By Raymundo Muñoz
The creative process is a delicate thing. At times it feels akin to replicating cold fusion, necessitating the most exacting of conditions that, of course, aren’t ever exact enough. As such the perfectionist in every artist abhors the idea of revealing a piece before it’s “complete.” And even then the reveal itself can be a struggle. A group of Denver-based artists, however, recently faced this challenge head-on for the Create Denver presentation “Process to Consumption” at the McNichols Civic Center Building. Given two month’s worth of weekends at the venue and wooden “vessels” to base their work on, artists Michael Dowling, Jared David Paul Anderson, Lu Cong, Homare Ikeda, Donald Fodness, duo Laura Shill + Amber Cobb, Pangloss Gravitron collective, and Ravi Zupa were invited to demonstrate to a curious crowd their respective creative processes from start to finish.
Beginning from the western wing, painter Michael Dowling welcomes viewers with open arms: garbed in swaddling cloths, a tattooed child painted against a black background holds his/her arms out, imploring the viewer to pick him/her up. In the opposite corner, Lu Cong–an oil painter well-known for his hyperrealistic character portrayals–displayed works altogether unexpected: sketches and prints of his past work. Surrounded by a mass of seemingly unorganized simple figure drawings, the somewhat altered print selections stood out as cleanly presented and comparatively refined. Considering the impracticality of producing his usual fair in such a limited time, the artist played it smart and focused on representing the process itself. Similarly, mixed media artist Ravi Zupa‘s three fine pieces, reportedly, joined the mix in the eleventh hour.
While some artists found the limited studio time a challenge, others completely embraced the opportunity for experimentation, engagement, and collaboration. Through daubs of paint, scraped and smeared in a confluence of heavy layering, Homare Ikeda’s “Their Eyes And My Eyes” explores the relationship of order and chaos through audience participation wherein “collaborators” specified jump-off points for the artist’s brush. Nearby, viewers are encouraged to literally kiss an ink painting by Jared David Paul Anderson without the threat of prosecution and with amusing context supplied: a news story about a misguided woman in France who got in trouble for kissing a Cy Twombly piece. Going above and beyond, Pangloss Gravitron—Tracy Tomko, Erin Asmussen, John Haley III, Mark Howell, Patrick Loehr, and Meagen Svendsen–immersed the audience in a massive multimedia installation, incorporating sculpture, painting, video projection, and found objects with the aim of inspiring a deeper understanding and appreciation of the human/animal connection. While looking at amusing videos within the installation’s “island,” viewers’ faces–unknowingly–are projected from the hulking green “beast” sculpture onto a floating figure clad in animal print. Strange in ways perhaps, but very fun.
In a similar vein, Plus Gallery artist Donald Fodness brought his own special brand of bizarre and grotesque in his “The New Pope” piece, a colorful and confounding assemblage of objects including (but not limited to) lawn chair, fake dead chicken, hair, and model car. Duo Laura Shill and Amber Cobb‘s textural and sexually suggestive material studies were unsettling in their own right, seeking to convey the human experience via the equalizing processes of stretching, spilling, oozing, and breaking.
Paired with a sommelier-prepared wine tasting–based on the wine steward’s detailed impressions of each work on display–the opening for “Process to Consumption” was a lively, vivid, engaging affair–and rightly so. Final exhibition of the show runs from July 10 – 27.