Art Review

Artbeat

Though most of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 1-719-634-5581) is taken over by the mammoth Dale Chihuly retrospective, there is another attraction installed in the side gallery just west of the lobby. ATHLETE/WARRIOR is made up of elegant, beautifully printed black-and-white photos of cadets from the three service academies: West Point, the Naval Academy and Colorado's own Air Force Academy. The wonderfully composed pieces are by internationally known British photographers Jonathan Anderson and Edwin Low, who work collaboratively under the name of Anderson and Low.

The series began in Colorado Springs a few years ago when Anderson and Low were completing a portrait project at the United States Olympic Training Center. Officials at the Air Force Academy were impressed with their work and asked the pair to take photos of the school's jocks. That went so well, it led Anderson and Low to expand the project to incorporate the other academies.

The cadets are outfitted as soldiers in some shots, both in dress and battle regalia; in others, they are suited up for the various sports they play. Often the two types of photos are put together as a diptych, with the same individual seen side by side in the alternate guises.

Because of the current situation in Iraq, some may be queasy taking in heroic depictions of American soldiers. And certainly the fact that the work is open to a pro-military interpretation was demonstrably proved by the CSFAC's military appreciation day held a couple of weeks ago with the show being the centerpiece.

Though it's a problem for some, I say get over it. Clearly Anderson and Low intended to refer not to war but to the tradition of idealizing the athlete and the warrior, which originated in antiquity. Not only that, but they make the cadets look like beefcake models -- as in "Christopher Dingman, Lacrosse player, U.S. Naval Academy" (above) -- and that strikes me as just a little subversive.

The show has been given a shorter-than-usual slot and is set to close July 24.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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