Remembering three Colorado contemporary artists

Based on my experience — and my files — I figure there are 300 serious contemporary artists in Colorado. I make note of this because three of them died in November, which strikes me as a pretty high number. On November 8, Elaine Calzolari succumbed to cancer (Artbeat, November 19); on November 10, Jeremy Hillhouse died after a long struggle with spine damage; and on November 23, veteran abstractionist Al Wynne died, also of cancer.

Hillhouse was born in Colorado Springs in 1940 and became interested in art while he was a student at Colorado College. He's best known for his oversized paintings of the Colorado landscape that are thoroughly abstracted, such as "April" (pictured), an acrylic on canvas. On one level, the painting depicts the plains under the sky, but on another, the specific scene takes a back seat to the real subject of the picture: paint. Hillhouse's day job was as an exhibition designer at the Denver Art Museum, where he worked for 28 years and where he's remembered for his elegant arrangements.

In a coincidence that now serves as an ad hoc memorial, his work, including "April," is currently on view in the group exhibit 12 Artists in Common-Redux at the William Havu Gallery. Hillhouse attended the opening just a few days before he died.

Wynne, who was born in 1922 in Colorado Springs, was an abstract-expressionist who lived in Black Forest with his wife, Lou, herself a ceramicist. He is well known in Denver and was the subject of a number of shows here over the past ten years, including those at the MCA Denver, the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art and, most recently, at Z Art Department this past fall ("Wynne Triumphant," September 17). Wynne was part of a group of abstract painters active in southern Colorado in the mid-twentieth century whose work was rediscovered and re-evaluated in the 1990s. As a child, he studied with Boardman Robinson at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center School, and later, as a college student, with Vance Kirkland at the University of Denver. A memorial is planned at the Kirkland; call 303-832-4774 for information.

 
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