As the bus hauled itself around the corner of Wewatta toward Union Station, I saw people in the stands at Coors Field. But baseball was not where I was headed. I wanted some heavier stuff. I wanted art.
Specifically, the Center for Visual Art (CVA) of Metropolitan State College of Denver (Coors Field is in the far left background). Even though the campus is south of downtown across Speer, the center has a gallery on Wazee near 18th Street. On the way there from Market Street Station, I came across 6 galleries on Wazee between 16th and 18th Streets. There’s even a gallery of contemporary Russian art on 17th near Union Station. I had no idea this miniature art district existed until recently. And although there’s no First Friday Art Walk—not enough foot traffic, according to a woman at one gallery—there’s definitely enough art to fill a lazy afternoon.
In keeping with all the lofts in the area, the CVA contained a circle of interconnecting rooms with high ceilings and blindingly white walls. I’d show you the interior, but photography was verboten. Plus, a bearded guy wearing a red bandanna followed me around. Finally we had this conversation:
“Are you worried about me taking photographs?”
“No, ma’am, but our insurance requires that we [stalk people looking at art].”
“I think it’s weird.”
Otherwise, I truly enjoyed CVA, a white, cool, quiet space on a hot day. The photographs by Denis Roussel and mixed-media installations by Heather Doyle-Maier impressed me for completely different reasons. Roussel exhibited several Blood Experiment series, in which he tossed some blood in water or exposed it to air and then photographed the results. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But I was thinking it must not be easy to light blood in water.
Doyle-Maier’s pieces were all about showing the lives of women through textiles. Her last piece, called “99 Reasons for Silence,” resembled nothing so much as an extra-wide table runner hanging from a wooden bar. But I really, really wanted to run off with it there and then. The 99 reasons were actually 99 squares of fabric sewn together in neat rows of 5, some with zippers, one with a buckle, one or two made of children’s underwear, and so on. It was both utilitarian and tender in a way her other works were not.
Then it was on to the Robischon Gallery next door, also a large, white, high-ceilinged space housed in the S & H Supply Building, built in 1909 as a warehouse for various kinds of industrial machinery and then later used as a garage for the Oxford Hotel at 17th and Wazee.
Large photographs of aging energy-related equipment greeted me as I walked in. Kevin O’Connell, according to a woman who emerged from the back to talk to me, used to produce intimately sized photographs but lately had turned his attention to these remnants of industry from the northeastern Colorado plains.
Turning right around the wall, I was overwhelmed by what I thought were excessively wide-angle shots until I learned that the artist, David Sharpe, had taken them with a pinhole camera made from a 35-mm film canister.
I spent most of my time at Robischon peering into Edie Winograde’s photographs (not pictured here) of historical reenactment dramas, such as Custer’s Last Stand. Those reenactments take place both on land owned by white people and on an Indian reservation. Crow Indians, who served as scouts for Custer in his pursuit of the Sioux, participate in some of them. All that begs the question of authenticity, since I assumed that the participants were white. But having the Crow play the role of the Sioux…and hearing that participants complained to Winograde that her photographs were not taken close enough, didn’t show enough details of the costumes…
The atmosphere at Robischon was far more laid-back than at CVA, and I especially liked the comfy couches and chairs.
And those were only 2 of the 4 galleries I explored on Wednesday. What I liked best: the art felt close to my life. Unlike the shiny oil paintings in Gallery 1261, the textiles and photographs seemed like something I could make, if I chose.