- Exhibition: CONFLUENCE
- Showing: September 10th 2015 - October 17th 2015
Denver—Water. Rising sea levels, tales of drought and increasing scarcity, discussions around its rights, its uses, its increasingly critical role as a global currency: Water is a critical planetary issue that’s very much front and center for those of us in Colorado. And now, it’s the subject of an evocative and thought-provoking new exhibition at Denver’s Space Gallery.
“Water is a complex and loaded topic,” says curator and gallerist Michael Burnett. “And in this showing, we’ll explore Confluence as the place where art and issues come together.”
Confluence, featuring works by Tyler Aiello, Monica Aiello, Betsy Stewart and Paul Ecke, examines the subject of water—not in an overtly political way, but rather as a way to fuse creativity with our conscious awareness of the subject matter. In Confluence, the artists employ unexpected shapes, colors and media to suggest the presence of water, our involvement with it and, by implication, the considerations that accompany it.
“Art is perhaps the truest and most immediate form of storytelling,” artist Paul Ecke reflected. “And water gives us a vital and important story to tell.”
Artist and environmental activist Monica Aiello agrees. “Literally and metaphorically, rivers are the life blood of Earth. Like our own circulatory systems, they bring life to global civilizations. It’s a topic we must pay attention to and a conversation that must be had. We no longer have a choice.”
“In this space, at this time,” Michael Burnett concludes, “water will inform an intimate experience with art. We see will see a confluence of the beauty, the urgency and the necessity. And if we walk away with one more moment of consideration for the truth behind the beauty, then this show will have done its job.”
The exhibit runs through October 17th at Space Gallery, 400 Santa Fe Drive, the southernmost anchor of Denver’s thriving Santa Fe Arts District.
For the past decade, I’ve been exploring the worlds of our solar system through paint. I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with NASA scientists dissecting the geology of our planetary neighbors while conveying their stories in mixed-media works. Throughout this process, I’m often asked, “why planets?” To respond to this question, I’ve recently turned my focus back to Earth so to speak. Although obvious, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Earth is a planet – a marvelous, complex and fragile system we call home. My newest series embarks on a journey to investigate our unique world from the vantage point of space.
Earth is marvelously yet dauntingly complex. Its crust is shaped not only by pervasive geologic activity; the surface of Earth has been carved by humans. So I struggled with where to begin. One day, while listening to NPR, I heard a poem by Langston Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” This impressed upon me the role of rivers in shaping our planet, its habitability, history and civilizations. Around the same time, I had the chance to visit both the headwaters of the Colorado River in Rocky Mountain National Park and its course through the Grand Canyon. I was struck by the story of the Colorado River in shaping the landscape and development of the American West and my new series was born.
Literally and metaphorically, rivers are the life blood of Earth. Their cycles parallel our bodies’ circulatory systems as they journey to deliver fresh water and nutrients to the land. They also have defined the development of civilizations, providing essential resources and conduits for our societies to flourish. The story of the Colorado River embodies the power of rivers as essential to land and life. My new series takes a look at the journey of the Colorado River from humble headwaters to its untimely demise before it reaches the Sea of Cortez. The Colorado River is one of the most heavily legislated, litigated and manipulated rivers in the world with international implications. Its watershed allowed for the “desert to bloom” as predicted by John Wesley Powell, but human impact has also had devastating effects on its health and the environment. From Denver to Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Diego, the Colorado River is crucial for millions of people and huge agricultural enterprises. The American public literally feeds off the bounty of the river every day. However, this precious resource is at risk and it is truly and endangered landscape.
My new series takes a 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 – a true example of the Anthropocene. This is dramatically seen in the contrast of the fractal and organic patterns viewed in the natural landscape as juxtaposed with the geometric manipulation of Earth’s surface pervasive in our urban and agricultural areas. For this series, I’m interested in investigating the juxtaposing forms of man vs. nature while contemplating the history and future of this remarkable, iconic and fragile resource.
My sculpture blends my interest in science and the natural world with a love of process and materials. Fundamentally, I am interested in exploring the intersection of art, science and community. I enjoy working with industrial materials to produce contemporary sculpture that references old-world craftsmanship. My pieces are composed of numerous small metal and wooden components which unite to create organic, biomorphic forms. Often, I incorporate light to emphasize the work’s negative space and create shadow which extends the work’s effect to the surrounding architectural environment. For inspiration, I draw from a variety of sources including microbiology, botany and chemistry – often incorporating mathematics. In preparing for my work, I have had the good fortune of consulting with NASA and the scientific community which has provided constant inspiration. Throughout the process, a focus on detail is critical – both in terms of looking at the minute details in nature, as well as the detail present in each piece.
My studio practice involves a complex, laborious process in order to infuse my work with the craftsmanship and detail I find important. I hand-cut and forge numerous small steel components, often engineering my own specialized tools and hammers. I form and texturize the metal components so that each piece has individual nuance. These pieces are then welded together over carved plaster molds to create organic, abstracted forms. I spend considerable time finishing the work through polishing and patinas to emphasize the surface quality. The process is important to both the aesthetics of the work, as well as having a conceptual intent. I am interested in the concept of “gestalt,” individual parts becoming wholes, which is a concept critical to chemistry, biology, and society.
My interest in connectivity and community extends from my work to my role as an educator and public outreach activist. Through my relationship with NASA and public institutions, I’ve had the opportunity to develop many programs for youth and adults that explore the connections between the arts and sciences. These have been presented at numerous museums, science institutions, NASA facilities, art schools, colleges and public schools nationwide.
Art in its truest form is like story telling … it’s creating a sense of engagement or dialog with the viewer.
I have combined luminous color, hand written notions, hieroglyphic symbols and everyday objects. In this complex process of incorporating numerous layers of under painting in combination with screening and newsprint, I have created a personal note-pad or diary of sorts.
The viewer must not only observe the work but read them as well. These paintings are intended to appear graphically simple, but delivering a considerable “emotional punch” with the complex depth of the messages with-in them. As an artist, primarily of the abstract, I feel I have the freedom to explore and play with artistic elements from other genres.
Using biomorphic images, my work examines the microscopic, mutually dependent life systems found in water that are ever increasingly disappearing. By giving these images a presence I speak to our fragile position in the cosmos. Each work becomes a manifesto of hope in a time where the natural world is increasingly fleeting and species at a rapid rate are becoming extinct. These images explore the regenerative symmetry inherent to the morphing of the natural world. Many of my works not only examine the micro elements of the environment but also in unison explore the exploding and radiating energy of our expanding universe that highlights the entwined nature of the all creatures. The viewer is encouraged to consider the unseen minutiae that saturate our micro/macro universe and the ever present fragility of these endangered organisms.