Kevin OConnell and Richard Van Pelt
Some people follow art as though it were a religion, and I'd include myself in that eccentric group. But I think it's just a coincidence that onetime houses of worship so often wind up as art galleries. That's the case with the church-then-synagogue that is the Emmanuel Gallery on the Auraria campus, and the former church and parish house now occupied by Foothills Art Center in Golden. Then there's the ex-chapel that is home to the O'Sullivan Art Gallery on the Regis University campus (3333 Regis Boulevard, 303-964-3634).
I don't get to the O'Sullivan as often as I should. My only excuse is that since it's out of my sight in the middle of that picturesque campus, it's also out of my mind. (That and the unbelievable parking problem.) But as soon as I heard about the duet of photo shows on display, Kevin O'Connell and Richard Van Pelt, I knew I'd have to make my way out there. The exhibits were put together by Willy Sutton, a longtime photography professor at Regis.
O'Connell is one of the state's premier photographers, best known for his luxurious platinum prints of the Colorado plains. For this newer body of work, however, he's turned on the color. Interestingly, his exuberant depictions of Seattle's verdant environment are, conceptually, the total opposite of his minimalist plains pictures.
The radical shift makes sense, though, considering that the color images mark his perilous journey through a bone-marrow transplant, which is why he was in the Northwest in the first place. O'Connell is represented by two bodies of work, "One Hundred Days," referring to the time during which many transplant recipients die, and "Nocturne," which references a Catholic mass performed at night. Both focus on a view from within the woods, which figuratively envelop the viewer, as in "One Hundred Days, the park, #11" (pictured).
Van Pelt's carbon pigment prints of tiny patches of wilderness in the controlled open spaces of his present home town of Boulder work beautifully with the O'Connells. The idea for Van Pelt is the juxtaposition of development and nature, though in most of them, only the trees, shrubs and plants are seen, with nearby buildings just out of the frame. But their real appeal and strength lie in the way Van Pelt uses tangles of bare twigs to create powerful abstract arrangements. They also play into the contemporary Western art movement in that they can be read as traditional landscapes.
If you want to learn more about what O'Connell and Van Pelt had in mind, talks by the artists are scheduled for September 13 at 7 p.m. in the gallery.
A crisp, early-fall day is the perfect time to take in Kevin O'Connell and Richard Van Pelt at the O'Sullivan Art Gallery; the shows come down on October 5.
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