Visual Arts

Dana Cain's Art Collection: Brianna Martray and Kevin Baer

Dana Cain is the lady with her thumb in a million pies; a local maestra of event-planning, she throws several well-attended collectors' expos, art shows, parties and 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 is a unapologetic fan of Brianna Martray's canvases, emotionally driven swirling landscapes that the artist paints with her hands. And she's far from being Martray's only fan. "She's the real deal," Dana says of Martray. "She travels to shows all over the country and keeps coming home with awards and ribbons and tons of sales. She sold eleven sculptures at one show, and those are bronze; they're not cheap." Did I mention sculpture? "One of my claims to fame, and it's something that will probably end up on my tombstone, is the fact that I was the first person to buy a Brianna Martray sculpture. Her paintings are so popular, and when she told me she was switching to sculpture, all I could think was, 'There goes the neighborhood.' But her sculpture is so ethereal -- it's really an extension of what she's doing in her paintings. That whole emotional powerhouse environment carries over to her sculpture." The sculpture's title, however -- "Water on the Moon" -- is what really clinched it for Dana.

"She has this fantastic ability to jump into different mediums and still produce works that are undeniably Martray," Dana notes. Case in point: Martray's current show (at Core New Art Space, through October 17) is a completely different animal. The installation "Self" is composed of 4,000 origami cranes created from the pages of a work-intensive novel she wrote over a period of eight years but never submitted for publication. It represents, Martray says in her statement, "the shadow of thousands of hours of work, the history of my creative journey, remnants of a former self."

Dana calls it "mind-blowing," if not characteristic. "I wondered how that fits in with the rest of her work. But when you see it, it totally does, just because it's so emotional."

In Dana's world, Martray's work was somehow meant to be intertwined with the Kevin Baer installation "Conqueror Wyrms," a work inspired by dragons and created from wire, shrink wrap and LED lights. Dana acquired it from Baer at auction when he was preparing to leave Denver for school in New Orleans. She had first seen -- and loved -- the wyrms at a show at Pirate. "With some things, you see 'em and you want 'em, but it's just not practical. They're clearly not anything anybody's gonna buy for their homes. But I kept wanting them, and I finally had enough space to devote a room or two to a flat-out installation."

Dana then created her own unique sci-fi environment for the installation in a spare basement room by covering the floor with black AstroTurf, tossing in some black beanbag chairs and blowing up Brianna Martray's "Mukta" into a life-sized alien landscape that lines the walls. "Spending as much time as I have staring into Brianna's paintings, I've always wanted to be able to walk into one," Dana says. "Now I can feel like I can enter Brianna's landscape and view the native life. And the wyrms really seem very happy down there."

Like what you see? Future installments are imminent. Watch Westword's Show and Tell blog for more.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd