Denver is home to a flourishing public art and street art scene that just keeps getting bigger every year — especially with big festivals such as CRUSH bringing nearly 100 artists together in one neighborhood every September. While street art is traditionally a male-dominated industry, we wanted to celebrate the incredibly talented Colorado women that adorn our walls and forgotten spaces with artwork for everyone to enjoy. From murals to wheatpasting, these women are changing the way our local communities get to experience art.
Known for her large scale murals and installations, Anna Charney’s artwork has turned heads in Denver with her “digital taffy” murals that use bright color palettes to capture movement with abstract shapes, textures and patterns. While Charney learned to hone her skills in a studio setting, she says once she painted her first mural at CRUSH she knew that spray paint and street art was where she wanted to be — and she hasn’t turned back since. Charney had a busy year in 2018 painting murals at big name festivals such as Miami Art Basel 2018, Sonic Bloom and our own CRUSH. (She also did the artwork on our vinyl, 303 Music Vol. 2).
“So many times when I’m painting a mural, people will stop to watch me,” said Charney. “And there is always such a high level of shock when people realize ‘oh shit, it’s a girl doing this!’”
While achieving a large amount of success here in Denver, she says she has two main goals that she is focusing on in 2019 — forging more relationships with other women street artists and painting more walls outside of Colorado. “There’s not that many of us [women street artist], and one thing that I’ve worked towards more this year is finding more,” said Charney. “I want to keep building my relationships with other female street artists because I think it is important that we can work together and have a good support system in the community.”
Keep up with Charney’s work by following her Instagram: @annacharneyart
Inspired by her surroundings, Sandra Fettingis murals are geometric based site-specific pieces of public art that draw on ideas and influences from the areas near her projects. Whether that be a bike trail or a wall near a pedestrian walkway, Fettingis loves to bring new energy into these forgotten spaces by seamlessly integrating her work to coexist with the surrounding element to create a sense of place and community.
“My favorite part of doing mural work is the continued education and expansion it brings into my life,” said Fettingis “I learn so much each time I paint, not only about work and process but, about life in general. I love that each project brings unique experiences and lessons in different environments where I get to know new people. These works allow me to briefly dip into worlds and communities that I may normally not experience that ultimately widens my view on life and our community, which I feel incredibly grateful for.”
Keep up with Fettingis work by following her Instagram: @sandrafettingis
Optimysticism – Gemma Danielle
Gemma Danielle — otherwise known as Optimysticism — has made Denver fall in love with her mandalas and sacred geometric embellishes on the walls she paints. From her first mural on Crema Coffee House in RiNo to her giant mural on the Cherry Creek Bike Path funded by the city’s Urban Arts Fund, Danielle’s work is like looking at a religious experience.
“The work I make is a devotional experience and it takes forms through very repetitive patterns, and these patterns are representative of a spiritual process that I am experiencing as I’m creating it,” said Danielle. “Each line represents a mantra or a prayer that I am silently reciting to myself as I’m creating them. I am trained as a Reiki master, and my art sort of began as a means to transmit this Reiki energy to a larger audience. And I always saw murals as an opportunity to get that energy out in front of as many people as possible rather than being hidden in a gallery.”
Keep up with Danielle’s work by following her Instagram: @optimysticism
We Were Wild – Risa Friedman & Meredith Feniak
Here in Denver, we are used to the ever-changing landscape of new buildings towering above the old. For wheatpasting artists Risa Friedman and Meredith Feniak of We Were Wild, this rings true more often than not. Armed with a glue brush and photos of houses and buildings adorned with fun colored fabrics, these ladies mix the new with the old. Their practice is a process of collaging the past with the present by pasting up these pieces of old Denver in new areas so they aren’t forgotten.
“It’s like collaging new buildings of our own. We kind of construct our own structures by using buildings that we love, both new and old,” said Friedman. “But I think the name explains it better. It came from the book ‘The World Without Us.’ It’s about when structures are forgotten how quickly nature will take back over without human interaction. For us, our work is bringing those old forgotten places to areas that are new and present.”
Last year, for the first time in CRUSH history, wheatpaste artists were invited to join the ranks of street artists, muralists and graffiti writers. We Were Wild were part of the handful of wheatpasters who participated. This upcoming year is looking even busier for them.
Keep up with their upcoming project by following their Instagram: @we_were_wild
Grow Love – Robyn Frances
Known for her such as bright purple gradient Marilyn Monroe on the side building of La Bohemé Gentlemen’s Cabaret, Robyn Frances — also known as Grow Love — has been painting walls for 20 years now. While she uses many different mediums in her work, her favorites are a combination of aerosol paints, paint markers and latex paints to create bright color gradients that make her work pop off walls.
As founder of Grow Love — an organization that brings together and mentors female artists to paint big walls — Frances is no stranger to the downfalls of street art being a very male-dominated industry.
“Female artists are not universally respected as male artists are. We don’t get the same support, opportunities, or pay,” said Frances. “I’ve looked towards male artists for support to get better and get up, a hand full of them have helped and supported me, but most either take advantage, want to use you or fuck you, or they bring you in, mentor you and then shit on you by slandering you, ruining your opportunities, or telling you that your copying their style — even though you’re not. So it’s not easy, it can be really annoying, but it’s the best motivator. It drives me to be better, go harder, and work to prove myself.”
Originally from New England, Calistro has called Denver home for a while and can be found most of the time at Ritual Tattoo — when she’s not creating fairy tales on walls. You may have seen Sandi Calistro’s hand-illustrated whimsical, wide-eyed ladies hang out on the outsides of businesses such as City O’ City, Jelly and Hi-Dive Denver. Her murals give a sense of femininity, nature and wonder to old walls here in Denver. Mainly a tattoo artist, Calistro has branched out into the world of murals more than ever this past year with big projects such as her walls in McNichol Building and Arvada Center last summer.
“Painting on a large scale is so fun and give such a sense of accomplishment when you are finished,” said Calistro. “I love the idea of having a piece of artwork for everyone to see, that no one owns — it’s out there for the world.”
Keep an eye out for her upcoming show at Second Nature in April, and to see more of her work follow her Instagram: @sandicalistro
Using a combination of paint and wheatpasting, Meeg Conroy— as known as Miss Meeg — tells the tales of animals living amongst Denver’s neighborhoods, at the same time that she portrays people who have strong influences in the city. Conroy’s work is detail oriented and she describes it as “linear and meditative.” Some of that meditation includes extensive research on the subject she portrays.
“I had the pleasure of creating a mural for the 715 Club in Five Points a few years ago. At first, it was a mixed media piece of wheat paste and paint. The content was foxes and rabbits, something that constantly roams that neighborhood, and much of Denver. The mural took a bit of time though, and during that time I got to know a number of residents in the area,” said Conroy. “It was an awesome reminder of the power and intention of art, to make people feel more human. The irony of the piece is that shortly after I finished it, we had a gnarly hail storm that demolished, not only thousands of cars in the city, but also my mural. I then returned and took a different approach, but was so happy to continue my time in that neighborhood and community.”
While Conroy just finished up her show Colfax Creations at Tooey’s Off Colfax this past month, keep up with her future work by following her on Instagram: @miss.meeg
Uc Sepia – Seymon Gurule
If you’ve ever wandered around the alleyways of RiNo, you’ve definitely seen the art of Seymon Gurule — also known by her tag Uc Sepia. Her whimsical female characters depict the fun and free-spirited “ozjuahzians.”Distinct in style, Gurule’s characters with their long spider lashes, white faces, and vivid colored outfits represent the many different personalities in society such as queens, princesses, warriors and guardians. While all her characters come from her imagination, her determination to be a street artist is very real and raw.
“My favorite part of being an artist is that I get to express myself through color and imagination,” said Gurle.” I am a minority woman with children. I struggle with this because I feel that I have had to work extra hard to get up there and stay on top. In spite of all that, I will never give up and will keep lighting the way in being a fantastic role model and inspiration for a new generation of female artists. I get the chance to give hope to all the little girls and females out there that women can paint, and that anything is possible. If it’s something that you truly have a passion for and you believe in yourself.”
Keep up with Gurule’s new work and project by following her Instagram: @ozjuahsepia.
Primarily a self-taught tattoo artist, Megan Walker has enjoyed a few busy years in the street art industry. Inspired by her love for Native American beadwork, Walker’s street style takes on a southwestern vibe that plays with textures to create effects in the depth of her pieces. After painting her first full mural in the Denver Central Market alleyway during CRUSH 2016, Walker traveled to Miami with Anna Charney to collaborate on a wall during the coveted Art Basel 2018 — a week which she regards as one of the best of her life.
“Obviously, the large scale of street art is one of the main attractions to creating it. I like climbing on things and making big fluid movements to paint. Sometimes it’s almost like dancing, and when it’s not you are outside, standing up and listening to your favorite music anyways so you can dance if you want to and that’s fun,” said Walker. “With spray paint, no mixing is involved so you can easily move back and forth between color. I love when you go for a line that you’re not sure you can execute properly and you actually slay it. Creating such big art with aerosol forces you to make moves more confidently so you don’t waste too much paint or time.”
Keep up with Walker’s art and tattoos by following her Instagram: @reverieink
Known for her brightly colored, mystical and magical ladies, Lindee Zimmer has had a busy year since moving to Denver last summer to pursue being a full-time artist. After painting her largest wall on the side of The Ramble Hotel during CRUSH 2018, Zimmer has been painting walls all over Denver and even a handful in Mexico City during her travels.
“I love painting murals because I really like the community engagement. I like that people can see art being created live. I get to be an art advocate and talk about art while creating it so I enjoy that,” said Zimmer. “I enjoy being outside. I enjoy how physical and challenging the [murals] are. I also enjoy that they’re really on a fast timeline. I do paint inside and create private commissions and whatnot, but I definitely prefer being on a busy street or where there’s a lot of people because then I get more of that engagement.”
Catch Zimmer this Friday, March 8 live painting at Odell’s Brewery in Fort Collins, and keep up with all her new projects by following her Instagram: @lindeezimmer
Ladies Fancywork Society
Hanging out through Denver are some crazy crochet creatures watching you as you roam around the neighborhood. These huge garish pieces — affectionately described as “yarn vomit” — were created by four free-spirited ladies who have taken on the name Ladies Fancywork Society. Originally starting out in 2007 with rogue crochet bombing at 3 a.m., LFS has become a well-known name here in Denver, and will even be part of a collaboration with Rebellelion at this upcoming spring Denver Fashion Week.
“We love bringing our crazy group imagination into the real world in the form of crochet so that people can see it and interact with it. Watching people encounter our art and have their own reactions is one of our favorite things!” said LFS. “We love being a part of the Denver street art community and being able to make art that is accessible for everyone to experience, especially when they might not be expecting it.”
Keep your eyes peeled for Ladies Fancywork Society at Denver Fashion Week this spring, and don’t forget to check out their Instagram: @ladiesfancyworksociety
If you’ve ever wandered around the street of Denver, there is no doubt you’ve seen Koko Bayer’s iconic wheatpaste posters. They are pictures of aspen trees and hands with an eye in the middle, as well as newer work of a side profile face with colorful lipstick. All the photos were created by her grandfather Herbert Bayer — a well-known Denver artist from decades ago. Bayer’s work can be found hanging out on walls, dumpster and even now at the Meow Wolf construction site.
She originally started wheatpasting in 2015 and now Bayer’s work can be seen far and wide across the city of Denver and is part of a number of collaborations with other local Denver street artist such as Ladies Fancywork Society and Chris Haven. As an established artist in the community, Bayer has even helped mentor other wheatpasters such as the ladies from We Were Wild, and is very encouraging when it comes to helping out newcomers to the scene.
Keep your eyes out for her new pieces that is she constantly putting up throughout Denver, and to see more check out her Instagram: @kokonofilter
Mandalas are the centerpiece of Kirileigh Jones’ work, spread across Denver and Boulder both indoors and out. Although she’s originally from the Bay Area in California, her time in the Front Range of Colorado has been well-spent. Using complex levels of detail, Jones paints mesmerizing circular patterns on a variety of surfaces. Most of her murals require countless hours of work — estimates reaching over 60 hours for some of the bigger ones — which means Jones spends plenty of time near her walls.
Last year, Jones painted two murals during the CRUSH festival — one on the ground in front of Bigsby Folly and the other on the bike path where Brighton Boulevard becomes Broadway. She’s also involved with the Be A Good Person brand in Denver, helping to paint murals in collaboration with local artists like Thomas “Detour” Evans. Her meticulous line work often juxtaposes the gestural strokes of aerosol artists, making Jones stand out among the pack.
Follow along with her journey on Instagram: @kirileigh7
Julia Rose Morgan
Julia Rose Morgan — known as aerose art on Instagram — started painting with spray paint a few years ago, after years of experience in oil and other studio paints, where she portrayed photo-realistic portraits and nature-themed scenes. Her style is a mixture of rebellious and sensual, with movement and grace highlighted throughout each one.
Morgan has been involved with several consecutive years of the CRUSH festival. In 2017, her mural secured a spot in one of the main alleys in the center of RiNo and it depicted a woman holding a can of aerosol, the paint flying into the air around her like ink spreading through water. Another mural she painted that same year honored the 125-year history of the Florence Crittenton High School for teenage mothers and wrapped around several exterior walls. Morgan also regularly paints in “live” settings — like the Arise music festival, The Big Wonderful and even the Denver Public Art website launch — and encourages people to stop and interact with her.
Keep up with her murals and other creative projects on Instagram: @aerose_art