Art Review


Currently, there's a touching two-part exhibit at the Edge Gallery (3658 Navajo Street, 303-477-7173) that honors Roger M. Beltrami, a long-time co-op member who died earlier this year. The show, birds of a feather, has two parts: In the front space is a memorial presentation featuring Beltrami's own work, and in the middle space is work created by others and dedicated to the late artist's memory.

Beltrami was born in Rhode Island in 1949; he moved to Colorado in 1972 after dropping out of college, then lived in Boulder, Leadville and Aspen before settling in Denver. In the '80s, his life was rocked by the AIDS crisis, particularly the death of his friend, Michael Ryan. In 1993, Beltrami was officially declared disabled, his symptoms having met the Center for Disease Control's definition of AIDS. He became an activist, helped found ACT-UP Colorado and belonged to Direct Action. All the while, Beltrami kept creating art.

Wayne Alan Lee, Beltrami's partner, curated the memorial, installing a re-creation of Beltrami's bedroom wall to provide a glimpse of the artist's "life and character." There's a bookcase, a toy box filled with dolls, framed snapshots, and pieces by fellow Edge members, including Ken Peterson and Susan Goldstein.

The rest of this part of the show is made up of Beltrami's work, predominated by his sand paintings. Considering that he used a limited palette and straight lines, it's amazing how widely varied in style they are. Many recall rugs, either American Indian or Oriental, like "Circa 1849" (above), while others look neo-classical, art deco or even op art.

In the center space, Sara-Lou Klein McKlayer has organized the group salute inspired by another kind of Beltrami work, his bird's nests. McKlayer sent out invitations, which included a feather, to about sixty artists. Among those who participated are Mary Cay, Mark Brasuell, Jerry Simpson, Sue Simon, Gail Wagner, Tim Flynn, Reed Weimer and Zoa Ace.

Edge's birds of a feather closes on June 13, and then the Beltrami pieces will be distributed among his friends and fellow co-op members.

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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