As the 2016 presidential election dominated the consciousness of Americans, artist Earl Chuvarsky — a member and co-director of CORE New Art Space since 2014 — wanted to step away from painting portraits. Instead, he started painting recognizable images in unexpected or unfamiliar situations, such as a floating rabbit’s foot, a falling bald eagle or a falling dog.
When the election ended, Chuvarsky explored how the placement and isolation of one subject per canvas created a singular focal point for each painting. That led to a series called “Things Fall Apart.”
He also started painting about the United States he knew growing up in Park Hill in the ’80s and today’s America, replete with fake news, mass shootings, drugs and war. The result is Made in America, more than a dozen paintings on display at CORE, in Denver's Art District on Santa Fe, through August 19.
“When I started the series, it was more of a way for me to find solace in the chaos and uncertainty surrounding me while documenting my interpretation of current events. The political landscape was growing more divisive and almost tribal,” Chuvarsky says. “Not just between Democrats and Republicans, but within our own parties. Everyone seemed so invested in themselves and winning that they weren’t considering how the outcome would affect other people.”
One painting in this series isolates an African-American man seated on a throne holding his head in his hands. A blazing crown hangs above the man’s head. The piece is titled “The King is Dead (11.08.2016)” and symbolizes, Chuvarsky says, the fall of the Obama administration and the portrayal of disgust, disbelief and disappointment many U.S. citizens experienced after the 2016 election.
“Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how maybe America needed all this chaos to happen,” Chuvarsky says. “How we, as a country, had to break the mold to be able to create a better future.”
Chuvarsky says the grip of institutional racism, attacks on reproductive rights, wage disparity and gerrymandering is strong on American citizens, their friends, neighbors and co-workers. He hopes Made in America will encourage people to take a moment from distracting fashion trends, the death tolls in breaking news stories or the latest single from Cardi B and fully engage in something they don’t normally see every day.
He also wants people to understand that progress requires respectful disagreement. “If we really want to move forward, it has to stop being about just winning,” Chuvarsky says. “We should be able to disagree while still respecting each other’s views. It’s the only way things can actually change.”
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While these paintings explicitly shed light on today’s America, from an AK-47 with falling crayons around it to a newspaper vending machine with blazing newspapers, he also displays his childhood memories through his “Lucky U” paintings of a red, green, blue or purple rabbit’s foot.
“When I was a kid, I carried a red rabbit’s foot my grandma bought me at Woolworth’s in my pocket until most of the hair wore off,” Chuvarsky says. “Creating anything that will eventually be in the public eye comes with a certain level of uncertainty. You never really know what people’s reactions will be.
"While I don’t necessarily believe in luck,” Chuvarsky adds, "‘I’d rather have it on my side.”
Earl Chuvarsky’s Made in America series is on display through August 19 at CORE New Art Space, 900 Santa Fe Drive.