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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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My interview in Shoutout Colorado

Sometimes I find myself on the other end of the interview.

In March 2021, Shoutout Colorado featured me as a professional sharing gratitude with people who supported my success along my career path.

The problem with naming names is that somebody inevitably goes unnamed, if not forgotten, so I kept my categories vague.

I do wish I’d thought to include all the sports coaches who pushed me not only to go farther, faster, higher, score more points, but also to win and to lose with grace.

Here’s a link to click for my interview.

Thank you to Shoutout Colorado for the limelight.

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Coffee: What’s the buzz?

Coast to coast, many Americans—myself included–cannot imagine a day without coffee. But coffee is a vulnerable crop that is, so to speak, in hot water. Coffee cultivation faces many challenges, including climate change. As demand for coffee increases, yields decrease due to increased drought, pests and damaging storms. In addition, coffee lacks genetic diversity. And coffee is linked to many social justice issues, as well. 

In the United States, coffee is produced in Hawaii, Puerto Rico and more recently in California. However, the U.S. Congress allocated funds to expand the USDA’s research and development in 2019, the USDA Coffee and Cacao Crop Germplasm Committee was formed. 

The chair of that committee is Sarada Krishnan, Ph.D., also directs horticulture and global initiatives at Denver Botanic Gardens. “Coffee is an international crop, and it surely is a crop whose sustainability every country needs to address. The entire coffee value chain needs to address sustainability, including consumers,” said Krishnan, who owns coffee farms in Jamaica

One of the foremost authorities on coffee, Krishnan also is working on a coffee research project in Puerto Rico, affected by both hurricanes and earthquakes. Dr. Sarada Krishnan was contracted by World Coffee Research to serve as the lead scientist in a research project to study the feasibility of using solar panels to generate energy for coffee farms while also providing shade for the coffee plants.  

I’ve wanted to interview Dr. Krishnan for years and finally caught up with her. This feature on her and her passion for coffee was published April 11,2021, in The Denver Gazette, and you can read it at this link.

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Folk art often not as simple as meets the eye

The Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe boasts the world’s largest collection of folk art.

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!)

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Ginny Williams’ glass house demolished

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.

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A painter of reflections reflects on his life of painting

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.

Rob Gratiot paints the almost impossible-to-paint.

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