At first glance, Sharon Feder's work seems to focus on sweeping, modern landscapes; train tracks and abandoned buildings fill massive canvases, alongside other familiar structures from Denver's not-so-distant agricultural and commercial past. But she sees the paintings a little differently. "The reason I began painting buildings was because I had been doing a lot of studio still lifes — the buildings felt like really big still lifes," says Feder. "They are objects on a surface; it's dealing with the same things visually, whether they are objects on a table or objects on the ground."
Many of the images portrayed in Edge of the Plains, Feder's solo exhibition that opens Wednesday, February 18 at the Denver Botanic Gardens, may strike viewers as familiar depictions of a changing city always on the move. Some of the lush oil paintings show old grain-storage buildings and trains that used to run by the artist's former studio in RiNo. Others are less recognizable but equally moving renderings of long-dead commercial buildings, like the former K Mart on Monaco and Evans in southeast Denver, near where Feder grew up.
"On a simplified level, the buildings don't have a lot of meaning; I was painting them was because my studio was in RiNo, which is very much on the edge of where this sort of rural/industrial life meets inner-city urban life," says Feder. "It's that transition of rural/industrial into urban, and it is transition that I am interested in."
Edge of the Plains is the second edition of a show by the same name that hung at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities in 2011. It also includes work from several past exhibitions, including Feder's 2014 show BUY at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, which focused on on commercial and retail structures, as well as images of gas stations from her 2010 show, The Art of Saming at Ironton Studios and Gallery. The painter also has a show coming up in April at the George Billis Gallery in Los Angeles. In a way, she says, California's urban landscape is very similar to Denver's: Both cities are constantly experiencing change, something she is learning to embrace herself.
"When I was little, Denver was little; It was friendly and quaint. It wasn't until until the mid-'70s that Denver started trying to turn into this baby Los Angeles," says Feder. "I started feeling sort of patriotic of my great hometown and I didn't want it to change — it took me a long time to understand that in order to help the economy, part of that was change. I had to get my head out of my rear and embrace it. If we're not changing, we're not growing — and if we're not growing, then we're not really alive."
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Sharon Feder's Edge of the Plains opens Wednesday, February 18 at the Denver Botanic Gardens in the Gates Garden Court Gallery in collaboration with Goodwin Fine Art Gallery. The opening reception is from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., with an artist talk at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit Feder's website or the Denver Botanic Gardens' event page.