Last night the Bar Car on Colorado Boulevard was again invaded by Amberama Martinez and her Bar Car First Sunday Art Show, which featured voodoo dolls and bracelets made from Scrabble squares, among other works for sale.
This isn't your grandmother's craft show. "We've hosted everything from nude photography to weird hair pieces," says Martinez, the monthly curator of the event. "The shows are getting bigger every month, through word of mouth. It's gotten to the stage where every artist ends up making a little money each time."
Since the Bar Car is a tiny space, the First Sunday Art Show plays host to only three artists at a time, who set up booths at opposite ends of the intimate bar.
Last night, Theresa Mercado presented her Scrabble bracelets (the outside showing iconic pop-culture images, the inside spelling out a fun phrase); Jeanna Lovato showed hand-painted purses and large paintings on wood; and new-to-Denver artist Jim Rinehart displayed beautifully sliced paper-on-paper pieces and adorable little magnets.
"I just moved here from Wichita, Kansas," said Rinehart, who was presenting his work for the first time in Denver. "In Wichita, there was nowhere I could show my work, and my friend said, 'Come to Denver, there's a lot of opportunity for an artist here.' And he was right."
At these Sunday shows, Martinez is dedicated to providing a casual setting where artists can show their work and make a little money. She doesn't charge a booth fee, doesn't take a percentage, and hand-selects each artist based on their work and their character.
"It's like a trunk show or a block party," she says. "I try to find artists who do this for a living. For so many of them, it's their job, it's their life. This is how they pay their rent. I know that's how I pay my rent -- through my art."
The art with which Martinez pays her rent is Voodoo Dolls A Go-Go, a collection of handmade, non-evil dolls inspired by Martinez's Louisiana roots. She used to set aside a booth every other month or so to show her dolls, but lately the demand for custom-made orders has been so overwhelming that she can't keep a single doll on hand to show.
Martinez began making her dolls two years ago as a side project for friends; when the response was so enthusiastic, she decided to go full-time. The meteoric rise in orders for Voodoo Dolls reached a tipping point last year with a celebrity endorsement from author Chuck Palahniuk via Twitter.
— Jacob Pickthall (@JakePick) December 25, 2011
"I had made a Hunter Thompson doll for a friend and posted a picture of it on Twitter," she explains, "and somehow the picture made it to [Fight Club author] Chuck Palahniuk. He retweeted it and the response was overwhelming."
Since then, Martinez has made a series of celebrity Voodoo Dolls, including Edward Scissor Hands, David Bowie and a Tim Tebow doll that went for $125 in an online auction. Martinez is a breast-cancer survivor, and she donated 35 percent of the Tebow earnings to the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center.
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You can find more local artist selections from 5 to 10 p.m. each first Sunday at the Bar Car.
See more photos from the Bar Car's First Sunday Art Show on page 2.
More photos from the Bar Car's First Sunday Art Show are on Page 3.