Visual artists Cody Chamberlain and Leonard Starbeck share their ‘Intersections in Nature’ |

Visual artists Cody Chamberlain and Leonard Starbeck share their ‘Intersections in Nature’

The abalone-inlay art of Leonard Starbeck is currently showing in a joint exhibit with painter Cody Chamberlain at the Park City Library. The library will host an artist reception from 4-6 p.m. on Friday, July 19.
Courtesy of Leonard Starbeck

Artist Reception for Cody Chamberlain and Leonard Starbeck

4-6 p.m. on Friday, July 19

Park City Library, 1255 Park Ave.


The Park City Library has given visual artists Cody Chamberlain and Leonard Starbeck the opportunity to share their “Intersections with Nature” with its new exhibit that will be on display through Aug. 25.

Both artists see nature as their muse, but use it in opposite ways.

Chamberlain’s representations

Cody Chamberlain said his abstract paintings are reflections of his experiences.

“What I do is like a reaction to being out in the environment,” he said. “The love of outdoors came from growing up in a family who liked to spend time in cabins and venturing on other activities in nature. And being there puts me in a state of mind where I can come up with creative ideas.”

The artist says that frame of mind is a bit like daydreaming.

“It’s that place where I can dip into the subconscious, and where you are removed from the anxiety of life,” he said.

Still, the cycle of life intrigues Chamberlain.

“In the stark and savage beauty of the desert I see the cycle of life and death exposed,” he said, referring to his artist statement. “I see a skull at the base of a thriving juniper, and the first bloom of a yucca under the specter of a withered pinion pine.”

Chamberlain, who is also a sculptor, was born with the desire to create art, he said.

“I don’t have an exact moment when I decided to do it, because I’ve always been that kid who stayed up all night drawing and doodling,” he said. “I always enjoy using my hands to create art.”

Chamberlain’s arch enemy when it comes to creating new art is time.

“I want to let loose and have total freedom, but there is never enough time to do what I really want to do,” he said.

The specter of time even dogged Chamberlain while he prepared for the library exhibit.

“I applied for the show and got in, and realized I only had a month and a half before it opened,” he said with a laugh. “Usually, for a given exhibit, an artist will have six months to a year to prepare work.”

Luckily, Chamberlain already had some finished works on hand and had others that were near completion, so he was able to meet the deadline.

“Right now, there are 20 pieces in the show, and I just finished up two more as a bonus that I want to bring up for the reception,” he said.

Knowing when a work is finished is another trick that drives Chamberlain mad, he said.

“I don’t want to overwork anything, so I spend a lot of time just staring at a piece,” he said. “I do a lot of analyzing, and out of that I can tell if there is more that I need to do. I do admit that there are works that I’ve done too much on and there was no going back.”

Once he deems a piece finished Chamberlain is already looking ahead to a new project.

“The new project is the reward for doing what I do,” he said with a laugh. “I do get super happy when I finish as piece, but that lasts about an hour. Then I start thinking of how I’m going to do the next one.”

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Starbeck realizations

Leonard Starbeck’s path to becoming an artist came from various roads.

For the past 50 years, he and his family would dive for abalones at Ft. Bragg near San Francisco. He did some deep-sea diving as an independent duty corpsman while in the Navy and he became a licensed nurse and served as a surgical nurse in combat hospitals in Afghanistan, Iraq and Oman.

After Starbeck retired, he began making coat racks and coffee tables out of upcycled skis and toboggans, and bought, restored and sold antique furniture.

“One day I was working on a decorative piece that was in the shape of a cactus, and while I tightened up the legs and inlaid some sleeping beauty mine turquoise in the wood, a light came on and I thought I could do this with abalone shells.”

Starbeck recalled how he used to make jewelry out of the abalone shells he dived for at Ft. Bragg.

“I used to wrap the shells in wet towels and hit them with a hammer,” he said. “I did that because it’s toxic to breathe the abalone shell dust.”

These days, Starbeck just waits for it to rain and then crushes the shells with a 3,000-pound steamroller.

“I have a cement mixer, and I’ll throw in a handful of rocks and a gallon of crushed abalone shell, and polish everything up to a great shine,” he said.

The artist then takes the pieces of shell and imbeds them in flat wooden sculptures that can be hung on the wall.

Starbeck gets most of his wood from High West Barns, a building contractor, and he has also been known to dumpster dive at Home Depot for plywood scraps.

“They end up with a lot of scrap, so I’ll take a trailer up and grab as much as I can,” he said. “I’ve been able to repurpose lumber from Henefer Peoa, Coalville and Hoytsville.”

In addition to his abalone shell art, which includes depictions of seagulls, pelicans and whales, Starbeck will also arrange and frame dried flowers.

“I’ll go to Deseret Industries and buy picture frames,” he said. “If the frames are damaged, I’ll keep the glass and make my own frames.”

Starbeck finds the flowers when he’s out hiking and looking for moose.

“I dry the flowers and then set them up in the frames,” he said.

Starbeck makes all of his art in his studio on Old Ranch Road.

“It’s my retreat,” he said. “I’m living the dream. I’m retired. I have a nice view and I’m cranking out art.”

The artist is also busy applying for art festivals and exhibits in Montana, Wyoming, California, Colorado and Utah.

“A year ago, I didn’t call myself an artist,” Starbeck said. “Now, I’m proud to say I am one.”

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