Painters Elizabeth Robbins and Shanna Kunz are award winning artists, business partners, neighbors and best friends. The former owners of the beloved Bella Muse Gallery, which closed its doors after five years on Historic 25th Street just this December, are based in Ogden but have exhibited their work in art markets throughout the west including Park City, Bozeman, Sun Valley and more. Robbins’ infatuation with flowers characterize her classically beautiful still life paintings, while Kunz’ connection to the outdoors informs her emotive landscapes.
Robbins and Kunz are well connected in the western art world, which is how they met ten years ago. Showing in the same art markets and even the same galleries brought them into contact online before meeting in person during a solo show for Kunz at Mountain Trails Gallery in Park City. The artists attended a workshop together shortly after in Tucson, Arizona and quickly became career companions and close friends. A series of serendipitous events led Robbins, who had grown up near Salt Lake City but had since moved to Kansas and then Colorado, to buy a house directly next door to Kunz in Ogden. Both had at-home studios at the time, so would drag a beanbag chair back and forth to “talk art” as they worked. Eventually they began to fantasize about shared studio space and, just as all successful businesses begin, jotted down their ideas on a napkin while out to lunch. Within two weeks, they were signing a lease and Bella Muse Gallery was born.
Bella Muse served as the artists’ collaborative studio and gallery where, in addition to creating and selling their own work, they represented more than thirty western artists over the gallery’s five-year span. Robbins and Kunz were committed to educating the local community on the values of owning original art, and helped many first time buyers in growing their collection. Art Stroll often brought 200 to 300 people through their space, where Robbins and Kunz also hosted “demo days,” energy healings and other community art events.
While Bella Muse was a napkin-dream come true, both artists are ready to shift their full attention back to personal studio practice. The Monarch is thrilled to have such renowned painters energize our creative space where, in addition to dedicated studio time, Robbins and Kunz look forward to continuing art education initiatives such as painting demos, workshops and more.
Learn more about the work of each artist below and join us at The Monarch this spring to meet them in person!
Elizabeth Robbins lives among the flowers she paints. Her backyard garden has over 80 rosebushes, at least a dozen peonies, dahlias, delphiniums, fruit trees, grape vines and more. As the season allows, Robbins spends at least two hours in her garden every morning before she begins to paint. “I planted them, watered them, pruned them and weeded them,” says Robbins of her paintings’ floral subjects. “The love I have for my subject matter transfers to the canvas.”
Robbins’ personal connection with flowers and gardening began when she was just a little girl, helping her grandmothers identify flowers and prune rosebushes near their cabin in Oakley, Utah. In addition to flowers Robbins works in portraiture and western motifs including Native American people and artifacts.
Robbins also shares her talents through Bella Muse Productions, where she helps budding artists find their voice and hone their skill. Her at home painting studio doubles as a film set where she shoots online tutorials, painting tips, workshops and instructional DVDs for students around the country. Watch her videos or sign up for a course at www.bellamuseproductions.com.
Robbins has received numerous awards including "Best Still Life" and "Best of Show" at the National Oil and Acrylic Painter's Exhibit and the "Tuffy Berg Award" at the 2008 CM Russell auction. She is represented by seven galleries throughout the west.
Whether it’s a past memory, emotional experience or sentimental feeling, Shanna Kunz has a personal relationship with every landscape she paints. Rather than replicate what she sees with precise realism, Kunz paints the essence of a place with a temperate palette, blurred forms and visual brushstrokes. Her beginnings as a portrait painter translate into her landscapes as she aims to reveal the soul or spirit of her subject matter.
Raised and rooted in the west, Kunz has a fondness for the outdoors that shows through her work. “My dad used to pack all the kids into the back of his old Chev and drive up Weber Canyon to Christmas Meadows and go camping there,” she says. “It gave me an affinity to the landscape that came out later in my paintings.”
When it comes to her aesthetic, Kunz resonates with tonalism and impressionism and is particularly inspired by the work of Dwight Tryon and John Henry Twachtman. Kunz often paints en plein air, which adds richness and honesty to the work that viscerally affects the viewer. “I want to be able to step into the painting…to feel like I’m there,” she says. “And I want the people who view my paintings to feel like they’re there as well.”
Kunz has been featured in Western Art & Architecture Magazine, Southwest Art Magazine, Western Art Collector and more. She is represented by six galleries throughout the west.