The Lakewood Cultural Center has made ceramics a specialty, with regular group shows devoted to the medium. The center hosted a rare solo show last fall, when Michael Coffee's smart-looking Place of Mind was installed in the north gallery. Coffee, a retired architect who turned to ceramics ten years ago, has mastered the art of clay, as evidenced by his totem sculptures made of glazed clay cylinders stacked on top of one another. Best of all, the exhibit came and went without anyone from the City of Lakewood seeking to censor it, as happened out there more recently with another ceramics show.

One of the state's biggest and most important annuals, Colorado Clay, has been held at Foothills Art Center in Golden since the '70s. This year's guest juror, Peter Held, from the Arizona State University Art Museum, took a new approach: Instead of choosing objects, Held chose artists -- and fewer of them than usual. Each of the sixteen ceramicists was shown in depth, with the works taking over Foothills' entire main area. Among the standouts in a field crowded with first-rate artists were Marie E.v.B. Gibbons, Katie Martineau-Caron, Dan Fogelberg, Janey Skeer, Carol Juddiece Cooper and Carla Kappa.

The Powerball lottery seems an unlikely source for paintings and prints. But in Random Art Two, his smashing solo at [email protected], Brandon Borchert assigned a specific image to each of the Powerball numbers, one through 53. The images illustrated one of four subjects: sex, death, food and art history, and included everything from canned meat to hand grenades. The show comprised prints of the individual images, along with a series of accompanying paintings in which Borchert assembled the pictures in groups based on the winning Powerball sequences. Referencing dada, surrealism and Spam, Random Art Two was definitely a winner.

Andy Miller: A Deconstruction of Life knocked everyone out when it was shown at Pirate last spring. The show featured four monumental steel and neon sculptures that depicted simplified images of men committing suicide. One was hanging by a noose from the ceiling, another aimed a gun at his head, a third was taking a vial of poison, and the last was jumping to his death. The subject matter was disturbing, but suicide is only one of the topics Miller hopes to take up in the future; these pieces are the first in a series of sculptures addressing crime and violence.

The William Havu Gallery pays as much attention to sculpture as any place in town. There's always a piece on the sidewalk, and there's a proper sculpture garden in back. For Three Dimensions, a great indoor show, owner Bill Havu gathered work by three established sculptors from the region: Denver's Lawrence Argent; Mary Bates Neubauer, from Tempe, Arizona; and Stephen Daly from Austin, Texas, whose pieces filled a couple of rooms. The combination of styles made for a sensational trio.

Best Sculptor in a Group Show -- Emerging Artist

Morgan Barnes

The rambunctious Group Show 2 was the latest version of Studio Aiello's biennial. This time around, Kathy Andrews, director of Metro State's Center for Visual Art, served as a single juror, selecting all of the pieces herself. Among the dozens of objects that Andrews chose was "Evolution of Form & Concept, #2," a sculpture by emerging art star Morgan Barnes. The piece, which took charge of the front gallery, was downright zany for a modernist work: a stile that rocked and chimed, with a rusted patina accented by polka dots. Studio Aiello has since signed Barnes on as a regular, and if this piece is any indication of things to come, that was surely the right move.

Justin Beard went all out to create his funny, smart and somewhat politically incorrect installation "Second Hand Smoke" at [email protected] The meticulously crafted piece was also interactive. Beard placed a black table in front of a red-vinyl-covered banquette. On the table was an open, bound sketchbook, which contained a stencil and, underneath, a vacuum. Visitors were invited to sit at the banquette and smoke a cigarette; as the vacuum pulled their exhaled smoke through the page, the residual tars spread to color the open areas of the stencil. Ironically, the finished smoke-drawings were traditional in style -- unlike the work itself.

Ron Wohlauer was a legend among Colorado photographers, with a style best exemplified by his majestic black-and-white landscapes. Sadly, he died last year after battling repeated bouts of cancer. In a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction moment, Wohlauer's latest book of photos, SMALL ROOMS and HIDDEN PLACES, came out just a few days after he passed away. There was nothing else to do but to put on a memorial show based on the book. And that's precisely what John Grant of the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs did, curating a gorgeous exhibit at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center. Credit is also due to Skip Kohloff and Lisbeth Neergaard Kohloff, CPAC's heart and soul, respectively, for hastily clearing the decks to make room for it.

Best Photography Solo -- Established Artist

David Sharpe

For his self-titled show at the Robischon Gallery, photographer David Sharpe focused on unfocused shots of the Western landscape taken with primitive, homemade cameras -- the kind of thing he's done for years. His pinhole cameras are made from cylindrical containers such as oatmeal boxes. Aping the method of nineteenth-century photographers, Sharpe travels into the countryside with an ad hoc photo lab -- though the actual printing goes on in his home studio. There he has mounted an enlarger in his garage attic and projects the images through a hole onto light-sensitive paper on the garage floor. The great distance between the projection and the paper allows Sharpe to produce large prints from his tiny originals.

Sometimes shows in Pirate's cramped and awkwardly shaped Associates' Space outshine the main attractions up front. That was surely the case when Conor King's Sentience was on view there. The twenty-something King, a recent University of Colorado graduate, created six photo enlargements framed in natural-wood boxes. The photos were illuminated from behind, making them glow. The images depicted people involved in enigmatic activities -- like a man on a rope raiding a nest filled with giant eggs. The room was lit only by the glow of the photos, which unified them and also established an appropriately somber mood.

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