Earl Chuvarsky has a hard time pinpointing one particular event from 2020 that inspired him to create the paintings in When Things Fall Apart, his new exhibit at CORE New Art Space, which runs August 21 through September 6. The pandemic and stay-at-home orders, the murder of George Floyd, and the tear gas police have used on protesters in Denver all played a role in these paintings about uncertainty.
Chuvarsky, a 36-year-old artist who was born in Colorado and grew up in Park Hill, has called downtown home since 2008. Before the pandemic, he enjoyed visiting art galleries of any size, including the Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art. When he’s not using a paintbrush, he's trekking through abandoned ghost towns and their cemeteries or collecting trinkets and doohickeys in antique shops.
One thing he's certain about: It’s always an accomplishment to display his work in the Mile High City — even when his subject is uncertainty.
“I first started exploring the concept of uncertainty through my art at the end of 2016, early 2017. At the time, I had just learned the company I was working for was closing its location in Colorado, and we had just come off a pretty diverse election cycle with what felt like perpetual chaos,” Chuvarsky says. “Through that exploration, I’ve found some level of uncertainty isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You need it to grow, because even if things don’t work out the way you expected, hopefully you learned something.
“That’s when I branched off from portraiture into the figurative,” Chuvarsky continues, “painting my subjects devoid of context — neither floating nor falling, but frozen in a moment of time.”
His static subjects in the exhibit include a dog, wolves, and a graffitied Confederate statue. Most of the paintings are acrylic on canvas.
“I usually build my own stretcher bars and stretch my own canvas," he says. "But there was an almost two-month period where you couldn’t source supplies because of stay-at-home orders. So several of my new paintings are cannibalized stretcher bars from old paintings I wasn’t happy with and wood panels I had left over.”
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Even the gallery experience, he notes, is shaped by the uncertainty of these times. CORE will mandate mask wearing and social distancing. High-touch areas will be disinfected regularly, and there’s a cap on how many visitors can come in at a time. This, as he tells it, is the new normal for the Denver art scene...at least for now.
“I definitely think masks are a must, combined with social distancing until an effective vaccine is developed and the majority of the population has access to one,” Chuvarsky says. “In the next two to five years, with the pandemic and election, I see Denver’s art scene contracting and consolidating, at least at first. Most artist-run spaces don’t have huge budgets and are already being displaced from Denver proper due to rising property values.
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“CORE was lucky to be able to move into an open space in Pasternack’s Art Hub of the 40 West Art District," he says. "There’s a rich history and plenty of characters in Denver’s art scene that I don’t think a lot of people know about. I’d like to see more collaboration between established institutions such as the Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art with smaller, artist-run ones.”
When people visit CORE and see When Things Fall Apart, Chuvarsky hopes they find camaraderie in this lonely and economically stressful moment.
“Times are especially tough right now for a lot of people — economically, mentally and emotionally,” Chuvarsky explains. “It’s going to be a long road ahead, and I’m not sure when or if we’ll return to what we used to think of as ‘normal.’ But we’ll make it through.”