Art Review


Dorothea Dunlop was a notable Denver-born sculptor whose long career spanned the past forty years. She died on February 19 at age ninety, of complications from a stroke. Reflecting the mores of the era in which she lived, Dunlop had been a full-time wife and mother before she turned to making sculpture in mid-life. In the late 1950s and early '60s, she studied informally with Wilbert Verhelst, a prominent Denver artist of the time.

Dunlop first began exhibiting her work in the early 1960s and immediately gained a measure of fame. But within a decade, she faded from public view. In a lucky break, she was rediscovered in the 1990s after being included in Elizabeth Schlosser's book, Modern Sculpture in Denver, and was featured at Schlosser's now-closed Cherry Creek gallery.

An abstract expressionist, Dunlop used found-metal objects welded together to produce her modernist sculptures. Her use of organic shapes is enigmatic, never whimsical. Dunlop graduated from the University of Denver and attended the Art Institute of Chicago. Over the decades, her sculptures were exhibited not only in Denver, but also across the country.

On February 24, a few days after Dunlop's death, another noteworthy Denver artist passed away: painter and sculptor Roger Beltrami, who died at age 54 of liver cancer. Beltrami, who moved to Denver from Rhode Island in 1972, was a self-taught artist. Among the many things he created were decorated wooden boxes meant to hold cremated human remains, which had special resonance because of his own precarious health. But he is probably best remembered for his geometric sand paintings that resemble Navajo rugs, such as 2000's "Listening to Stars Fall" (above).

Beltrami was a longtime member of the Edge Gallery artists' co-op, and his work was regularly shown there. (The gallery will present a memorial exhibit of his work in May.) An AIDS activist, he was a member of Act Up and Direct Action, as well as having AIDS himself (he was diagnosed in the early 1980s). He is survived by his partner, Wayne Lee.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia