Art Review

Margaretta Gilboy at Carson/van Straaten

In many ways, magic realism anticipates conceptual realism, even though it's not actually an early form of the cutting-edge style. Boulder has been a center for magic realism for decades (I guess art really does imitate life), in no small part because of Frank Sampson and Luis Eades, artists who taught painting at the University of Colorado. Both explore dreamlike fantasies in their technically realistic paintings. Among their acolytes are several important Boulder painters, one of whom is being featured in the large eponymous solo Margaretta Gilboy, at Carson/van Straaten Gallery (760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585,

Gilboy, who works in watercolors and acrylic, has been part of the contemporary scene in Colorado for nearly thirty years, but all of the pieces here were done in the past three years. A protegé of Eades's — she earned an MFA at CU in 1981 — Gilboy followed her mentor's lead in creating still-life scenes and figural compositions with ambiguous narrative content. The puppets, dolls and figurines in some of her pieces are clearly a tip of the hat to Eades, who specialized in using these evocative yet static representations of people as the basis for his paintings and as stand-ins for the human figure itself.

Gilboy's "Morning Glory" (pictured) is dominated by a seated Chinese figurine that's placed virtually on top of an Indian illustration of a female deity. These inanimate versions of people have been painted as though they were real living entities, thus introducing a new level of artificiality into the already artificial context of a still-life painting. If you catch a transcendental quality in this, you'd be right on the money, as Gilboy relentlessly infuses her pictures with spiritual and philosophical content, despite the traditional representational style she uses for her renderings.

This ambitious show at Carson/van Straaten allows us to catch up with what Gilboy's been doing in recent years; it runs through October 4.

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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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