By Georgina Kolber, Curator of Exhibits, Collections and Programs
By now you’ve heard and seen that we’ve taken up the theme, The Power of Place, for our current programming. We live on planet Earth, which has continued to provide a tangible foundation and backdrop for all of our everyday dramas, so we don’t necessarily recognize the role of place — whether it be Earth or a place more specific — in our everyday routines. But if we stop to think about it, places connect us to the past, situate memory, shape identity and host all of our activities. Specific and significant places have also existed within the human imagination as far back as we know — paradise, hell and a plethora of utopias. And then all of us conjure up places in our dreams — places sometimes vaguely familiar and other times completely unrecognizable. There are so many manifestations of The Power of Place in our human experience, and I wanted the exhibition I’ve been putting together for the Buell Theatre, to reflect that abundance.
Denver artist Monica Aiello’s I’ve Known Rivers series continues her exploration of planetary surfaces, this time that of planet Earth and specifically, the Colorado River Basin. Aiello’s work orients us in such a way as to see ourselves as existing on a planet that is a stunningly unique and majestic place yet also part of a larger universe. This particular series look at the Colorado River basin as captured by Earth orbiting satellites. Views from this remote sensing perspective truly highlight the journey of the Colorado River as manipulated and impacted by human development. Through her studies, Aiello was struck by the story of the Colorado River in shaping the landscape and development of the American West. Her resulting paintings emphasize a bold, vibrant and dynamic zone.
Israel’s Michal Ronnen Safdie‘s body of work, Sunday Tuesday Thursday, portrays Orthodox Jewish women and children at a beach in Israel, north of Tel Aviv. The title of the series refers to the days in which this particular beach is open to use by Orthodox women – on the other days it is exclusively male territory. A portrait emerges through Ronnen Safdie’s photographic inquiry of a culture that most viewers have never seen before. Safdie’s photographs illustrate how this particular place (a beach) transforms into a playground, providing a safe and perhaps even sacred space for interaction and play, when these women and girls arrive.
Adam Bateman’s brightly colored and richly textured Field paintings reflect both denotative and connotative notions of fields as literal representations of large areas of land and as concepts of vision, action, and energy. In the study of physics, a field is defined as the region in which a particular condition prevails, especially one in which a force or influence is effective regardless of the presence or absence of a material medium. In agriculture a field is defined as a plot of enclosed land cleared for cultivation or pasture. Raking through layers of applied medium, the artist creates ridges and trenches of turned over paint resembling a birds eye view of plow lines in tilled soil – in this case bounded by the square frame of the canvas. These aerial scenes of agricultural production exist well outside of urban epicenters that have come to dominate cultural production. The paintings are simultaneously representational and abstract, calling upon the viewer’s imagination to place him and herself in or around the compositions.
Melissa Furness’ Romantic Overgrowth series continues her exploration of invented ruins as alternate worlds of picturesque decline. Referencing late 18th and early 19th century European paintings that laced landscapes with imagery of ancient ruins to evoke the sublime, mysterious, and beautiful, Furness’ work today additionally posits such imagery as a certain species of “kitsch.” That this imagery has become a near cliché, that images of the ruin have become a “means of mourning the loss of the aesthetic itself” is implicit in this series. Ruins in a landscape show us—like the kitsch object—a world in which beauty is “safely framed and endlessly repeatable.” The series is juxtaposed with thrift store paintings and tourist photos that Furness has collected—these found objects playfully accentuate the glorification of decay that her paintings so beautifully evoke.
For the past several years, Paul Michel has focused on creating tragic yet beautiful lands of abundant life and ruin. Working in black ink, these landscapes are colorless and often devoid of animal and human life. These sublime landscapes suggest past and future—we can imagine that we’ve entered an ancient Babylonian kingdom and simultaneously we can imagine that we’re seeing a glimpse of our earth at human extinction. Within these carefully imagined and intricately detailed places absent of human life, we nevertheless sense or project primal human emotions in the scene. Michel’s landscapes are paradoxical and sublime places where chaos, tragedy and loneliness elicit feelings of wonder, magic and hope.
The exhibition, in collaboration with Denver Arts & Venues, opens Thursday, October 23rd with a reception from 5:30-7:30 pm, and runs through the end of the year. An artist talk will be held on Monday, November 17th from 5:30-7:30 pm. Exhibition viewing and tours available by appointment, 303-749-5014.