Since he started the Month of Photography back in 2004, photographer Mark Sink has always run the biennial festival as a grassroots effort, challenging his community to pitch in and make things happen. “I do it all off my laptop,” he admits, and though his non-commercial stance has worked in the past, he sees the need for MoP to step up to a higher level.
But Sink’s just not sure he’s the person to take it there. He also thinks “people are tired of Mark Sink.”
Whether or not that’s true, he’s ready to leave the spotlight, make his own work and be a better dad to his three-year-old daughter. “I’m finding that there are much better ways to run a festival,” Sink says. “You need to create a board. You need to have capital development.”
The way RiNo’s Crush Walls street art festival handled growing pains in 2018 blew him away: “They raised 3.5 million dollars! How can we do that?”
That said, the biggest news coming out of this year's MoP might be Sink’s decision to hand over the massive event and all its growing pains to Samantha Johnston, director of the Colorado Photographic Arts Center. That's a move that Sink thinks can only mean good things for both institutions.
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“Photography has historically struggled here; it’s still chronically suffering in Denver,” Sink explains. “Any other city our size has several photography galleries. That’s my dream: We need a giant new media center — a giant resource. CPAC has that on a micro-scale — they have the workshops, the access to darkrooms, labs and work stations. I would like to see that super-sized.”
It’s a start, and Sink has nothing but praise for Johnston and the “tight ship” she already runs.
We’ll have to wait for the first results of the handover until 2021, when MoP next pops up. In the meantime, Sink’s final community-based fest is off and running. Here are some notable shows to see now and as MoP continues to play out in March and April:
The Big Picture
The Big Picture has been Mark Sink’s baby since 2011, when he first began wheat-pasting blown-up images gathered via an international photography exchange on outdoor walls all over Denver for MoP. Things have changed, he says: For one thing, all the good walls have been taken. Denver’s street-art explosion has stolen away The Big Picture’s domain, and murals have a longer shelf-life. But for now, it’s still a thing in 2019, wherever he and his volunteer crew can grab a space. Keep up with The Big Picture’s progress this spring on Facebook and Instagram.
Gravity of Perception, Main Gallery
Center for Visual Art, MSU, 965 Santa Fe Drive
Through March 23
Closing Reception and Dance Performance: Friday, March 22, 6 p.m.
One of MoP 2019’s first exhibitions, Gravity of Perception has been open since January. As is usual at the CVA, it’s a stunner, curated by fastidious gallery director Cecily Cullen; Hamidah Glasgow, director of the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins; and artist and curator Natascha Seideneck. The seven artists represented used archival materials to make their presentations, bringing stories of the past into the present in groundbreaking ways. “This exhibition is inspired, in part, by the writing of Frederick Douglass, who recognized that photography held the power to change a viewer’s thinking,” Cullen says in a statement.
Colorado Photographic Arts Center:
McNichols Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue, second floor
Through April 7
Inspiration | Expression
Through April 20, 2019
Colorado Photographic Arts Center, 1070 Bannock Street
Opening Reception: March 2, 5 to 8 p.m.
The well-organized Samantha Johnston is already on her MoP game, with two group exhibitions in different locations, including one in collaboration with the nearby Clyfford Still Museum. Inspiration | Expression at CPAC headquarters ties into the Still aesthetic by focusing on abstracted photographs and providing a counterpoint to the museum’s own exhibition, Clyfford Still & Photography (find related programming info at CPAC’s website). Elemental Construction, already open at the McNichols Building, goes another direction with photographic collage works by ten artists.
Ansel Adams: Early Works
Longmont Museum, 400 Quail Road, Longmont
Through May 26
Any Ansel Adams exhibition is like Photography Appreciation 101 for anyone wanting to get into the medium: It’s analog at its best, with landscape compositions turned into visual masterpieces by contrasting shadows and natural light. Hit the road for Longmont and catch up on the classics.
The Denver Collage Club
Alto Gallery, 4345 West 41st Avenue
March 1 through 30
Opening Reception: Friday, March 1, 6 to 9 p.m.
The Denver Collage Club has become a MoP fixture; this is the third appearance by the collective of local and international collage artists, which formed in 2014, mastering the art of cut-and-paste in fantastic ways.
Thomas Carr, Traces of Home
40 West Arts Gallery, 1560 Teller Street, Lakewood
March 1 through 30
Opening Reception: Friday March 1, 5 to 9 p.m.
Thomas Carr makes pictures infused by his other interest — archaeology — for his latest series, Traces of Home, which documents homeless camps with lingering images of things left behind or hidden in the woods. Sometimes the people show up, too, some smiling and others in desperate straits. Carr will host a reception and artist talk on Wednesday, March 13, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Vicki Myhren Gallery, University of Denver campus, 2121 East Asbury Avenue
March 7 through April 21
Opening Reception: Thursday, March 7, 5 to 8 p.m.
Curator Geoffrey Shamos pulled together a mysterious collection of contemporary photography that explores memory and the otherworldly side of consciousness. Auras, ghost images, slanted memories and figures lost in time all figure into the large group show, an aggregate of local talent and big names like Robert Mapplethorpe, Robert Rauschenberg and Andres Serrano, to name a few.
Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue
March 8 through April 20
Opening Reception: Friday, March 8, 5 to 9 p.m.
At Walker Fine Art, Bobbi Walker continues to do what she does best: group complementary gallery artists around a theme, and in this case, a general medium, for exhibitions that flow through the gallery. Take the grand tour through divergent collections of work by Russell Brown, Robert Buelteman, Kevin Hoth, Conor King and Bonny Lhotka.
Robert Anderson Gallery, 3321 East Colfax Avenue
March 8 through April 27
Opening Reception: Friday, March 8, 5 to 8 p.m.
The Robert Anderson Gallery, located in the Bluebird District on East Colfax, joins up with MoP as one of Denver’s rare photography galleries to present a show of small works that’s creative and incisive and, perhaps best of all, affordable. If collecting photography is your thing, drop in and take a look.
RedLine Contemporary Art Center, 2350 Arapahoe Street:
Delirium, Three Visions
March 9 through April 7
Opening Reception: Saturday, March 9, 6 to 9 p.m.
NEST, in the Project Space
March 9 through March 31
Opening Reception: Saturday, March 9, 6 to 9 p.m.
Drum Machine Drum Circle, Tuesday, March 19, 7 to 9 p.m.
Functioning as MoP central over the years, RedLine has both the space and the freewheeling, community-building attitude toward artists and curators that the growing photo festival requires. In the past it’s been home to MoP’s big centerpiece exhibitions; this year it feels big, but on a smaller scale, with Delirium, Three Visions, a peek at new avenues in contemporary photography, curated by John Lake, George P. Perez and Mark Sink, and NEST, a tribute to Colin Ward, a lost angel from Denver’s disrupted DIY community who took his own life a year ago. Organized by Stephan Herrera, Kim Shively and Sink, the show is a love letter to Ward and the scene in which he thrived as a free creative.
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David Maisel, Atlas
Kevin O’Connell, Petrichor
James Benning, small roads
Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street
March 21 through May 4
Opening Reception: Thursday, March 21, 6 to 8 p.m.
Robischon pulled together views of the changing landscape for a MoP-ready trio of exhibitions that includes David Maisel’s aerial views of land and water endangered by chemicals, mine tailings and oil spills; Kevin O’Connell’s horizon-line landscapes, overlaid by a subtle message about disappearing water sources; and James Benning’s evocative photographic road trips.
Susan Blake, Basil Kincaid and Renluka Maharaj, In the Fold?
Rule Gallery, 530 Santa Fe Drive
March 22 through May 4
Opening Reception: Friday, March 22, 6 to 9 p.m.
Rule hits it out of the park with In the Fold, a lush, global three-person exhibition showcasing mixed-media photographer/artists who reference cultural differences and traditions in staged imagery. Go around the world, from Denver to Ghana to Trinidad and Tobago, with Susan Blake, Basil Kincaid and Renluka Maharaj. Beautiful visions on every wall.
Learn more about Month of Photography 2019 online.