as when you see it in person. In person, you can see the text and work that goes into creating it. It takes 40 to 50 hours to assemble a piece, and that doesn’t include the searching time—and that just doesn’t translate to (looking at my works on) the computer.”

The 32nd Annual Southwest Arts Festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 25, through Sunday, Jan. 28, at the Empire Polo Club, 81800 Avenue 51, in Indio. Admission for all four days is $15; children 5 and younger are admitted for free. For tickets or more information, visit www.discoverindio.com/southwest-arts-festival.

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