Saying Goodbye to Big Blue at the Clyfford Still Museum

Ever since I moved to Denver, I’d wanted to go to the Clyfford Still Museum, yet never managed to go until recently. I made an effort because I heard that Big Blue was being put away.

I didn’t know what or (maybe) who was Big Blue, with some digging into the Still Museum website I found out that Big Blue is a really big painting. And as it suggests in its title, its mostly blue.

A fascinating thing about the Still Museum (at the moment) is that it’s been ‘curated’ by children. Many of the art works on display have been chosen by local children in collaboration with the museum.

Inside you will find audio recordings of children commenting on various paintings, including Big Blue. I couldn’t help giggling a few times at what was being said, children do say the darndest things. It’s amazing what they can come up with.

The building has a ceiling design with droplet shaped holes to let light shine in and there are two terraces where one can venture out to explore the crystal prisms hanging on fishing lines.

A short intro video gives you insight into who Clyfford Still was and what his art motivations were. I was drawn to his solid commitment to keeping all of his works together. He believed that they should be displayed together to see the ‘big picture’; hence the whole building dedicated to just his art.

I’m glad I got a chance to say goodbye to Big Blue and I’m excited to see what they pull out from the vault next. The museum teases you with glass sliding doors to the vault, so you can see what they have in storage.

Kirkland Museum of Decorative Art Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright -Inside the Walls

As small as Kirkland is, it carries a large amount of character and class. It’s known for housing works by artist and educator Vance Kirkland, Colorado and other regional art, and international works. Set inside half of Kirkland’s original studio (there’s a fascinating clip showing how it was moved), and half of a modern building.

I visited Kirkland for the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit; the focus was on his furniture and other decorative parts. The highlight was the art glass lamp gifted to the museum; it hasn’t been seen in exhibit in 100 years.

The story behind the lamp starts in 1964 when art collector Bertie Slutzky purchased two pieces of art glass by Wright. It was then made into a lamp and gifted to Slutzky’s son as a graduation gift. In 2018, her son gifted the lamp to Kirkland Museum.

Other pieces in the exhibit include a clerestory window, a dining table with a set of dining chairs, dinnerware from Midway Gardens in Chicago, and an SC Johnson office chair.

For an added perk, there is a short film with Wright being interviewed by Mike Wallace in 1957. It was interesting to see that during the interview Wallace was smoking away while posing questions.

Death of a Pop Art Legend: Claes Oldenburg

Oldenburg’s fascination with simple, everyday objects often led him to food as a subject, as with Pastry Case, I, 1961-62.

You’ve probably seen Claes Oldenburg’s sculptures in a picture or in your town. They’re hard to miss. A giant spoon with a cherry? Maybe a bow and arrow? Or a lipstick on a caterpillar track?

Oldenburg was a Swedish-born artist with a degree from Yale, who started off creating plaster reliefs of food and clothing items. It wasn’t until later that he began to think big, real big. His first big show was “The Store” where he displayed ‘food’ made from fabric.

The first large scale sculpture was Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks and it was commissioned by Yale students through funding from the Yale School of Architecture. They called themselves the Colossal Keepsake Corporation.

Having a snarky sense of humor, Oldenburg constructed Lipstick as a political statement and a social commentary on militarism and the (improper) shape of the cosmetic item meant for women.

Following Lipstick, came Spoonbridge and Cherry, Clothespin and Cupid’s Span. In his later years, he collaborated with his wife who supervised the fabrication and siting, while he did the drawings.

Claes Oldenburg passed away today in Manhattan due to complications after a fall. (1929 – 2022)

Denver Connection: Oldenburg often worked with Frank Gehry, an architect, who is responsible for the construction of the Denver Art Museum.

Great Quote: “The only thing that really saves the human experience is humor. I think without humor it wouldn’t be much fun.” – Claes Oldenburg

Denver Art Museum: Georgia O’ Keeffe, Photographer Exhibit

Known mostly for her paintings of flowers, Georgia O’ Keeffe also took up the medium of photography in her later years. With no prior knowledge of taking pictures and two cameras in hand, she spent 30 years practicing with her good friend, Alfred Stieglitz.

O’ Keeffe used the backdrop of her home in New Mexico and the surrounding rugged environment. Besides the landscapes on view, there were images of her and Alfred, a few paintings and her two cameras; a Leica and a Polaroid.

I enjoyed the photos that were displayed with the interpretive paintings, it gave me a clue as to what O’ Keeffe saw when she took the picture. There was also a corner where one of her photographs of her home’s courtyard was placed on the entire wall and sounds of birds and wind were being played; it was a meditative environment.

Unfortunately, there was quite a few repeats of her photographs, especially of the latter against the wall of her courtyard. I would have preferred to see more photos matched with her paintings.

For not being trained as a photographer, O’ Keeffe did have an eye and you can see it with some of her landscapes. Viewing them you notice that she was looking for those linear lines that are found in many of her floral paintings.

In a 1962 interview, O’ Keeffe said “Stieglitz used to say I knew less about photography than anybody he ever knew. Yet, he’d trust my judgment of a print.” Seems like it’s never too late to pick up a side project.

Meet Ai-Da

Ai-Da, named after Ada Lovelace the first computer programmer.

Ai-Da is an artist from London, who recently created an abstract portrait of Queen Elizabeth for the Platinum Jubilee. She’s also had a solo exhibition titled ‘Unsecured Futures’ for the University of Oxford and has lectured on a TEDx Talks.

She is articulate and creative with her black bob hairstyle and painter’s overalls; she fits every bit the artist persona. She’s also a robot.

Created by Aidan Meller and Cornwall’s Engineered Arts, Ai-Da is a hyper realistic humanoid, who represents the convergence of art and technology. She serves to prove that creating art is not just a human experience.

By using lens in her eyes and computer memory, Ai-Da creates an image and transfers it onto canvas with her robotic arm. There is AI programming in her system that allows her to ‘think’ and speak. She hopes to bring awareness to people of how art can be viewed under a different set of eyes, or in this case lens.

Combining art and technology is something that started back in 1967 when Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman formed the group EAT (Experiments with Art and Technology). It gave us the beginnings of Digital Arts. It has evolved from box TVs to augmented reality and now a humanoid.

Artists and viewers see and understand art differently. Even artists and viewers will see one piece of art differently. Yet, what’s the same is the feeling you get when you create it or see it. Can a humanoid, like Ai-Da, ‘feel’ that sense of wonder or energy?

Perhaps it’s a one-sided affair where the humans get to enjoy the art and robots just make it. But how do viewers get that sense of connection with the artist? Maybe in the distant future there will be humanoids that can feel. Will we still be able to connect?

Denver Museum of Nature & Science Exhibit – Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is hosting a traveling exhibit on Egyptian history complete with miniature replicas of pyramids and temples. It’s much bigger than the permanent exhibit that they have on Egyptology.

The first section covers the importance of the Nile River to the Egyptians during those times and how it contributed to the success of living near such a resource. There is a short flick about the animals and plant life.

The areas after this explore the beliefs of Gods, the written word, the time of the pharaohs, sacred places, crafted jewelries and death. The chronology of the exhibit made it easy to digest all the information, because as we all know from attending museums it can be overwhelming and exhausting.

I found the last part to be quite interesting, I think for most people the part about death and afterlife has a perverse appeal to it. It’s amazing how the Egyptian dealt with death. In this section they had a sarcophagus with a mummified woman. What was unique about it is that with advanced CT scans scientists were able to see what her face looked like.

I know this is not art, but nonetheless it’s fascinating. I did mention that they had a craft area showcasing beautiful jewelry and textiles. The beaded collars are a highlight. They’re intricate and complex.

If you want to learn more about Egyptian history for a class or just for the fun of it, I plan on posting an article on that shortly. And of course, it will be simplified, not academic.

Denver Art Museum Exhibit: La Malinche

Over the weekend I visited the Denver Art Museum for a member preview of their newest exhibit; Traitor, Survivor, Icon: The Legacy of La Malinche. I had no idea what the exhibit was about, I assumed it was something religious because the portrait that was used for the advertisement seemed so. And I also thought it was French art history.

La Malinche was actually a woman from the Mexican Gulf Coast who played a vital role during the invasion of the Spaniards in Mexico in the early 1500s. At a young age, she was given to the Spaniards as a slave. Out of the twenty young women that were enslaved, La Malinche was chosen to be a translator and advisor for the conquistador Hérnan Cortés.

It was with La Malinche that the first known Mestizos were born, she had two children with Cortés; Martín and Maria. Mestizos are people born of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry.

Besides the history of who and what La Malinche did, the exhibit is careful to clear up the negative perception that people, who are familiar with her history, had of her; which was of being a traitor to her country. For many years, they saw her as someone who handed Mexico to the Spaniards.

Since the 1970s, artists and writers have been painting her in a different light, showing her vulnerability and bravery against the Spaniards. The Denver Art Museum’s exhibit showcases a variety of historical and modern pieces to educate the public on who La Malinche truly was.

A couple of the standout pieces were the embroidered, silk banner The Tapestry of the Conquest of Mexico by Leslie Tillet and the portrait that I mentioned about earlier, La Malinche (Young Girl of Yalala Oaxaca) by Alfredo Ramos Martínez. The Tapestry is a lengthy piece with text and scenes. Martínez’s portrait invites you to entertain the idea of La Malinche as a traitor and makes you wonder what you would have done if you were in her shoes.

Zany, Crass fun with the Video Game The Procession to Calvary

The Procession to Calvary by Pieter Bruegel

As you may know from my bio, I am a YouTube gamer and I play along with my husband. It’s his channel and I help with the banter. Now you must be wondering what this has to do with the art blog.

Recently I came across a game titled The Procession to Calvary by the game developer Joe Richardson and Digerati. If you are an art historian or you happen to be studying up on art from the 1500s, you may know of a painting by the same title by Netherlandish Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel.

The game is centered around a female knight named Bellona, who is the Roman goddess of war featured in Rembrandt’s work by the same title. She has a penchant for killing and goes on a quest to kill a king named Heavenly John. Bellona must solve these absurd puzzles, which gets her closer to him. The background of the game display artworks from the 1500s to the 1800s and the characters move in the foreground.

Besides the silliness of the puzzles, the people that she encounters gives the gamers laugh out loud moments, such as helping out a “street magician” who has a striking resemblance to Jesus and the girl with the amethyst earring, which we coax her to switch to a pearl one.

Perhaps this is a new way of engaging people with art. I didn’t recognize many of the art pieces in the game and had to look up some of them. Maybe gamers who play the game get curious to know if the art are actual pieces. There are plenty of bizarre ones to ponder over.

It’s a short, easy game where you play with your computer and point and click on characters and objects. If you’re interested in seeing our gameplay, check us out under Woolly Mammoth Gaming on YouTube.

Denver Art Museum Exhibit: Whistler to Cassatt: American Painters in France

One of the “Salons” at the DAM

This past weekend I paid a visit to the Denver Art Museum for its new exhibit on American Painters in France. Complete with an audio wand (usually you have to pay extra for that), one hears and sees the French influenced works; covering the period between 1855 and 1913.

From room to room, you can see the progress from sketches and first impressions as students from the École des BeauxArts to the masterpieces that graced the Paris Salon. The audio reveals what it was like to be a student at the BeauxArts and later as a painter, visiting Grez Sur Loing and Giverny for inspiration.

It was a treat observing the large canvasses, not only from Cassatt and Whistler, but from John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam and Henry Ossawa Tanner. My favorite was La Cigale (The Cicada) by Robert Reid. It has this Art Nouveau appeal, which is one of my favorite art styles. In the background there was whimsical French inspired music playing. You can see the playlist as you walk into the gift shop.

I got a kick out of noticing the last painting displayed by Edward Hopper, Les Ponts des Arts, because it indicated the start of Modernism. It seemed out of place, yet it made since in the timeline that the exhibit was taking patrons through.

After viewing the exhibit, I puzzled over the title of it since there were more Cassatt paintings than Whistler. There was practically a whole room dedicated to her. Perhaps it could have been titled Cassatt to Sargent? I believe there were more of his.

Meow Wolf Denver: A Dizzying Trip Through Memories

Not too long ago I wrote about my experience riding the Meow Wolf ride at Elitch Gardens in Denver and the evolving climate of immersive art. Immersive art has mutated into a way to draw people who didn’t even give art a glance a chance to see what art is about.

About a month ago, Meow Wolf opened a new immersive art building in Denver and it wasn’t until now that I had a chance to experience. And boy was it a doozy.

As of now, you must have a timed entry ticket and they do check bags complete with security gates. Oh, and you can’t bring in reusable water bottles, they make you empty them out. Once you get in, you can take the elevators to the different levels and there are three.

Once the elevators open, you are dropped off into a bizarre sequence of dreams, that changes as you pass through doors, or black strip door curtains. It only gets stranger and stranger.

At first, I was confused and overwhelmed as to what I should see first. But I realized there’s no rhyme or reason, like a typical art museum where there are themed sections or a pathway. You just open a door and follow it.

Now I don’t want to give too much of it away because you have to experience it for yourself. It does feel like you are having dreams that make no sense, where there are things that are familiar (because Meow Wolf usually like to repurpose objects for art sakes) and not so familiar; such as Dr. Suess- like beasts and abstract structures.

Part science-fiction, part surrealism, you are a visitor visiting Convergence Station which is a place that was created when a cosmic event minced up and then mashed together four different worlds. Memories are the only things left connecting the citizens of Convergence Station. They are so important that they became part of the economy.

Exploration is heavily encouraged and their are ‘citizens’ lurking about to converse with you. Meow Wolf Denver is open for anyone who has a curious mind. You don’t have to necessarily appreciate art, yet if you do, it is so rewarding.