FOLK ART MIGHT APPEAR SIMPLE, yet oftentimes is anything but. Throughout centuries and around the globe, folk artists have used folk arts in myriad forms to express political opinions, document social injustices and capture the attention of others who might know the emotions of their plights through their artworks.
Whether quilters from Gee’s Bend or Native American potters, the artists tell a story — often a tale of oppression. Folk artists turn to creativity even in — especially in — the darkest of times. Why do people make art in times of trouble? To learn more about how folk artists are activists, click here to read the article published by Art & Object. (No paywall!)
Sundial Park, officially Cranmer Park, has long been one of my favorite Denver parks — and we have a lot of cool parks in the Mile High City. I used to walk my dogs there, admired the lavish flower gardens and above all the view of 120 miles of Colorado’s Front Range and the oversized sundial. Sundial Park has been a primo spot for stargazing, watching fireworks, and I’ve conducted a number of interviews there at picnic tables under the large trees. ••• Also, there was the glass house that Ginny Williams’ built. When my walking partner told me that the house was to be torn down, I couldn’t believe it. When we walked past and saw the construction fence around the property and the large machinery, I thought maybe they were adding a swimming pool. But, no. The house was razed. When I posted on Facebook, so many people responded that I knew I needed to pursue a story. The trail let to the architect in New York City, and we had a profound conversation about the glass house he’d designed for the late art doyenne of Denver. The trail also led to a former Historic Denver director who emphasized the need for some protections for such extraordinary buildings. The Denver Gazette published my feature last Sunday, a story about private property and private lives.
Rob Gratiot teaches painting at the Art Students League of Denver, yet chances are his students will not follow in his artistic footsteps — at least when it comes to subject matter. Gratiot paints the most difficult of difficult scenes: candy twisted up in foil wrappers, sunglasses packaged in cellophane, storefront windows with reflections upon reflections in glass, polished brass and other shiny surfaces. In short, he paints the almost impossible-to-paint!
The artist and I enjoyed a long interview in his backyard in the company of his two small dogs. Colorado Expression published my article on this artist in their February-March 2021 issue.
ALMOST TWO MONTHS HAVE PASSED since Roger Leitner passed away on a most auspicious day: not just Winter Solstice, but also the day of the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn — a celestial event called The Christmas Star or The Star of Bethlehem. Roger was a star in his own right, an All-American basketball player. A husband. A father. A friend. And on that day, December 21, 2020, I experienced my own great conjunction when I was recruited to write narrative obituaries for a standing featured titled “Colorado Lives” in the Denver Gazette, a newish digital daily newspaper.
I wasn’t sure whether I would want to face mortality every week, but I managed to write Roger’s obituary, and the Gazette published my words of tribute to Roger along with an image of Roger and his master work: a laser-cut stone labyrinth modeled after Chartres cathedral’s. Written from the heart with tears mingling with the ink, this obituary was an honor to write and a gift to the family of Roger — my brother from another mother. The photo below was taken by Roger’s wife on a day when the three of us shared stories and laughs and lunch at their home.
Telluride, Colorado, snuggled into the Rocky Mountains, has grown into a playground for the rich and famous, an alpine escape into skiing, bluegrass, film and other pleasures. This feature for Colorado Expression magazine allows us inside on of the most spectacular homes and shares the interior designer’s story of merging the magnificent high altitude outdoors with befitting indoors spaces with high design concepts.
Read more about this design and architecture in the new issue of Colorado Expression magazine or at this link.
ON ASSIGNMENT for Colorado Expression magazine’s annual Women’s Issue, I interviewed a quartet of leaders who overcame adversity and obstacles to assume leadership roles. For the cover story, the magazine featured four Colorado women: a Black woman, two Latinas and an immigrant from Poland.
Oftentimes, the most interesting portions of interviews never get published. We shared some laughs and some tears, too, off the record. My feature appears in the new issue of Colorado Expression.
Daniel Sprick did not let COVID-19 self-quarantine quell his creativity. Instead, he took work-at-home to new heights, painting a luminous series of interiors from his high-rise apartment in Denver. For Sprick, , self-quarantine was a time of new perspectives and an elevated awareness of the comforts of home.
When during some of the darkest days of the virus, Dan sent me images of his new paintings, I knew I wanted to write about the work. The publisher of Western Art & Architecture was immediately interested, and my feature titled “Captured Beauty” appears in the October/November issue of the magazine.
The artist spoke about skulls as subject matter, social justice issues and why his bedsheets hanging in his living room were depicted in one of his new paintings. And he spoke about his process:
“What I do consciously is composing and placing intervals and voids and objects in a harmonious, rhythmic way or with slightly irregular harmonies that I hope will evoke some feeling in the viewer. They don’t need to know why. If we’re not musicians, we don’t reverse- engineer songs to know how they’re causing us feelings. Either you feel something or you don’t,” said Sprick.
He worked with a limited palette of mostly earth tones — umbers and siennas and whites. White walls, Sprick explained, display the nature of the planet’s light and the human eye.
“There’s something that happens when you look at interiors with a blue sky, like today, the world inverts. The blue of the sky is at the bottom and the warmth of the earth—the green and brown—is coming up to the top of the wall. It’s how the light off the planet works. It inverts like a camera: The blue sky is above, but at the bottom of the room. The green or brown at the bottom bounces to the top.”
At the bottom of several paintings in the series, Sprick painstakingly painted the woodgrain of his apartment’s floors — an almost impossible feat. The paintings provide a look at the artist’s personal space, as well as a glimpse into Sprick’s head space during pandemic.
The Museum of Outdoor Arts (MOA) closed its doors as did every other museum faced with the coronavirus pandemic. But you can get a look at the show and learn a lot about the artist and Colorado’s first solo Rauschenberg show at these links.
• For Denver Business Journal, I interviewed four individuals who knew Robert Rauschenberg personally. This article also includes a Q&A with the MOA founder/CEO, Cynthia Madden Leitner, who first dreamed of having a Rauschenberg exhibit when she met the artist at a cocktail party at her parents’ home on Captiva Island in Florida.
Daniel Sprick is widely acknowledged as one of the most accomplished realist painters working in our time.
I’d interviewed Dan before, years ago, and since our first article together he went on to accomplish a variety of milestones:
Denver Art Museum honored him with a gallery exhibiting his painting process, and the exhibition was on display nearly 10 years.
The DAM also gave Sprick two one-man shows: an exhibit of his still life paintings and another of his almost photorealistic portraits.
Museum of Outdoor Arts (MOA), long a champion of the artist, produced a PBS documentary film titled “Daniel Sprick: Pursuit of Truth and Beauty.”
Interviewing Dan recently in his spacious and tidy Denver studio, I mentioned that he is known for still life paintings, but also portraits and figures, interiors and surreal landscapes. I asked him which he prefers painting. His response: “It might be good if I’d pick just one and discard the rest, but I’m still interested in all of them. Now I’m interested in combining them.”
The combinations promise to be captivating, as all Sprick paintings are.
Dan shared a lot in our interview, and you can read our Q&A along with a feature published in Denver Business Journal at this link:
I must admit, when Voyage Media contacted me about featuring me as a “Trailblazer,” I bit immediately because of the title. I’m a 4 on the Enneagram, which means I’m an “Individualist” so I liked the idea of being perceived as a trailblazer.
But I wouldn’t be blazing any trails without the women who broke trail ahead of me. And I failed to mention during the interview that I also have taken the good advice to surround myself with outstanding people. The big, multi-media projects I wrote and art-directed were successes in large part due to a dream team I recruited and worked with for the long term — some of them almost 25 years.
So thank you to Voyage Denver for featuring me, and thank you to the women who blazed trails before me and to all the people who have supported me along the trail.