Colorado Photographic Arts Center (CPAC) celebrates its return to Denver with a variety show
There is good news in the return of the Colorado Photographic Arts Center to Denver after a decade in a Belmar storefront. The new headquarters and gallery opened officially Saturday at 15th and Boulder streets in the busy LoHi neighborhood.
Photography gets short shrift in Denver, especially local work. Galleries rarely show it, and there are only a handful of stars here. That’s too bad because there is a hard-working pool of people taking pictures.
CPAC’s opening exhibit features three of them: Brenda Biondo, who is building a reputation for her landscape and conservation scenes; Karen Divine, who shoots and manipulates images using just her iPhone; and Ashley Olsen, a newcomer who does the rare thing of incorporating her Christian faith into her work.
It’s hard to imagine a young, unknown photographer like Olsen getting a shot in the city if not for CPAC, which exhibits and sells work and offers the public classes taught by pros. Only one university in the area, CU-Boulder, houses a truly meaningful graduate program in photo, so the region doesn’t have a natural photo community.
Of course, we do like them that way sometimes, particularly Biondo, whose work conjures images of long, solidary days in the fields, farms and forests of Colorado.
Her “Remnants & Revivals” at CPAC is a series of diptychs that pair scenes of wide tracts of land — all restricted from development — beside close-ups of individual plants that grow on them. There is a bindweed bush next to a stand of cottonwoods, for example, or a pine tree trunk beside a wider scene of colorful, autumn woods.
The mix of the macro and micro get at the changing cycles of land and bring the idea of conservation to its core. Yes, we are preserving nature, but we are saving souls, too, of the clematis, rice grass and rue. The works are urgent but also hopeful.
Devine’s pieces are something of a personal tech marvel. They feature a dreamy jumble of everyday images, people, animals, maybe flowers, all blended together.
They are experiential, but in a non-narrative way. These are her memories, coming and going, crashing into one another, countless taps on a mobile screen recalled and remade and then turned into large prints.
Olsen takes a much more straightforward approach with “The Good Wife,” a series of inkjet prints that explore her preparation and entrance into Christian marriage. We see her and her husband (to be?) ill at ease in “Separate Beds”; we see them holding one another in what could well be prayer, we see them sleeping and showering.
Her goal here is to bring religion into the secular gallery, not as an evangelist but as a realist. So much of contemporary art looks at Christianity in a mocking or ironic way; these photos strip away the layers. They are real life, strikingly domestic. This is what her Christian life looks like.
CPAC accomplishes much with this introductory exhibit. It’s a small sampling and all over the map, but full of variety.
No doubt, it is still figuring out where it goes next. The move to the Boulder Street space is temporary. CPAC hopes to make a plan and go big with a new Denver center in the next 24 months, though it still needs a little philanthropic support to make that happen.
Photography could use the help here, not just a leg up but a muscular, dependable showcase for good work, at the center of things.
Ray Mark Rinaldi: 303-954-1540, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/rayrinaldi
COLORADO PHOTOGRAPHIC ARTS CENTER. CPAC presents two exhibits at its new space in Denver. “Open” features the work of Brenda Biondo, Karen Divine and Ashley Olsen, while “Images from the Archive” has Glenn Cuerden’s portraits of former CPAC board members and founders. Through Aug. 24. 1513 Boulder St., Denver. Free. 303-837-1341 or cpacphoto.org.
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