Every other year, an impressive list of galleries, museums and other businesses in and around Denver participate in the Month of Photography (MOP). Even though the name suggests it only lasts one month, the celebration of photographers and their creative expressions now stretch over several months. Originally started by the prominent local photographer Mark Sink after he experienced the Houston FotoFest in the mid-1990s, MOP is celebrating its 15th year. It’s commendable to visit each place listed on the MOP website, but if you don’t have time for that, this is a list of 10 photographers with work you should make time to see before it’s gone.
When: On view until May 4
Where: David B. Smith Gallery, 1543 A Wazee St.
The Lowdown: Whitmore is based in Las Vegas, but instead of taking photos of the artificial lights and buildings on the strip, she focuses on the desert around her. In her exhibition at David B. Smith Gallery called Magic Circle, Whitmore explores the use of a mirror placed carefully in Southwestern landscapes. By using the mirrors in otherwise wild settings — and by pointing them in directions that don’t represent anything seen in the rest of the photograph — Whitmore calls into question the purpose of reflection. There’s also a sense of mystery and otherworldliness in her photographs that comprise Magic Circle — perhaps attributed to the fact that at first, the mirrors appear as photoshopped additions. Her work is eye-catching and surreal — products of her ability to intermix photography with the act of installing non-native objects.
When: March 22 – May 4
Where: RULE Gallery, 530 Santa Fe Dr.
The Lowdown: This series by Renluka Maharaj is part of a group exhibition at RULE called In the Fold, which showcases three artists’ expressions through photography and fabric. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Maharaj now splits her time between Colorado, New York City and Trinidad. Her work pivots heavily on ideas of colonialism and displacement — although those are sometimes afterthoughts to the rampant religious symbolism and sexual overtones. Much of her expression comes from her different experiences around the world, and her personal narratives often show up in her photographs as a result. Some of Maharaj’s work can be found in collections at the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago, Joan Flasch artist book collection, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art and at the University of Colorado Boulder (her alma mater).
When: On view until April 5
Where: Station 16 Gallery Denver, 3330 Brighton Blvd, Suite #203
The Lowdown: Even if you don’t know him by name, Lyle Owerko is seared into your memory from his photograph of Flight 175 crashing into the second tower of the World Trade Center in 2001 — which appeared on Time magazine a few days later. But that isn’t all Owerko has accomplished in his career, in fact, that’s only a small portion of it. As a world traveler and, some might say, a risk-taker, Owerko has had the chance to photograph a diverse range of subjects — from Mongolian eagle hunters to skateboarders to isolated tribes in Kenya. In 2005, he began a series called The Boombox Project which documented old boomboxes as if they were being cataloged for science. By documenting and studying the boomboxes, Owerko was simultaneously studying ’80s culture, resistance and life on the streets. Each picture features a single boombox, in brilliant high-definition, with a white background. A selection of these boombox photographs is being shown at Station 16 Gallery inside The Source Hotel.
When: March 22 – April 7
Where: EDGE Gallery, 7001 W. Colfax
The Lowdown: If you’ve ever taken a road trip across the US, Susan Goldstein’s photographs will speak to you. Traveling by car, Goldstein captures all of the themes in the country that aren’t included as part of the “American Dream” — but she does encounter and document more than enough patriotism. It’s one of the main threads that ties together her series, UNDERCURRENTS: Fault Lines. She considers her photographs of all the different places as “taking the temperature” of the US, although she also admits to not staying in any place long enough to truly understand the nuances of it. But her work usually takes on political and social topics, and UNDERCURRENTS is no exception. Images of Wal-Mart trucks next to dust-blown billboards speak to the vast expanse of Middle America and the sense of deterioration that is often found there. Goldstein also has a long and storied history in Denver as a photographer — having served as Westword’s staff photographer for many years — until focusing on fine art photography at the age of 49.
When: On view until April 20
Where: Leon Gallery, 1112 E. 17th Ave.
The Lowdown: At first in his career, Jeff Davenport focused on the Denver music scene, after graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder with film and art history degrees. He was a member of local bands Ending People, Dust on the Breakers, D.Biddle, Porlolo and Meese, as well as hosting a local radio show, Shakedown Radio 1190. However, in 2016 he moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of photography. Surrounded by the urban landscape of the sprawling Californian city, Davenport found inspiration after the sun went down. Walking through the neighborhoods late at night, he photographed only using the lights available around him — street lamps, security strobes and the light pollution from downtown. The resulting pictures are sometimes eerie, verging on sci-fi, like vignettes from hyper-stylized movie sets. Davenport’s collection, called Nights, chronicles four years of his after-hours strolls, producing a series that redefines the way to see a city in the dark. Before the show at Leon is over in April, Davenport has plans to return to Denver and guide some interested photographers on a “Midnight Photo Crawl” through Denver’s neighborhoods.
When: On view until April 6
Where: Megafauna, 3102 Blake St.
The Lowdown: With the rise in popularity of street art, people often overlook the graffiti scene that existed in force before RiNo became a nationally-recognized mural destination. Graffiti in Denver has been around since the ’80s and ’90s, when the mayors and citizens were vehemently against it. The writers who tagged, spray painted and stickered kept themselves anonymous and finding a way into that community was no easy task. But Shellie Bee found access, documenting the culture she admired while so many others hated on it. As a visual artist herself, she was obsessed with the aesthetics of graffiti, collecting photographs and other mementos left by graffiti writers around town. Now, with over 30,000 photographs of the street art and graffiti scene, she hopes to create an archive for others who are equally as obsessed as her. Her work at Megafauna includes collages as well as photographs.
When: On view until April 7
Where: RedLine Contemporary Art Center, 2350 Arapahoe St.
The Lowdown: As part of a large group exhibition, titled Delirium, Three Visions, Aline Smithson’s photographs speak to the current and upcoming generations who may never print and hold a tangible photograph. Based in Los Angeles, Smithson embraces the tools of photography as much as she likes the idea of capturing emotions in film. Working with four cameras — a twin lens Rolleiflex, a Hasselblad, the Diana plastic camera and the Holga plastic camera — Smithson moves between clarity and chaos in her work, landing most of the time in an area that feels like imagination more than reality. In the series on view at RedLine, Fugue State, Smithson took analog photos, damaged the negatives with chemicals and then developed the images in a digital darkroom. The collection serves as a form of nostalgia, but also an homage to the manual aspects of photography.
George P. Perez
When: On view until March 30 and April 7
Where: Alto Gallery, 4345 W. 41st Ave. and McNichols Civic Center, 144 W. Colfax Ave.
The Lowdown: George P. Perez has become one of the driving members of the local photography community. His work continues to be featured all along the Front Range and outside of the state, including Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, The Bridge Gallery in Littleton, RedLine and grayDuck Gallery in Austin. People who live in Denver city limits can apply to “borrow” an original by Perez as part of the Octopus Initiative at the Museum of Contemporary Art. For Month of Photography, Perez is featured at a few different shows but also took on a curatorial role with Mark Sink and John Lake for RedLine’s Delirium, Three Visions exhibition. His art uses photography as a foundation to explore mundanity and everyday situations in esoteric, and sometimes dark, ways — exemplified by series like Instarelatives where he rips the faces out of old portrait photos. At Alto Gallery, Perez is showcasing collaged photos as part of the Denver Collage Club exhibition.
When: On view until April 6
Where: Visions West Contemporary, 2605 Walnut St.
The Lowdown: Reine Paradis’s photographs are visually shocking and also undeniably hypnotic. Using high contrast chromatic colors in her series Midnight, Paradis carefully stages each scene, using herself as the main character. The result, with oversaturated blue skies and neon greens, is a world both alien and familiar. The series was photographed in various locations across the US, although with Paradis’s fantastic ability to frame a shot, it’s hard to pinpoint where she might have gone. Paradis creates maquettes of the scene to duplicate in real life, painting what she visualizes before taking the photograph. She also prepares props and other accouterments to enhance her vision. Midnight is not only a visual art exhibit, it’s also a documentary film directed by Carl Lindstrom, Queen of Paradis, which follows her as she takes her photos.
When: On view until March 30
Where: Alto Gallery, 4345 W. 41st Ave.
The Lowdown: Now based in Boulder, Paula Gillen worked for two decades in New York City as a photography editor and researcher for a few major cultural publications. Using her expansive experience in photography and mass media, Gillen creates “surreal disruptions” that speak to different social and political influences. She excels at mixing different mediums all based in photography and has even done a series of “live collage” where she takes images of people interacting with cut-out pictures. Humorous, scandalous, free-spirited and deeply critical, Gillen’s work reinvigorates photographic arts in provocative ways.
For a full list of participating galleries and artists, visit the MOP website.