Review: Rocky Mountain National Park Shines in Trine Bumiller's 100 Paintings

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Trine Bumiller: 100 Paintings for 100 Years, now at the McNichols Building, is unquestionably one of the best exhibits of the year — if only for the breadth of Bumiller’s vision. That vision took shape last summer when Bumiller, who lives in Denver, was selected to be an artist-in-residence at Rocky Mountain National Park. During her time there, she created sketches depicting what she encountered.

Realizing that the park, founded in 1915, was on the verge of celebrating its centennial, Bumiller conceived of a body of work that would mark the anniversary: one hundred paintings, each corresponding to a single year in the park’s history.

For the show, which was curated by Cortney Lane Stell, Bumiller selected panels that are all 24 inches tall, but with nine different widths, ranging from six inches to 48 inches. She gave each a temporary number and, using a random-number generator, established the rhythm that would sequence the hundred panels according to size.

Working on all of them simultaneously, she determined specific imagery for each, with the subjects and palettes changing from one to another. She used her on-site sketches as the basis for watercolors that functioned as studies for the paintings.

Bumiller worked with a variety of imagery sources, including grasses, twigs, flowers, pebbles and anything else she encountered in the park.

Each panel has a different natural referent; some are rendered abstractly, while others are fairly representational. Bumiller herself sees them all as being abstracted, because she’s reduced the details and cropped the subjects. Each sports its own palette, invariably featuring a limited set of colors. The imagery is not sequential, but episodic.

As the panels are all the same height and hung at the same level, they form a stripe around the third floor of the McNichols. They’re hung in chronological order by title, starting with “1915” and finishing up with “2014” (“1973” is pictured). The year titles were determined after the show was hung, with the imagery laid out instinctually. But the layout of the sizes had been predetermined by that earlier random process. When I first got off the elevator, the sight took my breath away.

In addition to her training at the Rhode Island School of Design, Bumiller studied in Italy, so she knows how to paint the old-fashioned way, with layers of gesso and oil paint floating above and below shiny glazes — resulting in surfaces that look like enameling.

100 Paintings runs through September 13 at the McNichols, 144 West Colfax Avenue in Civic Center Park. Get information or schedule an appointment at 720-865-4303 or mcnicholsbuilding.com.

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