Tragedy strikes Colorado again

Photo from Denver Comic Con

Just the other day, I posted about looking forward to the midnight premiere of the newest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” at a local theatre in Sheridan, which is near Denver. It was not only the midnight premiere, but a screening of the entire trilogy. I was in the theatre for nearly 9 hours, and when we got out, I noticed cops were everywhere in the parking lot, but I figured they were keeping an eye out for potential drunk drivers. When we got in the car, my boyfriend had a text message from his brother asking him to contact him immediately. We thought it might have been a nasty accident on the highway, since my boyfriend works as a medical courier and his brother works as a taxi dispatcher. When I saw that Google Maps were clear of traffic on my phone, I checked the news: there was a shooting in Aurora at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” and at least 10 people were killed. I was numb– how could this happen? Who shoots up a movie theatre?

My boyfriend goes to film school in Aurora, and shortly after the initial shock of hearing about the shooting, we realized that we have friends who were probably at that theatre, since we all had been anticipating the release of the movie for god-knows-how-long. And sure enough, after checking Facebook and texting everyone we know in the area, we found that several had gone there in a group. They were in Theatre 8, right next door to the shooting, where some people were hit by stray bullets going through the wall. None of my friends were hurt, thank god, though I found out that two of them originally had tickets for Theatre 9 but had switched with someone so they could stay with their friends. The realization that we could have easily been there ourselves makes my stomach twist. And the news has only gotten worse since then: 12 people were killed and 58 were injured.

I had been planning on posting a review of the movie here on my blog, but in light of the recent tragic events, I am going to hold off for a while (plus, I doubt many people are going to want to go to the movies this weekend anyway. I know I have had my fill of theatres for a while and am never going to a midnight premiere again). Please send good thoughts/prayers/vibes in a Colorado-wardly direction, and tell everyone you care about that you love them.

Museum review: History Colorado Center

Having fun with the ethafoam during the big CHS move-out (April 2010)

I’ve had an unusual amount of anticipation in visiting this museum, and not only because I am a huge fan of Colorado history. Fun fact of the day: I actually worked at the Colorado History Museum during the big move out (it is now known as the History Colorado Center, because switching the words “Colorado” and “History” somehow makes it sound cooler). I began there as a volunteer in September 2009, packing Ancient Puebloan pottery. I was eventually hired on in November as a full-time Collections Move Assistant in charge of the framed works, since the Collections Manager knew of my work with art conservation. I got to see much of the collection until we completed the move out in April 2010, and let me tell you: there is A LOT of stuff there. I mean an ABSURD amount of stuff, some of which was cool and some of which was a little questionable: THOUSANDS of pieces of pottery, photographs, Native American artifacts, random historical things like food tins and dolls, computer parts from the 1970’s. In all, there are about 15 million historic artifacts. The actual move out was like a marathon sprint, particularly near the end: at one point I was working 60 hours, 7 days a week, though some of my coworkers actually set up tents in the museum because their commute was so long and they had so much to get done. People cried a lot near the end, and all of us were deathly pale because we had been doing nothing but working in a basement. Despite the stress, it was a lot of fun and absolutely fascinating. It also contributed to my change in career, as I discovered that I was pretty good at keeping track of things (and also, my last rejections to art conservation school happened while I was working there).

The new History Colorado Center (Source)

The old museum was a pretty sorry excuse for one, mostly because it was never built as a proper museum facility. The Colorado Historical Society had an agreement with the Judicial Center next door that they would have a 25 year lease on the property before the facility would be torn down for a new Judicial Center. The new History Colorado Center, which opened April of this year, cost $110 million, with another $33 million for state-of-the-art displays, archival storage, and a research center. There is over 40,000 square feet of exhibition space, a whole floor of office space, and another floor for special events. The building was designed by Tryba Architects and is considered to be the finest building ever conceived by David Tryba. Considering how last-minute the move out process was, I cannot say that I am the least bit surprised that the exhibit spaces in the new museum seemed half-finished.  Continue reading

Delusions about Denver

While I was reading West of Center (you can see my post here) and doing further research into reviews of the exhibition, I came across this review in Westword by Colorado-phile Michael Paglia. He quoted art critic David Hickey’s scathing response to the show: “It’s corny... It’s the kind of thing Denver would do. They would do Mountain Standard Time.” He is of course referencing the seminal Pacific Standard Time exhibitions (the catalog of which will be read and reviewed by me this weekend), which began exhibiting in 2011 and proposed that the West Coast (specifically Southern California) was never inferior to the East Coast (specifically New York City) which was long regarded as the center of the avant-garde in America. In a way, PST is almost re-writing history, and it is being widely accepted because it is difficult to deny that California is not a center in its own right. However, Hickey is blatantly stating that Denver– a peripheral, regional area– cannot possibly attempt the same sort of re-write because we just don’t matter enough.

I’m going to be blunt here: David Hickey, you are an ignorant a**hole.

Dan Ostermiller, “Scottish Cow and Calf” (2001)
(Photo from Blaine Harrington Photography)

Denver– and the whole of Colorado, really– is always being made out to be some po-dunk hick town, and the stereotype is being reinforced by many of our own inhabitants. For example, in 2006, the former Denver Art Museum director, Lewis Sharp, made the following comment in The Denver Post regarding the giant bronze “Scottish Cow and Calf” by Dan Ostermiller: “Yeah, we’re a cow town. But there are artists working in a representational manner who are creating works of art of artistic merit, and to embrace that in the broader community of public art gets right back to offering a variety of experiences.” While he is sort of trying to break the Denver stereotype with this statement, he is simultaneously reminding everyone that, artistically, we’re still behind the ball.

Colorado art is constantly seen as subpar and irrelevant in the grand scheme of art history. My own proctor for my comps, who I should mention is NOT my thesis advisor, tried to talk me out of my thesis topic, asking that I do something a little more “traditional.” To support this, he said that too many grad students end up doing stuff on local topics because they are afraid of going outside of their comfort zone. I rebutted by saying that I am interested in exploring why Colorado art “doesn’t matter” outside of the state and rattled off the concepts of regionalism, minor history, post-structuralism, and post-modernism to back up my stance.

It is with this background in mind that I am going to take this opportunity to break many of the myths and over-exaggerated stereotypes about Denver and Colorado at large. I am going to start with art and expand outwards. Not everything is going to be covered, and I am speaking largely from my own perspective. Fellow Coloradans are welcome to (nicely) refute my views. Continue reading