The sun only shines in Detroit about 75 days a year. That's fine by underground artist Glenn Barr, who lives and paints in the Motor City. "It's perpetually overcast here, and when you have that sort of inescapable filter over the sun, you get a certain richness of color. I like to paint in a Detroit palette." That palette colors much of Barr's subject matter, as well.
One of his most recent works, "A Loveless Notion," depicts a languid black woman with a glorious Afro reclining luxuriously on a couch. She's outside, on the shore of a river. Floating on the river is a decapitated head. In the background is a classic Detroit urban landscape: decaying, bombed-out brick buildings splattered with graffiti, including the boldly spray-painted word "Loveless."
"Notion" is one of the paintings included in Barr's Haunted World Tour, a traveling exhibition making a four-week stop at the D.C. Gallery, 125 Broadway. The show -- Barr's first in Denver -- opens today with an artist's reception from 7 to 10 p.m. He'll bring a newer work with him, titled "Unaffected," which shows two young women in a bar in Seattle. One of them is wearing a set of cat ears, the other the ears of a rabbit.
"It represents one of my forays into regionalism," Barr says of the piece. "Basically, I walked into this bar and saw these two girls wearing these ears, and they seemed totally unaffected by the fact that they were wearing them, and it just struck me that I should make a painting about them. I get a lot of ideas from bars and strip clubs. Not that I frequent strip clubs all that often; it's just that when I do, I get ideas."
Barr's work is from the lowbrow, or underground, school; other luminaries include Robert Williams and Big Daddy Roth. Like those two, Barr often features monsters straight from the pages of sci-fi pulp magazines, psychedelic vixens and classic hot rods in his paintings. His imagery is whimsical, if on the dark side. He's more of a surrealist illustrator than a fine artist, though his line work and glazing technique have been compared to that of Flemish masters.
"I don't paint abstract images," he says. "I don't want people to look at my work and try to figure out some great intellectual theme that might be hidden in there. I want them to see the characters, the images, the scenes, and know exactly what they're looking at. I want my work to be recognizable. I paint from the idea of open-ended storytelling, where every time you look at one of my paintings, you drop into the midst of a story with no obvious beginning or end."
Haunted World continues through September 2. For more information, call 303-733-4401 -- David Holthouse.
All On Board
Denverite gives new life to snowboards
Jason Walsh believes snowboards have a place in the bedroom and the bathroom as well as on the slopes. A butcher by day, Walsh spends his off-hours creating housewares -- clocks, tables, media racks, dustpans -- out of unwanted boards. He also does work with skis and the occasional discarded chairlift bench.
Inspired by a Discovery Channel profile of Reeski, an Aspen company specializing in furniture made from downhill equipment, Walsh started his enterprise in 1996. He later founded ColdFusion SlopeStyle to sell his craft.
Walsh's old job -- manufacturing Volant skis when Volant owned Aggression Snowboards -- made getting factory-rejected building materials easy, he says. These days he gets non- rideable boards from Denver manufacturer Never Summer Industries at discounted prices.
"I'm pretty much self-taught," says Walsh, who uses standard tools and hardware. "I had shop class in middle school, but other than that, nothing." He's already gained some recognition for his efforts: ESPN rented two Walsh original bar stools and one table for its studio set at the 1998 Winter X-Games in Crested Butte.
Those who think snowboard furnishings would be about as elegant as a Texan's leopard snowsuit should visit www.coldfusionslopestyle.com to peruse the symmetrical, colorful designs. Pieces, which are both ready- and custom-made, range in price from $45 to $1,000. Call 303-839-1437 for more information. -- Caitlin Smith
The Hills Are Alive
Though a coffee-table book less than 200 pages long couldn't possibly contain every layer of Colorado's rock-and-roll lore between its covers, longtime local music writer G. Brown does a bang-up job of scratching the surface in a new book he long threatened to pen and finally completed. Some might say that Colorado Rocks!: A Half-Century of Music in Colorado tries to cover too many angles, from the regional antics of national acts to Denver garage-band members who've managed to grab a fleeting hold on fame. Nonetheless, it's a tome that will take you back if you were ever there in the first place. It also keeps an eye on the metamorphosing present. Some of the best side trips run the gamut: There's the story of how Chuck Berry wrote "Sweet Little Sixteen," as well as tales of early local debuts by Led Zeppelin and the Eagles, a young Bob Dylan strolling into the Satire Lounge on Colfax in 1960, and the strange connection between the Chemical Brothers and Lothar and the Hand People. These and many more stories are sure to take wing tonight when Brown discusses and signs his book at 7:30 p.m. at the Tattered Cover LoDo, 1628 16th Street. For details, call 303-436-1070. -- Susan Froyd
The next generation of pinup girls
For her first Peep Show exhibit, at Mutiny Now in June, Danielle Spires displayed a series of wooden boxes that lit up when you approached them. Keyholes in the center of each piece invited viewers to look inside, where they encountered Spires's signature vintage-style portraits of '50s and '60s pinup girls. For Peep Show II, which opens today at Sputnik, the artist has moved up a decade, challenging what she's comfortable with and what people are used to seeing.
"The '70s-style pinup isn't really as definable," Spires says. "It's not that same Americana feel; it's more of a pseudo-porn, blaxploitation, short-skirts-and-Afros type of thing." Spires's installation -- wooden panels bearing thumbtacked, old-school Polaroids -- is what she calls "hands-on art," something that people can touch and feel.
The exhibit also features larger, graphic pieces inspired by the ongoing murders of women in the border town of Ju´rez, Chihuahua, Mexico. "People have no idea of the severity of what's going on there," Spires comments. "I hope I can shed some light on the problem and get people involved with helping out." A portion of sales proceeds will benefit Amigos de las Mujeres de Ju´rez, an organization helping the victims' families.
Peep II opens with a reception at 7 p.m. at Sputnik, 3 South Broadway, and stays up through August. For more information, visit www.catpartyletsgo.com. -- By Adam Cayton-Holland