Last spring, the University of Denver's Victoria H. Myhren Gallery hosted an unusual multi-media installation called Chimera, named after the female demon of myth. Minnette Vri, the artist who created it, put herself in the title role. A South African, Vri has long been interested in racial politics, and for Chimera she zeroed in on the "Voortrekker Monument" in Pretoria that honors the white Afrikaner pioneers who subjugated the native blacks. In multiple projections, Vri digitally changes the white-marble monument to black and inserts herself as the she-devil that appears like a phantom in the images. If her political content was vague, her aesthetic intent was clear, and it made Chimera an all-enveloping, hypnotic experience.
Like most artists, Justin Beard needs to have a day job, and for a while he was a construction worker. It is this grueling experience that inspired the interrelated pieces in his smart solo, Undergo, on view last summer. The exhibit was dominated by a full-sized replica of a pickup truck made of cardboard, but it also included a mechanical sculpture made from a paint roller covered in little mirrors, along with a bunch of drawings and a couple of videos. Beard is a postmodernist, so his pieces were laden with irony, but here's the ultimate irony: Stay, the gallery that hosted his work, didn't. A few months after Beard's show closed, gallery owners John and Amy Bodin split in the middle of the night.
Paul and Pifuka Hardt opened P Design Gallery last year, and since then, they've presented a regular show schedule devoted to furniture and decorative arts. What set DoubleButter Boontje apart was that two of the three featured designers live right here in Denver. David Larabee and Dexter Thornton were the "DoubleButter" part of the show, and their elegant, sturdy furniture relates well to several international trends. The "Boontje" part highlighted the work of European hotshot Tord Boontje, someone who sets the trends. Boontje's high status as a high stylist was confirmed when the Denver Art Museum acquired several of his works during the P Design show.
Art-O-Mart, the quarterly art smorgasbord at Capsule Event Center, is the perfect place to find quality pieces that won't cost an arm and a leg. Taking place on First Fridays in June, September and December, Art-O-Mart showcases unjuried work in all mediums. You never know what you might find.
Eric Gruneisen
Life-drawing aficionados usually sketch any body they can find. Few people, after all, have the right personality to disrobe so that a crowd can scrutinize every shadow and wrinkle. For more interesting models, try Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School. The invention of Brooklyn burlesquer Molly Crabapple, it's shown up in Denver under the auspices of local burlesque belle Vivienne VaVoom. Every third Monday of the month, VaVoom dishes up a heady mix of exotic-dancer mannequins, roller-derby girls, fetish models, drag queens and cocktails. All you need to bring is $8 and a sketch pad.
Denver ceramic artist Marie E.v.B. Gibbons is well known for her spooky and evocative clay and mixed-media sculptures, but she's also a great teacher. Since moving to her sunny new studio in the shadow of northwest Denver's Oriental Theater, Gibbons has been hosting monthly clay mini-shops during every First Friday event on Tennyson Street. For ten bucks, visitors can drop in between 6 and 10 p.m. and create and color-wash a tiny clay work. Each month's workshop, which takes about fifteen to thirty minutes, has a different theme: hearts in February, spring bulbs in March, etc. Why not take a roll in the clay?
A benchmark of Beat-era lore, Jack Kerouac's famous On the Road manuscript was typed in just twenty days on a 120-foot-long scroll. Kerouac embodied the movement's spontaneous and obsessive nature in one burning semi-autobiographical swoop. And because the alleys and byways of Denver lurk all over the ragged-edged tome, it was only appropriate that it should lie in state all winter at the Denver Central Library, honoring the novel's fiftieth anniversary. "I counted minutes and subtracted miles. Just ahead, over the rolling wheat fields all golden beneath the distant snows of Estes, I'd be seeing old Denver at last."
Beat central, Naropa's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, is commemorating On the Road's fiftieth anniversary by sending a digital video camera to Kerouac haunts in New York, San Francisco, Lowell (Kerouac's Massachusetts birthplace), Denver, Iowa and Mexico City, as well as to such literary figures as Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Amiri Baraka. The resulting composite film, On the Road Now: Artists Respond to Kerouac in the 21st Century, will debut this summer at Naropa's Kerouac Festival. To keep up on festival news and the film's progress, log on to And the Beat goes on.
Want to know where to go to get plastered in this town? Drunk by Noon is 21 minutes of classic Denver dive bars threaded together through the story of a Madison Avenue advertising executive who suddenly has an epiphany: He's been destroying the planet through his work. Directed by Eric Galatas and starring local actors Chuck Fiorella and Laura Norman, the short features PS 1515 (as well as several other favorite spots to get soused), a soundtrack by El Chapultepec's Tony Black Quartet, and comic strips by Lucas Richards. Think globally, drink locally.
Move over, Murderball! The latest in quad-rugby films, The Goal, was jam-packed with Denver love. Director Darla Rae was inspired by Jason Regier, president of the Denver Harlequin Wheelchair Rugby Team; The Goal follows the story of two disabled athletes struggling to rebuild their lives. Starring Regier, it was filmed on location at Winter Park's National Sports Center for the Disabled, Craig Hospital and the Fort -- and the soundtrack features the work of local musicians. Way to Goal, Colorado!

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