Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Where better to celebrate the Day of the Dead than in an actual cemetery, right beside the holiday's honorees? The Chicano Arts and Humanities Council and Denver muertos artist Jerry Vigil put on a grave event worthy of the ancestors in Crown Hill Cemetery last November, complete with a sugar skull workshop for kids, Aztec dancing, mariachi music, fiesta food and an art show and lecture by Vigil. Not only did the event put the meaning of the celebration in clear perspective, but it was also a heck of a lot of fun. Kudos to Crown Hill for adding this to its ongoing series of community celebrations and to Vigil and friends for making it happen.
The zombie zeitgeist is in full swing, spawning hit movies, best-selling novels and immensely profitable video games. Every city worth its salt has an annual zombie crawl, where zombie fans dress up as the undead and walk, en masse, among the unsuspecting populace. Denver, being particularly salty, has one of the biggest zombie crawls in the nation. The event celebrated its fourth year with a huge turnout — some reports put attendance at more than 4,000 zombies — and even those who didn't want to dress up as the walking dead could participate by marking themselves as allowable victims via duct-taped Xs on their clothes. Whether the eaters or the eaten, everyone had a good time, and word is that 2010 is a go for the fifth iteration. Watch your brains.
Documentaries seem to always get the short end of the reel in the film world: Nobody wants to see Food, Inc. when they can see Avatar instead. But docs do make a difference in our world, and although most major film festivals include a documentary segment, there are just a handful of documentary-only film festivals in the country. We have one of them. Last year, the Denver Film Society and Foothills Art Center joined forces to produce the DocuWest Fest, for which festival executive director Reilly Sanborn pulled together short, essay-form and feature-length documentaries. The festival might not have boasted the level of star power and glamour of some other film festivals we could name, but when movies are this intimate, educational and entertaining, who needs Hollywood? Lights, camera, more action!
As bee champs get older, do they keep their fine sense of spell? Find out for yourself at the monthly adult spelling bees hosted as fundraisers by Metro Denver Promotion of Letters, a non-profit teaching organization that provides free writing workshops for kids. Staged every third Thursday at the British Bulldog, 2052 Stout street,these beer-friendly bees are strictly for grownups, and each first-prize winner pockets a Bulldog gift certificate. Stop by and sit for a spell; it costs only five bucks to join in.
Iraqi-born Colorado artist Halim Alkarim is a true virtuoso. He's done gorgeous abstract paintings, stunning installations and, for his Robischon solo, The Witness Archive, hauntingly beautiful portraits in lambda prints on aluminum that are imbued with political content. The son of a critic of Saddam Hussein, Alkarim and his family (including his brother Sami, another gifted Colorado artist) suffered under the regime until they escaped to the United States a few years ago. Although the works in The Witness Archive were based on photos of real people, the resulting pieces look more like examples of digital animation. This is because Alkarim put his models in elaborate latex masks and took the photos using scrims — then retouched the resulting shots. As befits the show's title, these pieces all resonate with the piercing, unblinking eyes of the sitters.
In Big Lots, a powerful — and beautiful — show, Denver artist Wendi Harford presented a range of stylistic approaches, with works anchored by everything from graffiti-like looping lines to rigid stripes. In fact, the only unifying factor was the size of the pieces, since Harford favored monumental over intimate; her taste in color was notable, too. Harford was a protegé of the late Bev Rosen, her mentor at the University of Denver back in the 1970s, and these pieces very subtly referred to Rosen's work. A longtime artist who's kept a fairly low profile, Harford has typically not shown her work in commercial galleries, but that changed when she recently joined the stable at Robischon. We look forward to seeing more.