Ashland artist Charu Colorado has shown her work in galleries and museums. But her largest exhibit ever &

a lifetime retrospective &

is in a private house in the foothills of Grizzly Peak.

Drawings, paintings, collages and sculptures by the 87-year-old artist fill the rooms of the house owned by Clay Colley and Dessa Ireland.

With Asian-inspired architecture, an arching foot bridge leading to the front door and panoramic views of trees and vineyards in their fall foliage stretching out below, the home is a visual treat all by itself. Add in the work of a thoughtful artist who has grappled with aesthetic and political issues for decades, and a visit to the house becomes a can't-miss opportunity.

Colley and Ireland are opening their home at 475 Pompadour Drive to the public this Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. Other open houses will follow during those same hours on Sunday, Dec. 2, and Sunday, Dec. 16.

When the couple first invited Colorado to have a show at their home, she envisioned displaying a few dozen pieces from the last 25 years. Then they asked her to bring in more art to fill the expansive downstairs floor &

and the retrospective stretching from the 1950s to today and including more than 100 pieces was born.

"I had no idea they would want me to fill their bedrooms and bathrooms and laundry rooms with work," Colorado said.

She said having an exhibit at a private home involves much more work than just dropping off pieces for a museum curator or gallery owner to arrange and hang.

"It's entirely different, but absolutely wonderful in the feeling it has given me," Colorado said. "They are wonderful people to work with and so generous and open in inviting me."

Strolling through the rooms is like taking a crash course in modern American painting history while also watching the evolution of a young, tentative artist into someone who is willing to give voice to her convictions and employ an increasingly sophisticated artistic approach.

A simple still life from the early 1950s depicts a pitcher and apples on a table. the 1960s, Colorado was painting abstract figures. She continued on with abstract work, but her distress over the Vietnam War and violence in Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East cropped into her paintings, collages and sculpture.

A 1994 collage, "When the War is Over," features a photo of children playing in a flower field.

Other works are mysterious and evocative. Wrinkled paper, bamboo pieces and a bumblebee displayed in a shallow box. A multi-layered painting with Hebrew and Chinese lettering. White pine wrapped in nylon stockings to create a half-hidden organic form.

Because she has supported herself as a teacher, counselor, life coach and nonprofit director in addition to being an artist, Colorado said she has felt free to experiment and not worry that a gallery may drop her as her style changes.

She marched to protest the Vietnam War and has stayed involved in efforts to promote peace and dialogue.

Despite witnessing so many wars during her long life, Colorado said she still has hope and gets upset when people are apathetic.

"I see no reason to give up and be cynical," she said. "However sad we feel, our hope is in being creative and helping people find ways to settle differences without conflict."

Looking back over her own work, much of which has been wrapped up in storage for years, Colorado sees it almost as a first-time viewer might.

"It's like looking at an art show made by different people," she mused. "I say to myself, 'Oh, I wonder what that person is like?'"

Colorado's work is available for purchase through silent auction sheets available at the house. Proceeds will benefit Colorado, who is still recovering financially and physically from a bout with lung cancer four years ago, and nonprofit groups that helped during her illness. The beneficiaries include Havurah Shir Hadash, South Mountain Friends and the local Buddhist community. Buyers can also designate a non-profit cause of their own choosing.

For a preview of Colorado's work, visit .

To reach the exhibit, travel down North Mountain Avenue, cross over Interstate 5, turn right on East Nevada Street and then right on Pompadour Drive until 475 Pompadour Dr. appears on the left.

To view the exhibit or participate in the silent auction at times other than during the open houses, call Colley or Ireland at 621-2725 or Colorado at 482-6319.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. To post a comment, visit .