There are three compelling painting exhibits, each with a different point of view

DENVERPOST

POSITIVE
That came to mind as I was wandering the galleries of the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design last week.
The lecture series that RMCAD presents of world-class visiting artists is one of the most consistently interesting talks in town.
Cabeza de Baca’s work centers on craggy bluffs, tree lines and snow-capped peaks, scenes he often captures on-site in remote places.
The works capture personal scenes from Haggarty’s life, with beds, chairs, windowpanes, houseplants and cats.
What pulls it all together, thanks to curator Gretchen Marie Schaefer’s wide view of Haggarty’s output, is the way the scenes in the paintings overlap each other.
In painting after painting, Haggarty comes back to the same subject matter multiple times but from different viewpoints and moods.
But another painting of her wider room has a similar painting of her bed on the wall.
This is my first encounter with Farrell’s work, which has one of the most distinctive painter’s voices I have seen in a while.
They offer focal points but also a lot of extras that make the viewing endlessly compelling.
IF YOU GOExhibitions of work by Esteban Cabeza de Baca and Catherine Haggarty continue through March 22.

Colleges and universities establish ties with the community through their public programming. Not only do these institutions provide lectures, art exhibits, concerts, and classes to meet the needs of their students, but they also make a contribution to the communities in which they are housed. They are significant; they improve lives.

That was on my mind last week while I was perusing the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design’s galleries. The three exhibition spaces at the college have long been a valuable (and free) resource for the Front Range community. One of the most consistently fascinating lectures in town is the lecture series featuring renowned visiting artists, presented by RMCAD.

How it functions best is demonstrated by the current exhibitions at RMCAD. Both local and national artists, each approaching their work from a unique and deeply personal perspective, are featured in the three solo exhibitions. In addition, the artists have given or are giving public lectures that are open to the public as well as the young sculptors, designers, and painters enrolled in the school.

Wednesday’s speech by painter Esteban Cabeza de Baca is much awaited. Despite having strong local ties, Cabeza de Baca resides and works in New York City. He was raised in Colorado and graduated in 2003 from the Denver School of the Arts, where he also spent a significant amount of his early years.

His paintings are exhibited in the Philip J. Feel at home here too, Steele Gallery, as he often focuses on American Southwest landscapes. The subjects of Cabeza de Baca’s artwork are often snow-capped peaks, tree lines, and jagged cliffs, which he frequently photographs on location in isolated locations.

Nonetheless, Cabeza de Baca renders these images in a distinctive manner. He applies a first layer of dye, over which he paints successive coats of scenery. The layers cover different locations, various horizon lines, and angles and perspectives, so they may not always line up. They combine to create collages.

His layering technique allows him to transcend space and time. The way he freely abstracts the view and gives it his own unique style gives his paintings a timeless quality, even though they depict things like mountains and rivers that rarely change visually.

We start to doubt the presumptions we often hold when gazing at open spaces as a result of this remixing of place. If you don’t know if a scene is happening in the past, present, or future, or all three at once, it can be difficult to determine who owns the land and who lives there.

The traditional Western landscape is thoughtfully and knowingly reexamined in these paintings. Putting them in a show alongside Albert Bierstadt or Frederic Remington would allow viewers to draw direct comparisons.

Painter Catherine Haggarty has a retrospective of her works from 2014 to the present on display in the Steele Gallery. The display features a dizzying array of media in addition to sizes and forms. Haggarty utilizes a variety of mediums, including airbrush, acrylics, oils, wax crayons, stencils, and more.

Haberty’s personal settings, complete with beds, chairs, windows, houseplants, and cats, are depicted in the artwork. There are scenes in the home pertaining to her father’s chronic illness. Her compositions lack obvious connections because they are intricate, free-form, and layered.

Because of curator Gretchen Marie Schaefer’s broad perspective on Haggarty’s work, the way the scenes in the paintings overlap is what unifies everything. Haggarty revisits the same theme in painting after painting, but from various angles and in various moods. One item is a painting of her bed, for instance. On the wall of her larger room, however, is a similar painting of her bed. Additionally, you see that cat—or its shadow—many times.

Haggarty’s isolated moments become more akin to a motion picture with this arrangement. The frames show us not just one moment but an entire life. Because Haggarty is willing to share her most private moments, there is both a great deal of mystery and an openness to it all.

Curator Jeff Page has assembled a stunning collection of recent paintings by local painter Lydia Farrell in the sunny Rotunda Gallery, the campus’s other major exhibition space.

I haven’t seen any paintings by Farrell before, but his style is quite unique and has a distinct voice. This is my first exposure to his work. I continue to work on finding a solution.

The suburban landscapes that Farrell depicts, with their typical homes, parks, and power lines, are given a dark, sinister, and demonic edge. Playground equipment, driveway basketball hoops, and tract homes coexist with witches, aliens, and crazy scientists.

Everything is extremely dark, but it is kept lighthearted by a primitive or infantile quality. Farrell doesn’t delve deeply into specifics. The artist plays up clichés, turning the human forms in these pieces into little more than sophisticated stick figures. For instance, witches have pointed witch’s hats, and aliens travel in spacecraft that resemble discs and are reminiscent of 1950s science fiction.

Additionally, there is the use of highly saturated colors, such as neon-like oranges, blues, reds, and pinks. In the event that these works contain any violence at all, it is obviously cartoon violence.

However, it is also unrelenting. Horrible skies, human experimentation, and goblins and ghouls in scene after scene. It is a little convincing rather than feeling repetitive. These paintings are sure to change your mind if you’re considering purchasing real estate in Highlands Ranch.

It’s quite a bit. However, it is also really cohesive and well-written. The scenes are intricate and expertly put together. Along with many extras that add to the viewing’s endless appeal, they provide focal points. The artwork exudes an air of outsider art, but don’t let that fool you—this artist is a busy C with an MFA from Boston University. V. These paintings are serious.

It is impressive that the curator was able to see beyond the surface of these pieces and put them together into a cohesive exhibition; without RMCAD and its progressive galleries, this show might never have happened. Bringing such an artist to the attention of a larger audience is unquestionably a public service. Although the show is strange, I wouldn’t miss it.

In the event that you travel.

Works by Esteban Cabeza de Baca and Catherine Haggarty are on display through March 22nd. The Lydia Farrell exhibition is on view through May 17. All events take place on the 1600 Pierce St. campus of RMCAD and are free. Lakewood. Knowledge: rmcad at edu.

Fine arts are Ray Mark Rinaldi’s area of expertise as a freelancer based in Denver.

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