Brian Napier Explores the Tensions Between Humans and Their Environment

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You can find art all over town — not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.

"Art is something I've always been drawn to — no pun intended," says Brian Napier, who moved from a little mountain town outside of Lake Tahoe to finish up his undergraduate degree at the University of Denver, where he graduated last spring with a BFA. While growing up, he was “scatterbrained, and would doodle in class,” he recalls. And while he remembers watching the techniques of his mother and grandmother, who both drew a lot, “I never thought I’d pursue being a practicing artist,” he says. 

As he got older, though, he realized he loved creating art. “So I decided to go for it,” he says, He started his undergraduate degree at a community college in Lake Tahoe, where he worked full-time as a ski instructor and dockhand to pay for school. The double duty didn't bother Napier, since he's always liked being outdoors — and that's part of the reason he moved to Colorado. “I’m a big rock climber and skier, and Denver strikes the perfect balance with its art scene and culture,” he says.

The outdoors has also had a huge impact on Napier’s work. His art reflects his overarching interests in nature and people —and how the two forces interact. 

Napier recognizes “the push and pull” and psychological aspects of that complex relationship. “Coming from a mountain town, I became acutely aware of how easily people can manipulate their environment or be manipulated by it," he says, "This conflicting relationship between the individual and their surroundings is at the center of my artwork."

A series of Napier’s oils that deals with various psychological states is currently on display at Kaladi Coffee at 1730 East Evans Avenue. The artist’s flat pieces are detail-oriented and precise, just as he is personally. His larger installations and sculptures feature are broader takes on the interaction between people and the planet.  

“My thesis to graduate was a big wall installation called Rhythm,” Napier notes. For that 10-foot by 24-foot installation, he used fallen trees from the Fourmile Canyon Fire in Boulder, and positioned them in a fluid pattern. By taking a remnant from that disaster and bringing it into a more formal gallery setting, Napier hoped to “address the impact we have on [the environment], either directly or indirectly,” he says. The artist describes his process further in a video created in partnership with Hidden Woods Media

Napier’s sculptures bridge the gap between his paintings and installations. “They are very minimalistic,” he says. “I like to use the raw materials how they are, without dressing them up too much. I’m not trying to fool you.”
Napier’s work will be on display at Kaladi until early October; he has also shown at Boxcar Gallery and Atlas Galleries. For more information about Napier and his work, visit his website.

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