“Castleton” by Jeff Durrant. Gallery Moab will be hosting a free reception with the Castle Valley artist on Saturday, Feb. 11. [Image courtesy of Gallery Moab]

Moab is a place of unparalleled natural splendor, and as such, it attracts people from all over the world who want to come and admire the breathtaking scenery. Among these people are artists captivated by the landscapes that offer inspiration at every turn.

Some of those artists discover Moab and decide to call it home.

Jeff Durrant is a visual artist whose work will be featured at an upcoming reception at Gallery Moab on Saturday, Feb. 11, from 6 to 9 p.m.

Peggy Harty, a founding board member of the gallery at 87 N. Main St., said the event will be an exclusive reception because it’s not part of the official Moab Art Walk.

“It’s so close to Valentine’s Day, we’re going to make it a chocolate feast,” she said.

Durrant took a couple of art classes in college. Yet by the time he thought about pursuing the subject further, he had graduated in international relations and was pursuing a doctorate in geography at the University of Hawaii, according to his biography.

As part of his doctoral research, Durrant moved to Moab and worked as a river guide, although that isn’t when he settled here. His research eventually led to the publication of his book, “Struggle Over Utah’s San Rafael Swell: Wilderness, National Conservation Areas, and National Monuments,” by the University of Arizona Press.

While he was still an undergraduate, Durrant met his wife, who was teaching snowboarding in Park City.

His wife eventually left for a Peace Corps assignment to Chad, Africa, and a few months later, Durrant followed her; they were married in the capital city of N’Djamena. 

“My wife is an environmental attorney. Before that she had a Ph.D,” he said. “She’s a much more interesting person if you want to talk to her.”

Durrant himself sounds quite interesting.

He has visited more than 100 countries, and he regularly leads trips to Mount Kilimanjaro, where he lived with his wife and three sons while she completed her Ph.D. dissertation on local community interaction with the national park there.

His wife often works out of Salt Lake City, and now the Durrants split their time between there and the Moab area. They have a house in Castle Valley, which is where Durrant derives some of his inspiration.

“Everyone has to paint Delicate Arch at some point,” he said, but many of his landscapes are of features that are less iconic to most tourists, such as Castleton Tower.

Durrant describes his art as, “Loosely rendered landscapes and motorcycles.”

“I work with acrylics because I can work in texture and depth,” he said. “I’m really trying to capture that depth of the landscape or motorcycle.”

Not only does Durrant paint motorcycles; he likes to take them apart as well.

“I have five or six here in Moab,” he said. “They’re almost all out here in Castle Valley. I’ve got a Royal Infield that I really like. I’ve got a 1966 Hodaka – that’s kind of taken apart right now. Hopefully, I can remember how to put it back together. They were at the forefront of inventing trail bikes.” he said.

Durrant is not an artist as a profession.

“I do art on the side,” he said. “I teach some geography (at Brigham Young University). I do some consulting … My whole life I’ve liked to do some art, but I just dabble in it here and there. For some reason, you don’t think of it as a path that you can do.”

That is where Gallery Moab is trying to help.

Mary Collar, a founding member of the co-op, said the group of like-minded artists decided they needed a place in town to display their work.

Some of the gallery’s artists work shifts to help offset the costs of running the gallery.

“There are full-time members that pay a certain amount to be there every month. There are some artists that don’t work that pay a larger commission. It depends on whether you’re a patron member or consignment member,” Collar said.

Moab, she said, is the kind of place that attracts artists.

“We’re all really passionate about art in any form,” she said. “(At Gallery Moab) there are potters, photographers, painters, jewelry makers. We welcome a lot of different art skills in our gallery because it’s part of the community.”

Durrant said he first noticed the gallery a year or two ago, and when he found out it’s a co-op, he contacted someone there, and they accepted him.

The reception on Feb. 11 will be a chance for the community to get to know Durrant, as well as the other artists featured at Gallery Moab.

“We have a makeover here in the gallery, so we’d love to have people come and see that,” Harty said.

Durrant will be there on the evening of Feb. 11, eating chocolate and talking about art.

“It’s true that people tend to collect the artist, not the art,” he said. “I think it’s important to know about the artists there at Gallery Moab. That’s a big part of collecting art, is knowing the artist.”

Gallery Moab hosts Feb. 11 reception with new artist Jeff Durrant

“I think it’s important to know about the artists there at Gallery Moab. That’s a big part of collecting art, is knowing the artist.”

When: Saturday, Feb. 11, from 6 to 9 p.m.

Where: Gallery Moab, 87 N. Main St.

Cost: Free

Information: 435-355-0024

For more information, call 435-355-0024