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Elena Gunderson hangs new work on a custom-built laundry line for Dirty Laundry, opening March 7 at Sally Centigrade.EXPAND
Elena Gunderson hangs new work on a custom-built laundry line for Dirty Laundry, opening March 7 at Sally Centigrade.
Alicia Trujillo

Elena Gunderson Proudly Displays Her Dirty Laundry

Elena Gunderson isn't afraid of color....or being colorful. Her work shows a striking attention to detail, with nods toward 1940s vintage photos, pulp art and even Lisa Frank.

Since graduating Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design in 2012, Gunderson has built an impressive Denver following, creating playful and mischievous work, primarily in gouache, watercolor and ink; she also draws with sidewalk chalk and sometimes incorporates vinyl toys into her projects.

In 2018, Scott and Myah Bailey, the owners of Sally Centigrade Gallery, invited her to create an installation in their space. Gunderson challenged herself to move out of her comfort zone and explore her creative process and identity; the resulting exhibit and fashion show will take place Thursday, March 7.

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"I'm not really an installation artist, but the idea really pushed my boundaries. I didn't want to go too far out of what I already did, so I had this idea of a sex-themed show, where I'd hang dirty images from a laundry line," explains Gunderson. She named the show Dirty Laundry.

After beginning the project in late October 2018, she scrapped the idea of solely making work about sex, and shifted from X-rated pieces toward introspective ones.

Gunderson's pieces hanging from the laundry line, with "Medusa" at the forefront.EXPAND
Gunderson's pieces hanging from the laundry line, with "Medusa" at the forefront.
Alicia Trujillo

"It really became about trying to figure out new ways of producing work within my process," she says.

Gunderson has painted 38 new pieces for this show, ranging from postcard- to poster-sized paintings. The collection still includes sex-themed pieces, but also explores mythology and space. Other paintings try to bridge the gap between the neon signs of old Las Vegas and her native home of Colorado.

To create these works, Gunderson would splatter paint or start with a broad brushstroke and let the paint tell her story, she says. The results are more varied than her previous works, using a broader palette of color.

Gunderson hangs the last pieces of her show on the laundry line.EXPAND
Gunderson hangs the last pieces of her show on the laundry line.
Alicia Trujillo

She's also directing a fashion show at the opening that will highlight seven leather jackets she hand-painted to explore identity. The idea came to her when she was creating Halloween costumes last year for herself and her boyfriend.

"I wanted to do something that was kind of like armor, and something that was fun and bold," she explains. "I wanted to do things that were kind of romantic, but also kind of creepy, so I tried to juxtapose a lot of different themes together."

Gunderson painted leather jackets that explore identity for the new show.EXPAND
Gunderson painted leather jackets that explore identity for the new show.
Alicia Trujillo

Each jacket — which she obtained with the help of Heart in the Box Records — carries its own identity and story, as well as customized matching sunglasses. The night of the opening, Gunderson's friends will model the jackets and sunglasses. After the fashion show, the jackets will hang on the wall behind the laundry line, displaying the images on their backs.  Gunderson describes Dirty Laundry as her "art baby," and she believes it's her strongest collection yet.

"It really became more about re-finding myself as an artist," she says. "It went back to art in its purity for me."

The opening of Dirty Laundry runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday, March 7, at Sally Centigrade Art Gallery, 445 South Saulsbury Street in Lakewood. The fashion show starts at 6:30 p.m.; works will be available on a "grab-and-go" basis, and the sale starts promptly at 7 p.m. The show will continue through March; find out more at sallycentigrade.com.

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