Painting not to Mesa State’s tastes
California artist Christian Quintin spent five months painting a “whimsical” interpretation of the Grand Valley’s rock formations and rivers to hang in Mesa State College’s Academic Classroom Building.
When his $12,300 painting “Of Stones and Water” arrived at Mesa State College in fall 2009, the whimsy didn’t impress everyone. The painting was displayed briefly before being placed in storage in early 2010, where it remained for more than a year.
Shortly after the painting was removed, Mesa State President Tim Foster wrote a note to the Colorado Council on the Arts, which commissioned the painting and several others for the classroom building, using $93,000 in state funding in accordance with a law that requires 1 percent of state-funded construction-project budgets be used for art. In the letter, Foster said the painting was not what he expected and that the council was free to pick up the painting.
Quintin said he fought for months to see his painting displayed again at Mesa State or any other venue. On Wednesday, Quintin forwarded an email to The Daily Sentinel, which he said was sent to him by Foster, saying the college recently sent the painting back to the council, which now goes by the name Colorado Creative Industries.
Now that the rebuffed painting may be headed for another Colorado building, here’s what some key players in the painting’s selection, creation and rejection have to say about it:
Mesa State College President
In a letter sent Feb. 22, 2010, to the Colorado Council on the Arts: “We have removed the art piece entitled ‘Of Stone and Water’ by Christian Quintin from the Academic Classroom Building. This art piece is not at all reflective of what the committee selected. Further, we requested that you contact the artist to discuss this situation, however, you have declined.
“Therefore, since this art is not consistent with what we commissioned, we will store it safely at the College until which time you may pick it up allowing you to display it at a location of your choice. I am sorry I have to do this, but the committee is firm that the piece of art simply is not consistent with nor reflective of the work that Mr. Quintin presented and that the committee chose.”
Foster is out of town and could not be reached for further comment Wednesday.
“Everyone on the council loved the piece, but Tim Foster refused to display the piece. I called Tim Foster about a week ago and said I understand he didn’t like the piece, but it was like censorship (not to display it). The piece wasn’t bestowed on him. It belongs to the college. He told me my work was not good quality.
“I spent four to five months on that piece. I gave it my best. I wanted to do something that was representative of the desert and the rivers. I wanted it to be an homage to the people of Grand Junction. Ultimately I wish it had been displayed at Mesa State College, but now I’m glad that it will be displayed somewhere.”
Colorado Creative Industries director
“About a month after it was hung, we learned from President Tim Foster that a member of the committee was unhappy with the painting. We suggested moving the painting to another area in the building that would be more appropriate for its scale. This was done in December 2009. In February 2010 we received a letter from President Foster stating ‘this art piece is not at all reflective of what the committee selected’…In March 2010 President Foster asked the Council staff to ask the artist ‘to replace the art with something acceptable to the college.’ The artist refused to replace the painting, so the issue remained unresolved.
“We have not heard from President Foster directly, so no plans have been made for the painting.”
Colorado Creative Industries board member, member of the committee that selected the artists
“I think the piece of art is very good art. I don’t think there’s any problem there. It wasn’t very representative of the samples he showed. The mistake we made on the committee is we should have said give us an example of what you’ll do. The samples he gave us were more soft and flowing, and this was more edgy. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good art.
“I know this wasn’t a decision of the council. It was Mesa State’s decision not to hang it. (Artist selection committee members) Tim Foster and (Mesa State Trustee) Lena Elliott really didn’t like the painting. I don’t think it’s what any of us really expected. I just wish there was someplace we could place it because I think it’s a good piece of art.”
Mesa State College art teacher, member of the committee that selected the artists
“We reviewed the artists’ credentials and also examples of their work. The majority of us, if not all of us, felt very good about Christian’s work. He did tell us what he was going to do, that it was going to be an interpretation of Colorado National Monument.
“I did see it when it arrived here and then was surprised to see it had been removed. A couple of us would be interested in having it in our (Fine Arts) building. I hope the art council can find another place for it. I thought it was very typical of his work and very interesting. It wasn’t very colorful, though.”