Art Review

Touch of Earth duet reflects on Colorado's wildfires and landscapes

Sometimes the exhibition calendar seems to have a mind of its own, which is periodically revealed when there is a critical mass of shows on the same or similar topics all being mounted around the same time. This season, there have been many shows featuring unconventional views of Colorado. Some of the featured artists include Rick Dula, Chuck Forsman, Kevin O'Connell, Danae Falliers and Robert Adams. Now we can add the duet Touch the Earth, at the Sandra Phillips Gallery, (744 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-5969, to the list.

One half of Touch the Earth is made up of meticulous photo-realist drawings in graphite and charcoal by Anna Kaye. The drawings, which depict Colorado wildfires, often have a monumental quality that's enhanced by the enormous size of a couple of them. In "Apex," a single burnt-out tree is reduced to a vertical shaft, looking defiant in the face of destruction. In another, Kaye shows the fire as it burns. It's amazing that she was able to get the details of the smoldering landscape so precisely, and I did a double take to make sure it wasn't a photo. Kaye also has created a video of the recovery of the Hayman fire area.

The other half of the exhibit is taken up by paintings and drawings by Lorelei Schott that have unusual relationships with the landscape. In the case of the drawings, Schott uses nature-inspired lines to compose abstracts; for the paintings, she literally buries her canvases in the ground so that the stains of the soil and other elements become the basis for her all-over abstract grounds. The show includes three drawings from the artist's "Crimes Against Nature" series (one is pictured here), plus two paintings.

The modest yet compelling Touch the Earth will come down November 19. Interestingly enough, that's the day after the Clyfford Still Museum opens and the time when a cluster of abstract shows wil be going up around town. Surely, this will be the next spontaneous wave of the season.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia