The Ship of Theseus conundrum goes something like this: The Greek hero Theseus has a ship, and over time, as wood rots and sails tear, things must be replaced to keep the ship seaworthy. Eventually, there is nothing “original” left on the ship, even if it looks the same; every inch of it has had to be restored with new plank and fabric. In the end, the question is this: Is that ship the same ship?
It is and it isn’t. So goes the thought experiment. It’s a paradox — the sort of philosophical question not meant to have an answer, but to pose more questions about the nature of reality and the origins of time and substance. And those are the questions Denver artist Lares Feliciano
was pondering when making her latest collection of digital and hand-cut collage work, printed on and framed in aluminum.
Portals of Theseus
is now on view at Meow Wolf's Convergence Station
, in its rotational art space Galleri Gallery
. Feliciano is a natural fit for the gallery, which has shared artwork from well-known Denver artists including the late Stevon Lucero
. Feliciano moved here in 2014 with her husband, the artist Bothe Kretsinger (who also created a custom soundscape for Portals of Theseus
), and immediately began engaging the city's arts community. She was the program director for Think360 Arts
, a nonprofit that provides creative education to elementary, middle and high schools, and later became a resident artist for RedLine Contemporary Art Center
, another arts education nonprofit, where she now is the art grants manager. You'll be able to pick her brain on Thursday, January 12, at Galleri Gallery's opening reception, where Feliciano will be present all evening to meet, greet and answer questions.
"Angel Numbers," by Lares Feliciano.
“I didn’t know [the collection] was going to be connected to the Ship of Theseus until toward the end,” admits Feliciano. “The oldest [art in] the exhibit is from 2019, but most of it is from 2021 and 2022. Collage work is what I turn to when I feel stuck in the grind of everything else — all the things an artist has to do that’s not creating art itself. So I found myself doing that a lot during the pandemic. No expectations, no plan, really. I ended up with this body of collage art that I was constantly returning to.”
It was only by happenstance that Feliciano was reminded of the Ship of Theseus thought experiment, while listening to her favorite podcast, The Daily Zeitgeist
. “I was like, 'Wait, this is what I’ve been doing, playing with these worlds and ideas,'" she recalls. "Without even realizing it, I was speaking to this idea.”
It’s a “heady thing, this question,” she continues. “I found myself in this internet rabbit hole, reading about it, reading about how this question had been applied, from Judaism to architecture to politics.”
Feliciano realized that the thought experiment could also be applied to collage, which she considers her core artistic focus at the moment. “There was suddenly this storm in my brain about the medium itself," she says. "How important is it to know where the pieces come from? How does the source inform present use?”
By the time Meow Wolf’s Denver Artist Liaison Annie Geimer contacted Feliciano to see if she’d be interested in doing a show, Feliciano says she was “already deep in this existential ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Am I a collage?’ kind of questioning. And I thought, 'This is perfect.' A perfect question to ask in Meow Wolf, which is a place that’s already encouraging people to think outside the box.”
"Salt Soil Dew Ice," by Lares Feliciano.
“We are thrilled to be hosting the artwork of Lares Feliciano,” adds Geimer, who curated the show. “Not only do we swoon over her clever and dreamy hand-cut collages, but she is a powerhouse for good in the arts community. We admire her and have been looking for a good excuse to celebrate and share her work. This collection is a very exciting reason.”
Feliciano was born in California and primarily raised in New Orleans, but came to Colorado after getting her bachelor's degree, originally working with AmeriCorps State and National
in Alamosa, for La Puente Home
. “The San Luis Valley is a magical place,” says Feliciano. “I eventually went back to California to get my master’s degree, but I just kept coming back to Colorado. Eventually, on one of those many trips, I fell in love with my now-husband.”
While she's made her name in film, collage art has always been important to Feliciano. “It’s how I know what I create is of me,” she explains. “Ever since I was young, I was saving cards from people, notes, little objects, little pieces of paper — what we now call ephemera. I’ve always been this gatherer of what I like to call ‘little bits.’ Over the years, I’ve found myself drawn to certain sources [for new material]. I love antique malls. It’s the best date ever; you just walk around. It’s like going to a museum where you can buy things.”
"Crystal Forecast" by Lares Feliciano.
Feliciano also points out that the Denver Postcard and Paper Show is another great place to source material, and luckily for those interested, it's coming up soon (on January 20 and 21 at the Holiday Inn Lakewood
). “I always find really cool stuff there,” she smiles. “Old magazines, playbills, things like that. I found a beautiful and pristine vintage Stock Show program once.” And then there’s the ARC and thrift stores, as well as the internet archive for digital work, to add to the stack of materials that she’s been carrying around for years.
“I have encyclopedias that are ripped to shreds but still have enough pages that I can go back to them and use them," says Feliciano. "I also have things that I’d never cut into or give away.” She lists a few examples: a vintage Ethan Allen catalogue from the 1950s, an old book of birds, her recent acquisition of a directory of magicians from the 1920s. “I love stuff like that,” she enthuses. “There’s so much history and story there.”
And that’s what Feliciano says is so magical about art — collage in particular.
“You find out a lot about yourself when you start sifting through things and seeing what calls to you,” she says. “It’s a good process.”
Portals of Theseus opening reception, 6 p.m. Thursday, January 12, Galleri Gallery, Meow Wolf, 1338 First Street. The show is on view through March and included with regular admission.