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Event Details

The Firehouse Art Center’s Summer exhibit, “Emergency Blankets”, features Shelby Shadwell’s large-scale charcoal and pastel drawings. Creating on surfaces that can reach sizes of more than six and a half square feet, Shadwell’s work in this series depicts space blankets used for warmth in emergency situations. Shadwell juxtaposes monochromatic rendering with meticulous hyper-realism turning precise observation of these highly reflective images into abstractions.

Shadwell’s goal was to create large scale charcoal and pastel drawings of emergency blankets (solar blankets, space blankets, thermal blankets, etc), whose compact, lightweight material is used to regulate temperatures of things like spacecraft and human bodies in cold circumstances. One might see them packed in a first aid kit for camping or, more poignantly in recent years, wrapped around migrants detained in camps near the border between the US and Mexico.

While the material is cheap and rather flimsy, it has a brilliant sparkling appearance reminiscent of precious stones or metals, thus evoking something like “fool’s gold”. Working with dense layers of charcoal and pastel in an additive and subtractive manner, Shadwell builds highlights and shadows with very dark blacks and bright, sharp whites. These glistening surfaces and intersecting planes maintain themes from Shadwell’s previous works where representations evoke pareidolia, or the perception of recognizable form in a random conglomeration or formation of things.

“I maintain an interest in the implications of how the human mind, as a kind of inference engine, seeks to find patterns where they may or may not exist and how that can lead to the proliferation of things like conspiracy theories.” Shadwell states.

These conspiracy theories play into this subject matter, as due to its similarity to material found at the crash site near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, the blankets also refer to a shared cultural fascination with space travel and the possible existence of extraterrestrial life.

The exhibit opens on July 28, and runs through September 3rd with a reception on August 12th from 6pm-8pm during the Firehouse Art Center Summer Festival, Summer on the Streets. Shadwell will be demonstrating his process during the exhibit reception.

About the Artist
Shelby is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Wyoming. For his research sabbatical from 2021 – 2022, Shelby accepted the Manifest Artist Residency Award, and he spent the year making new work at their Gallery and collaborating on educational opportunities at their Drawing Center in Cincinnati, OH. In 2023, Shelby was the recipient of the Stone & Dequire Contemporary Art Award from Washington University in St. Louis.

2023 solo exhibition venues include Artworks Contemporary Art Center in Loveland, CO, STRATA Gallery in Santa Fe, NM, the Firehouse Art Center in Longmont, CO, and the Kentler International Drawing Space in Brooklyn, NY.

See more and learn more about Shelby Shadwell at his website, www.shelbyshadwell.com.

About Firehouse Art Center: Founded in 1986, the mission of the Firehouse Art Center is to inspire cultural awareness and human connection by providing life enhancing experiences through art exhibitions, art education and cultural events. You can learn more by visiting www.firehouseart.org or call (303) 651-2787.


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