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SHY RABBIT features works by Pagosa artist Chris Haas in ‘Down To The Bone’

Be among the dozens of enthusiastic local and out-of-town visitors who have already enjoyed “Down To The Bone” at SHY RABBIT Contemporary Arts, on display from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. daily, and evenings by appointment.

This critically acclaimed two-person show continues through July 31, featuring 24 uniquely creative sculptures by Colorado artists Chris Haas and Amy K. Wendland.

Using wood, bone, hair, dried plants and discarded mechanical parts, Wendland enters into a dialog of discovery and recognition, addressing human foibles and fears with humor and integrity.

Incorporating mixed media, Haas infuses a mystical aura into reclaimed animal skulls, meticulously reanimating them back into a different dimension and character.

By combining found objects and natural materials, Haas and Wendland get, “Down To the Bone,” breathing new life into the previously abandoned and long forgotten, and creating a vibrant new world without rules.

These artworks are intended to attract and disquiet, to seduce and repel. To bring harmony and imbalance. They are foreign and odd, yet curiously familiar.

Pagosa artist, Chris Haas was born in Hays, Kans., in 1973. He began developing his own personal style at a very early age, and was never without a drawing tablet.

In contrast to the simple Kansas environment, the characters he drew came from an imagined distortion of reality combined with an overpowering desire to create.

Haas left Kansas in 1991, and headed to southwest Colorado to snowboard the bottomless powder of Wolf Creek, while continuing to solidify his own signature style.

His passion for art has now turned into a preoccupation with collecting animal skulls.

Using mixed media and meticulous craftsmanship, Haas breaths new life into discarded and long forgotten animal skulls, providing them with a second lease on life.

Realistic lion eyes shine out of a deer skull that has been placed on an ornately scrolled mount and finished with a jeweled third eye.

“Using clay, latex, wood, jewelry, taxidermy products and paint, I employ the skulls as my canvases”, states Haas.

“Each skull is unique and specific in its necessary preparation, design, and level of involvement.”

Haas sometimes acquires skulls that are completely clean, and in need of only minor repairs.

More often than not though, he finds or is provided with skulls that require an extensive amount of cleaning, a labor-intensive process that can take days, if not months, to complete.

Once the skull is clean and dry, Haas prepares the skull for mounting, and then designs and draws the initial layout for the clay work.

The clay work begins with fairly crude shapes, which are progressively established by adding more clay, removing clay, carving, cutting, sanding, and constant visual analysis.

Once the clay work is done, Haas finishes it with caulk to smooth it to the skull.

Taxidermy ear liners are covered in latex, detailed with more clay, and then primed, painted, and clear-coated.

Eye sockets are painstakingly formed to accommodate taxidermy glass eye lenses, which are often custom-ordered to fit the nature, color, and overall character of the animal skull that Haas is creating.

Haas then installs the eyelids, which are made of chamois leather, and then blends them into the sockets with foam and latex, and finishes them with paint.

Although the decorative medallion is prefabricated, an extensive amount of work goes into detailing and painting the wood.

The final step is the application of the jewelry detail, or the “jeweled third eye” as Haas refers to it, to the skull., completing the design process.

Haas’s creatures are then provided with names befitting of their nature and character, such as the small but enormously compelling feline skull now known to the world as “Petro”, and the sly and eerily engaging Javelina skull called “Larry”.

“I am truly grateful for the gift of nature and for the privilege to adorn its bony leftovers”, Haas concludes.

Additional information about Haas and Wendland will appear in future PREVIEW articles.

SHY RABBIT Contemporary Arts; Gallery, Studio and Workshops is located at 333 Bastille Drive; two blocks north of U.S. 160, off of North Pagosa Boulevard, west of the City Market complex.

The 4,000 square-foot art complex houses a fine art gallery and working ceramic studio, two mixed-media workshops and rotating exhibition spaces.

For more information on SHY RABBIT, visit www.shyrabbit.com or call 731-2766.

SHY RABBIT is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at no charge, and evenings by appointment. Ample parking is available in front of the building.

For more information on SHY RABBIT, visit www.shyrabbit.com or call 731-2766.

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