With so many people staying home this winter, it's virtually a public service that the Spark Gallery (1535 Platte Street, 303 455-4435) has been transformed into a vacationland of the imagination.
In the front gallery is Being There, a selection of charcoal drawings and oil paintings by Barbara Shark that depict her recent trip to Hawaii. Shark uses a photo-realist style, and the paintings are based on candid photos she took. The four pieces, one of which is a diptych, show her family and friends seeing the sights. The drawings are character studies. Notable among Shark's subjects is her husband, Bud Shark, master printer at Shark's Inc., a nationally known printmaker in Lyons. Bud's recognizable mug is seen in two of the paintings and one of the drawings.
In the back gallery, using tar paper, lumber and ceramics, Judith Cohn has created a conceptual version of what I believe is a Japanese garden in A Narrow Bridge. At the very least, there is a Japanesque wooden bridge (as indicated in the title), which leads visitors through Cohn's mixed-media installation. The bridge plays both a practical and a symbolic role: On the one hand, it prevents visitors from tripping over the installation; on the other, it's a metaphor for life.
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Cohn has covered the floor and the bottom of the walls with black tar paper. On top she has arranged slip-cast ceramic elements in mounded lozenge shapes. (In person, it really doesn't look like a microscopic view of anthrax, as it does in the detail above.) The elements have been glazed in an array of rich blues that modulate in varying degrees between a very dark cobalt and a much lighter turquoise shade. The shapes of the elements, the blue colors and the bridge all come together to make an unmistakable reference to water.
These two shows are on display through Sunday.