Life Is Short, Art Is Long

In 1991, Russell Bay McKlayer -- then known simply as Russell Bay, since he hadn’t yet added the made up “McKlayer” part -- came together with Ken Petersen and Mark Brasuell to launch the Edge Gallery co-op, and he put on a solo exhibit there every year until he died this past March at the age of 48.

Bay McKlayer was a University of Denver graduate and a student at the Winchester School of Art and at Homerton College at Cambridge University, both in England; his work was fairly wild visually, often combining cartoon-like representations of figures with handwritten text, and his themes were invariably political with a progressive, left-leaning message or two included in most. Among all the city’s co-ops, Edge has been the most self-consciously political, and Bay McKlayer was one reason why. Even the made-up name “McKlayer” reveals his political stance: He and his ex-wife, Sara-Lou Klein, came up with it to avoid the inherent sexism of both of them taking his name.

Many were shocked when he died, though it wasn’t sudden; he had been sick with a blood disease for a long time. Almost immediately, plans were drawn up for The Third Rail, an exhibit dedicated to his life and work. The show opens July 17 at Edge, 3658 Navajo Street, with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m., and continues through August 9. For more info, call 303-477-7173. It promises to be an unforgettable experience.
July 17-Aug. 9, 2009

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia

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