Artist Alicia Bailey spent time with her great-aunt Ruth Wheeler — an educator and naturalist — before the elder relative died and left behind a trove of found artifacts, photos, letters and specimens from nature that Bailey had naturally gravitated toward as she got to know Wheeler more intimately. “She and I started talking about things she had that she was worried might just get thrown away after she died,” Bailey recalls, “so she started giving me things, like stuffed birds.” After Wheeler did pass away, Bailey found even more memorabilia — almost too much — and about ten years ago, she began to collect the artifacts in Cornell-style art boxes and handmade art books. “Every object was imbued with some kind of personal significance to someone,” Wheeler explains. “I felt a little odd repurpos-ing them in that way; it felt self-indulgent.” But over time and after the initial sadness passed, she’s come to feel joy in revisiting, and sharing, Wheeler’s personal detritus in an artful way.
Much of that work goes on display today in Lovely and Amazing, a fascinating retrospective honoring Wheeler that will grace the Niza Knoll Gallery through November 9; a catalogue with transcriptions from Wheeler’s oral history is also in the works. See the artwork at a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight; special events at the gallery, located at 915 Santa Fe Drive, include a Third Friday reception on October 18 and an artist talk on November 7. For details, visit nizaknollgallery.com or call 303-953-1789
Fri., Oct. 4, 6-9 p.m.; Oct. 4-Nov. 9; Fri., Oct. 18, 5-8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 2, 7 p.m., 2013
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