Sunday, March 3, 2019
Art of the State - 2019, Arvada, CO
The “Art of the State 2019” exhibit at the Arvada Arts Center is a strong testament to the state of the the arts in Colorado. With three galleries featuring impressive works from 154 colorado artists in multiple media from oil on canvas to wood block to glass and mixed media, there is something for everyone. It’s worth the drive to Arvada to experience the third rendition of a juried exhibition on seeing the world through Colorado artists’ eyes. The Arvada Arts center is leading the inclusiveness of Colorado’s art scene, sponsoring its exhibit with an open call to more than a thousand Colorado artists, and then hosting the free exhibit for two months inviting everyone to come see the abounding talent in the Mile High state.
If you’re like me, and you’re hoping to live a bit more artfully and infuse more art into your life, the Art of the State exhibit is a great place to start exploring what you like about art. With still lifes and abstracts and sculptures and photographs, numerous forms of art are available to explore. As a newly developing novice of the arts and the Colorado art scene, I pondered what I liked and why and what I might say about the art when looking at it. Certainly some of the more abstract pieces like the one made of partially-inflated inner tubes hanging in a blob may give some viewers pause. What’s the point? Is it art? It’s called “Well Hung Butyle Remains” by Jessica Moon Bernstein-Schiano of Nederland, and it demands attention as a textural piece assigning significance to discarded objects.
In the main gallery, the eye-catching peacock greenish-blue figure “VOSS” by Roger Reutimann is identified as Best in Show by the curators, and it does not disappoint. Presented in bronze, automotive paint, and Carrara marble, the sleek style and futuristic swagger emphasizes what Reutimann describes as his inspiration of “fashion for strong and independent women.” Looking over her shoulder, viewers are invited into a well-choreographed display of paint, drawing, sculpture, and various pieces of found art. There, a beautiful backdrop to VOSS is a hanging arrangement of glass fragments entitled “Homecoming” by Lara Whitley, and the structure emphasizes Whitley’s intent to draw attention to “the potential -- and the quiet persistence -- of the things we discard.”
In Colorado we walk the fine line between engagement with nature and obstruction of it, and the intersection of nature and art and technology and media is a clear theme developed throughout the selections of the Arvada Arts Center. To that end, the display “135 Milkweed Pods” by Yoshitomo Saito is compelling in its use of arrangement, the pods standing out from the wall, solid and fragile at the same time. Around the corner is a pictograph and text on “The Lichen Map” by Andrew Beckham which becomes art through a stark visual image and poetic rhapsodizing on a unique ecosystem. It’s worth spending some time reading Beckham’s summary of the mystery of the lichen, which may just be “the only life form on Earth that cannot be called a species.” Other noteworthy pieces include two oil on metal pieces from Susan Blake including “Artifice and Nature” that meld nature and technology reminiscent of Wallace Stevens’ classic modernist work “Anecdote of the Jar.” In the upstairs gallery, I was drawn to “Magwa,” an oil paint on stainless steel by Mai Wyn Schantz with a silhouette of a bruin in a painted forest, and the landscape piece is worth seeing for what isn’t there. It seems as if the forestry image on stainless steel is saying much about man’s encroachment on nature, and the healthy blend of still life realism with thoughtful abstract asks us to think of dimension and color, of science and nature.
Numerous pieces in the Art of the State led me to pause, smile, ponder, and even shake my head. A mixed media piece by Sam Smith definitely wins for best title with his piece, “What You Need to Know About Brain Eating Amoebas.” The collection of colored pinwheels of mixed media is saying something about nature and science through art, but I’m not sure exactly what. Woodblock is a style of printing familiar to many, but the arrangement of thousands of mini blocks of wood becomes a thoughtful piece of natural art in “Oak Floor Study” from Chris DeKnikker. The intricate arrangement in three multi-hewed panels spotlights the beauty in the functional, and I couldn’t help but dwell on my laminate wood floor when I returned home, appreciating the patterns and the symmetry. Finally, as a high school teacher, I am quite familiar with the calming effects of doodling, and thus I was quite captivated by the Matt O’Neill’s ink on paper piece “Big Bambu.” The intricate designs of ball-point pen on several pieces of loose leaf paper is a geometric exploration I could get lost in as I gazed at it. Finally, Tony Ortega, a well-known Denver painter, is back in the exhibit for a second time with a colorful mixed media piece that captures the Latino experience and demands attention with its bright pastel colors of anonymous urban scenes. Having appreciated his work at the Red Line Gallery in RiNo, I know it really wouldn’t be a Colorado show without him.
Appreciation of art is a personal experience, and the challenge of interpreting art is first answering the questions: How does it make me feel? Does it hold my attention? And why. The huge number of pieces on exhibit at the Art of the State allows viewers to explore those questions and their experience of art. The paintings and prints accentuate the interplay of color and perspective, especially in abstracts like Ellen Moershel’s “Valdez” where the viewer can simply explore the lines, shades, and dimensions of acrylic on canvas. The artists at their most basic sense ask us to notice and appreciate the world. For me the abstract and the ab-ex works are the most compelling, and it’s because of how the interplay between color and texture and dimension ask me to notice the work. The thing I’m realizing is that art is meant to be appreciated in the same way we look at a sunset or the horizon or a majestic valley or even the way we stare at water in a brook running past or waves crashing on the shore.