Gus Contemporary

On Finding Your Artistic Fit

Some know him as Chris Gruner, while others know him as Gus Contemporary — a pseudonym influenced by his middle name, August. A combination of urban influence from his roots blended with inspiration from the landscape of the Vail Valley brought about this artist’s most well-known pieces. Gus has been a Vail resident for nine years, making his mark in the community as a bellman at The Lodge, a member of the Mountain Art Collective (MAC) and, most recently, as a permanent member of the Vail Farmers’ Market — but always for his art.

Gus Contemporary

Photos by Townsend Bessent

Gus naturally brings a bright personality and a fresh perspective to the Valley, attracting a community around him. From a young age he could be found creating for fun with his triplet brothers, whether it was art projects encouraged by his parents or the black book drawings he immersed himself within. Coming from New York, it was no secret the urban influence carried into his creations, an element that can be found throughout his work today.

The mountains that envelop the Vail Valley are what drew Gus here, but the cultivation of a meaningful community is what kept him here. “All the greatest friends I’ve ever had have lived in Vail. People are here for the right reasons. To be here, to be happy and enjoy the lifestyle,” he says.

Being a full-time artist wasn’t something that always was on the table for Gus, but the connection to the craft has always been there. Senior year of college, Gus was doing well in school and on the fast track to an office job when he realized that path wasn’t meant for him, and his passion for art was still hanging on the sidelines. An open spot in friend Ryan Anderson’s Colorado apartment was an opportunity he couldn’t resist; little did he know that it would lead him to a life filled with art, adventure and community.

When Gus moved to Colorado, he began getting serious about art as a career. Taking it upon himself to study art history, he was able “to formulate a style and new perspectives” about the pieces he’s creating and “how to tie in a realm of understanding” through this self-taught reading, as he puts it. Gus picked up a spot at the Minturn Market, but as time went on, he began looking for something bigger. Four years ago, he began repeatedly applying for a spot in the Vail Farmers’ Market and was taken on by Angela Mueller. Thrilled to be there, Gus showed up on his first day and was welcomed by snow in June. Though he was given the opportunity to leave, he pushed through the summer storm and earned himself a permanent spot. The Vail Farmers’ Market has given him the exposure he had hoped for and allowed him to book commissions with a wide variety of clients.

Gus has been known in the Vail community as someone who wears many hats, and he feels that can be seen in his art as well. Multiple times before, Gus has been asked if his collections are one artist or a combination of many. He feels very grateful to have such a wide-range of projects to work on, helping to prevent the creative blocks and encouraging the evolution of his style. Now occupying his own studio space with a wall completely made of windows, he can often be found there working on a wide range of pieces or gaining inspiration for something new. Art-in-progress is hung from the walls — some made from newspapers and others laid out on the floors. Gus encourages his friends to stop by and feel inspired in the space he has created, no matter their usual medium. If you’re lucky, he may even ask you to walk all over his pieces to spice up the texture.

Gus Contemporary

 

“Certain parts of the business side can be tough, but that never pushes my passion to the ground,” he shares about working as an artist. “Sometimes there can be a lot of pressure to maintain, sometimes repetitive work can be taxing, but it helps you evaluate your gratitude.”

Then, we focused on the positives and discussed the best part of the job. Once again, he was brought back to the theme of community. He often said that the people he’s met in Vail and those that naturally fell into his life were some of his biggest motivators. Surrounding himself with other local artists, like the photographer of this piece, Charles Townsend Bessent, and other members of the Mountain Art Collective — Dave Tucker and Rob Prechtl — has helped him maintain a level of continued inspiration and encouragement. It’s always refreshing to see someone find their “fit,” whether it be a town, in their career or in their artistic style. In the world of Gus Contemporary, it’s clear that Vail is the place for him.

If you’d like to get a hold of Gus or check out his art, you can find him in the summer months at The Vail Farmers’ Market, at his Pitkin Creek Plaza Studio, on Instagram @guscontemporary or via email at guscontemporary@gmail.com.

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