Dana Cain is the lady with her thumb in a million pies: The local maestra of event-planning throws several well-attended collectors expos, art shows, parties, chocolate fests each year. Her latest -- and biggest -- project is next summer's Denver County Fair. But Dana is also an avid art collector who's made a conscious decision to collect works by Colorado artists on a regular basis, especially after seeing the 2008 documentary about collector couple Herb and Dorothy.
Dana estimates that she buys an average of two to four pieces a month, when she can afford it. And her house is one big gallery/art installation, with themed rooms arranged and designed to best show off her growing collection. Over the coming weeks, we'll be exploring the individual works and why they belong to Dana Cain.
Dana pretty much invented the annual Art District Best of 2010 Exhibition, which showcases artists showing at galleries along Santa Fe Drive, but while she leaves the major judging to both a serious art expert (Westword's Michael Paglia had the honors this year) and to the public, there's one award she's claimed as her own: the Brandon Borchert Pop Art Award, given each year in memory of the brilliant local artist Borchert, whose career ended in suicide four years ago. A staunch supporter of the artist in life, Dana not only owns several Borchert works, but she also maintains an online tribute that celebrates his life and work. For 2010, she gave the Borchert award to Kym Bloom, who also has a place in her collection. Brandon Borchert, Dana says, was "into pop art, into surrealism, into the whole Dada/random thing, which is basically everything I'm into, too. Everything I love about art is what he put into his art. He was one of my very favorite Denver artists of all time -- when I first saw his work at CORE, I fell in love with it, but then when I heard him talk about it and understood his process, I completely, utterly fell in love with Brandon and what he was doing." At the time of his death, she explains, Borchert painted imagery dictated by his own self-created deck of 59 numbered lotto cards: He would choose a set randomly, based on the week's lotto numbers, and he'd incorporate the allotted unrelated images into a painting. Dana owns seven of the lotto card images, as well as a collaborative piece Borchert made with fellow artists Matt Doubek and Jason Needham, but the pièce de résistance of her Borchert collection is "Teen Angst Tailspin," a work she long coveted before she owned it and which hangs over the piano in her living room, on a wall painted orange solely to complement the painting. Random lotto images by Brandon Borchert: One thing Dana admired about Borchert was his community-mindedness, how he didn't sit alone in the studio, but rather got out and taught classes, was active in the art trading card set and wasn't afraid to collaborate with other artists. Kym Bloom, who is a part-owner at the Kanon Collective on Santa Fe, she notes, also exemplifies that spirit.
"Basically, the award is meant to honor someone who shares and carries on a lot of Brandon's inspirations and motivation and sensibilities. She's in the district almost every day of her life, promoting both her art and that of others. She's very involved in the local art scene." But Bloom, Dana adds, has more in common with Borchert than being involved with the local art scene. "She's also into the same art styles -- pop art, surrealism and Dada, using grids and juxtaposing images. Almost equally as weird, she uses candy in her works."
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Dana's two works by Bloom -- an assemblage of melted Dum Dum Pops called "Moon Doggy" and an altered and resin-heavy photo transfer of a Stuckey's Pecan Roll wrapper -- fit in well with the Borchert sensibility she treasures. Which is what collecting is ultimately all about: finding your inner connection to a work and running with it. "Losing Brandon was such a godawful tragic blow to his friends and the whole art scene here," Dana says. "I always thought I would have the rest of my life to collect his art and watch his career grow. Every time I saw him, I'd buy some little thing. But then he wound up killing himself.
"One point I always like to make when I talk about collecting is that if you like somebody's art, tell them. Art is such an ego-driven endeavor, and so many artists don't get the positive feedback they need. They end up feeling like they're not doing enough or getting enough recognition. Never assume that you can go back and buy a painting later. If you see something you like, tell the artist and buy it. That is what I learned from Brandon."
See the Art District Best of 2010 Exhibition (and work by Kym Bloom) through January 29 at eventgallery 910Arts, 910 Santa Fe Drive.