Artists Are Using This Exhibition to Imagine Their 2021

Across the globe, the New Year will take on extra meaning this year. As the calendar changes from 2020 to 2021, many of us will take what we’ve learned from a year that was completely altered by the pandemic and look forward to a vaccine that, hopefully, will bring improved conditions later in 2021.

At Denver’s D’art Gallery, at least, that’s exactly what artists say they’re hoping for in the New Year — and they’re expressing those hopes through an abstract-heavy, thematic exhibition that will show at the gallery next month. New Beginnings, an exhibition named by the member artists of D’art Gallery, will be open from January 14 to February 7. The project will showcase the work of 18 D’art artists, who all have their own perspective on what the New Year will bring.

Throughout the year, Denver’s art scene has been home to numerous shows reflecting on the pandemic, but the show at D’art Gallery takes that theme a step further, giving Denver a chance to use the lens of art to consider not only the pandemic, but also what comes next.

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Artists have created an experience that spans mediums and messages: An encaustic sculpture by Kelly Austin Rolo incorporates the good and the bad of 2020, shaping it into something else entirely. A painting by Lisa Calzavara explores our ability to pull ourselves up out of adversity. A sculpture by Kim Roberts hides under black and white striations to argue that many of our conclusions, including those we’ve drawn about the pandemic, shouldn’t be set in stone just yet.

“How this reminds me of 2020 is that we don’t know what it is yet. It could turn out to be a blessing in disguise — obviously there’s a lot of trauma and devastation and yet, we can’t stop at that one particular viewpoint,” said Roberts, who will have two works in the exhibition. She added that this line of thinking applies not only to the pandemic, but any situation where some form opinions before they have all the facts. “My hope is that people will recognize that what appears to be solid and separate and separating may purely be illusion.”

Meanwhile, Calzavara’s painting in the exhibition, which depicts a figure struggling to pull themselves upward, represents memories of what she and fellow artists went through in 2020. It also makes a statement about the struggles that she knows they can overcome in 2021.

“We did learn new ways of trying to promote our artwork through Facebook and doing video tours, everything we could do to get our images out there,” she said about 2020. “For the new year, even though we still have a lot of struggles ahead of us, united together, we’re going to make it through this. I really think that we’re going to be okay.”

That concept of perseverance applies to the gallery’s individual artists and to the gallery as a whole — D’art first opened its doors in August 2019, leaving it less than a year to gain its footing before the pandemic hit.

“We’re amazed that we have made it through so far as a brand new gallery,” said artist Suzanne Frazier, whose oil painting in the exhibition sums up the hardships of 2020 and potential for 2021. “There are just wonderful people in the gallery. I’m so happy to be a member of that.”

Looking ahead, the artists added that they’re optimistic about what community support will look like for the 2021 art scene.

“One thing I’ve noticed is people really stepping up to the plate to support artists this year,” Roberts said. “I think people are starting to recognize the value of art. We need meaning and art is a way of providing meaning.”

The exhibition does not have any scheduled events, but visitors are invited to come by and see the art in-person at D’art Gallery, 900 Santa Fe Drive, during its regular hours. Masks and social distancing are required.

D’art Gallery is located at 900 Santa Fe Drive. It is  open Thursdays from noon to 5 p.m., Fridays from noon to 7 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.