Multimedia artist Aimee Fink’s Year of the Buffalo – on display at Kaladi Coffee Roasters all month — was five years in the making. The project got its start when Fink saw a photograph of a buffalo in the winter. “It had all of this ice stuck to its face,” she recalls. “I think the buffalo is such a cool symbol for Colorado. It’s big and quietly strong and magnificent — it’s brilliant, really.”
Fink replicated the inspirational photo in mosaics. That finished, she decided to re-create the image in a spring setting. After that, she began making mixed-media sculptures of buffalos. “I tend to use whatever I have in my studio,” Fink explains, listing the items she commonly finds while walking around town: dog tags, key chains.
But when she began creating the buffalo, she quickly realized she was going to need a lot more stuff and reached out through her neighborhood's Nextdoor website, in part “because I wanted [the buffalos] to be a representation of our world here in Denver,” she says. In her online message, Fink told neighbors about her project and asked if anyone wanted to contribute.
“I got a lot of responses,” she remembers. Folks offered up snow-tire chains, license plates, buttons, jewelry — even horseshoes. “It just kind of grew and grew and grew,” she says. “I love having a personal connection; a mosaic is more fun to put together with people’s broken china because it has a history, a story.”
Before long, Fink says, she “met a guy named Fred who goes around Wash Park with a metal detector." Fred donated “a ton of stuff,” and even connected the artist with fellow treasure hunters.
Fink’s current exhibition at Kaladi is her first large-scale display; she's also shown at the Arvada Center and the Denver Botanic Gardens, and done pop-up shows with friends at their homes. “This is the first time I’ve ever developed a group of pieces that I wanted to show all together," she explains. "This is kind of my love letter to Colorado. You can submit a piece or two into galleries every now and then, but for me this show wasn’t about a single buffalo — it’s about all of them.”
Kaladi's owner even let Fink paint the walls before she hung her work. “It’s the most perfect wall, and I couldn’t be happier about how it’s showing,” she says. “Kaladi is also really good about letting artists keep the money they make.”
Accompanying Fink’s buffalo series are other pieces with a distinct local feel, including mosaic butterflies, Colorado flag mirrors, and an octopus made out of vinyl records and broken boards from the Fink family’s tae kwon do sessions. "Mixed media is the most fun I’ve ever had in my studio — by far," she says. "It satisfies every need or thrill I have as an artist, by giving me the opportunity to be creative and solve problems.”
Fink grew up “smack-dab between L.A. and San Francisco,” she says. When her family began migrating to Colorado -– first her dad, then her brother –- she wasn’t about to be left out. So after graduating from college in San Francisco with a minor in graphic design, Fink moved to Denver in 1992 and began doing freelance design work, often creating logos for her clients.
But she worked in other media, too. “I got married and made a mosaic table for the dining room, followed by a stained-glass window for our living room,” Fink recalls. “That was it. I was sold.”
Fink continues to experiment and takes art classes, usually at the Art Students League of Denver. "I love taking classes, but I prefer figuring things out on my own,” she says.
Fink recently finished a mural spanning two walls in a meeting room at the Park Hill Branch Library. The painting is a nature scene with aspen trees, birds and deer —- all set against the library’s logo. “I carved that into one of the trees,” Fink says. “I feel very qualified to do that type of work, and love it because it is a change of pace.
"But my heart is in mixed media and mosaic.”
Find out more about the artist on Fink's website.