Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art celebrates 25th anniversary

Nora Abrams directs the Museum of Contemporary Arts and led MCA Denver through COVID-19 lockdown.

On Friday the 13th of March 2020 – three days before Colorado sank into quarantine — Denver’s  Museum of Contemporary Arts closed its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As post-lockdown reemergence unfolds, MCA Denver prepares to celebrate a silver anniversary in 2022.

Museum director Nora Burnett Abrams celebrates the silver linings forged by tumultuous events of 2020 and the first half of 2021. When I met with Abrams, I caught her contagious enthusiasm for the museum’s newest direction: a flourishing online presence that extended MCA Denver far beyond the bricks and mortar museum.

Here’s a link to “Curating Community,” my feature about MCA Denver in the new issue of Colorado Expression magazine

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The art of flowers, fabrics and embroidered birdsong at Denver Botanic Gardens

Flowers inspire multi-media artist Ana Maria Hernando.

Ana Maria Hernando’s exhibition titled “Fervor” at Denver Botanic Gardens displays the artist’s love of and reverence for nature. Hernando associates the word “fervor” with devotion. She said, “‘Fervor’ has connotations to the spirit. Many times, we think about people praying with fervor — that commitment to action. It’s a word that’s very passionate, and that word brings that passion forward. Nature has fervor. The intent, the vocation for life.”

In her work as a painter and/or sculptor inspired primarily by flowers and fabrics, she has her own fervor, her own intention and vocation and passion.

“I like very much the idea of learning, so I make a lot of mistakes. When I am beginning to work with one material, many things don’t come out the way I want or I intended, but I like that process,” she says. “I like how alive that process is.

Here is a link to the article in Colorado Expression magazine with more details about the exhibit at Denver Botanic Gardens.

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Photographer stops summer: a fine-art photo series of the season

Photos by Dianne Allison

Like many or most people, I have mixed feelings about Facebook, but as a journalist I have made many professional connections there, including the fine-art photographer Diane Allison. I don’t recall how we met, but Diane’s photo collages on Facebook immediately caught my eye. I found myself giving lots of thumbs up and hearts to her posts.

When reporting an article about dandelions, my assignment charged me with providing photos. I remembered a macro shot of a dandelion Diane had posted. Eventually, my editor and his boss agreed the photos were so eye-catching they would buy them to accompany my article.

Then, I approached my acquisitions editor at Art + Object, an international online site known for high-brow coverage of the high-end art scene. He agreed immediately, too, that Diane’s images warranted an article. Then my editor had the idea for a series about summer: brilliant! I’ve always loved summer, so curating this fine-art photo tribute was a joyful task this summer of 2021. With the fruits and flowers, insects, fireworks, rainbows and carousel unicorns of summer, this series is as relaxed as the season and requires only clicking through one magical image after another: 11 in all, including the inspired artist.

Here is a link to the slide show with no pay wall!.

And here are links to Diane Allison and her beauty vision:

https://www.dianeallisonphoto.com

/https://www.instagram.com/photobroad/?hl=en

https://www.etsy.com/shop/dianeallisonphoto

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How the pandemic improved the health of Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Arts

Creativity is always a valuable commodity when it comes to problem-solving. And what bigger problem than COVID-19, which shuttered the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Denver. The museum known for rule-breaking quirk put their creative, out-of-the-box thinking to work during quarantine and wound up growing their audience substantially via virtual programs. I had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with MCA Denver’s articulate and enthusiastic director, Nora Burnett Abrams — pictured below in images from the internet — to talk about how COVID-19 inspired a healthier MCA Denver.

Here’s a link to my article published by Art & Object.

And here’s a link to MCA Denver where you can learn more about what’s happening now and in the future to celebrate the silver anniversary of the museum.

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An art collector and a philanthropist, George Wiegers’ nest in Cherry Creek North

As if this penthouse’s views of Colorado’s Front Range Rocky Mountains, downtown Denver’s skyline and, below, Cherry Creek North weren’t enough, the apartment is a virtual art gallery. The homeowner, George Wiegers, discussed his digs in Denver, his investment banking career in New York City, and his connection to Vail. One of Colorado’s most generous philanthropists, Wiegers founded The Depression Center, a national network for people suffering mental illness. He and his wife, Betsy, also were instrumental in bringing world class philharmonic orchestras and ballet companies to Bravo Vail. Wiegers, a 6th generation New Yorker, loves all the West has to offer, particularly alpine skiing, fly-fishing and the Colorado art scene.

Click here to read the article published by Colorado Expression magazine.

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Salvador Dali’s rarely seen botanical prints at Denver Botanic Gardens

Salvador Dali, Gardens of the Mind Exhibit, photo courtesy Denver Botanic Gardens

Salvador Dali taught us that there’s more to life than meets the eye. And while Dali’s surreal art tends to bring to mind warped clocks or Catholic crucifixions, the artist also created several suites of botanical prints. Dali subverted the high-brow seriousness of botanical illustration and put his own spin on the art — sometimes working directly over existing prints.

Working with the librarian at The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL and the art curator at Denver Botanic Gardens, I wrote about the Dali botanicals on exhibit at DBG.

Each slide has commentary to help understand Dali’s art — as if we can understand the wild and dreamy imagination of the artist who believed his inspiration came through the tips of his handlebar mustache. Quirky and colorful and full of mystery, too, have a look at Dali’s fruits and flowers and you’ll never see a peach or a pomegranate or a pansy the same again.

Click here for my article published by Art & Object — no pay wall!

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A different look at dandelions

Photos by Dianne Allison

On June 21, 2021, the first full day of summer, The Denver Gazette published my feature about dandelions along with eye-catching fine art photographs of dandelions by Denver artist Dianne Allison.

For the article, I interviewed a landscape designer who advocates for native plants. She emphasized that dandelions play an important role in our landscapes and eco culture. I also interviewed the founder of the medicinal plants garden at Denver Botanic Gardens, who emphasized that dandelions are good food and medicine. And I interviewed a certified arborist from a local tree and lawn care company who said dandelions aren’t really harming lawns or trees, but are more an aesthetic and tolerance issue.

“Dandelions get yellow light in Denver” is my feature article published in The Denver Gazette on 21 June 2021.

In my own organic garden, I dig dandelions after rain storms. I have eaten dandelion greens in salads and green shakes. I have made dandelion fritters from the blossoms, and dandelion vinegar from the roots. However, I live in the city alongside neighbors with pristine lawns, so I don’t let my dandelions go wild — tho’ they’d like to, no doubt.

If able to wish upon a dandelion seed, I’d wish for the sea change required for humans to embrace dandelions and learn to cultivate them without letting them get totally out of control. After all, European immigrants intentionally brought dandelions to the New World. Our new perspective on dandelions as plants for food and medicine rather than weeds would made a difference to our yards and our planet.

For more about healthy soil and the web of life, watch the documentary film “Kiss the Ground” on Netflix.

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Yoga promotes vitality

Deborah Baker and I both participated in a series of pandemic “porchtraits” by photographer Tina Hagerling.

When the magazine Colorado Yoga + Life editor put out a call for articles about yoga and vitality, the first person I thought of was Deborah Baker. An Iyengar certified instructor and a longtime leader in the Denver yoga community, Deborah also is a cancer survivor and the picture of vitality.

Deborah and I reconnected about a year ago when a local photographer, Tina Hagerling, invited me to participate in her series of people photographed doing their thing at home during pandemic quarantine. Initially, I thought about yoga poses on my front porch, where I had rolled out my sticky mat to practice after our yoga studio closed. But then I realized I might not have picture perfect yoga poses.

Instead, I opted to be photographed in my big overalls and straw gardening hat because I had been using the front porch ledge as a potting bench. I was concerned about fresh food, so I was focused on growing greens, vegetables, fruits and herbs during lockdown when grocery stores seemed a version of Russian roulette.

I liked the idea of a yogi in Tina’s series, though, knowing how many yoga practitioners were forced into home practice. When Tina asked me if I knew others who might want to participate, I put her in touch with Deborah.

One of Tina’s photos appears with my story about Deborah, and one of Tina’s photo of me also appears in the issue with my brief author’s biography at the end of my article.

Yoga studios reopened. Mask mandates were lifted. And I now have a silver lining home yoga studio.

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The Felixes: Mr. and Mrs. Western Landscape

Sushe and Tracy Felix are married to one another and to their art.

Devoted to one another and to their paintings, they are featured in my piece for Western Art & Architecture magazine.

For Tracy, the mountain peaks he paints provide plenty of inspiration. “The landscape in the West is so vast and varied,” he said. 

He admires his wife’s experimental approaches. “Sushe has always experimented with her work and tried so many new ways to create a piece of art,” said Tracy.

She admires her husband’s love of the Western landscape and of Modernism and how he combines them together. “We both share a love of the landscape around us. I like to take that landscape and make up my own compositions,” she said. 

“The Western landscape is full of a variety of beautiful forms and colors. I love to combine the dramatic mountain forms with the rocks and cliffs that exist here. There is also a rich variety of earth tone that add to the West’s beauty,” Sushe said.

The couple’s work bears resemblance in the way that some married people grow to resemble one another. 

“Our painting techniques are different,” said Tracy,” but our paintings achieve the same goal of modernism.” 

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Gardening was not cancelled

Colorado residents make the most of the outdoor lifestyle with outdoor rooms, fire and water features, and landscapes that make sheltering at home a pleasure.

The great outdoors took on even more significance during our pandemic quarantine and subsequent safe practices. For Colorado Expression, I interviewed the president of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado. He shared some tips, trends and some very good news about a silver lining that surfaced during COVID-19.

My article is published in the new issue of Colorado Expression magazine.

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