10 of the Best

As Tom Wolfe pointed out decades ago in The Painted Word, it’s not easy to write about art. Be it painting, sculpture, stained glass, architecture or photography, art is best experienced directly, not through intermediaries. Here are brief descriptions of ten regional artists past and present whose works can be seen in local museums, galleries or simply adorning city streets.

Phil Lear
Local restaurateur Joe Campana is one of many fans of the prolific Lear. Campana’s downtown restaurants, Bonny & Read and the Rabbit Hole, both feature large-scale works by Lear. At Bonny & Read, Lear re-imagines the famed 18th-century pirates as smart, bewitching and somewhat dangerous beauties–not unlike their 21st-century counterparts, whom you might run into any evening at B & R’s cheerful bar.

Jessica Vogel
Vogel is fascinated by antique windows, which she re-purposes by reverse painting on glass. In 2008 she launched Art & Salvage Gallery in Salida to market her paintings. “Although she spent a large part of her time painting in the studio and out in nature, she was never satisfied with the limitations imposed by canvas,” the gallery’s website notes. “When she began experimenting with painting on glass, she was intrigued by the amazingly vivid colors obtained by painting on the reverse side. Today, Jessica, her husband and daughter live in Salida, Colorado for most of the year, but spend as much time as possible in Dzilam de Bravo, a small fishing village in northern Yucatan.” Vogel’s luminous work can be seen at the gallery, 121 N. F Street, Salida. 719-221-9284

Don Green
The sculptures of Colorado Springs native Don Green can be found at the entrance to the airport, at UCCS and adjacent to Centennial Hall, the downtown seat of county government. Check out Green’s lighthearted steel and glass sculpture next to an otherwise undistinguished building at 430 N. Tejon Street in Colorado Springs.

Douglas Rouse
The multitalented Mr. Rouse specializes in 3D street painting, trompe l’oeil murals, and subtle building makeovers. Driving past the century-old City Glass building in the 400 block of West Colorado Ave., you’d never guess that the building’s façade of slightly irregular, pleasingly weathered brick isn’t original. It’s not – in fact, it’s not even brick, but a Rouse painting. Rouse’s eye dazzlers are all over the city; our favorite among them is the bewitching, confusing and cheerily deceptive mural above Poor Richard’s restaurant at 318 N. Tejon Street.

Unknown, late 19th century
The restored mansion at the northwest corner of Bijou and Tejon in downtown Colorado Springs is a private men’s club (talk about an anachronism!). Although the club has a nice collection of historical Western art, it’s not open to the public. So look up at the bronze dolphin finial that crowns the building’s turret-it’s a lovely piece, a 19th-century magnate’s gift to the street.

Anne Van Briggle
With her better-known spouse Artus, Anne was a founder of the Van Briggle Pottery. After Artus’s death in 1902, she became the pottery’s chief designer and art director. The spectacular 1907 Van Briggle Memorial Pottery Building at Uintah & Glen features thousands of Van Briggle tiles and ceramics on its exterior. More than a century later, they’re still fresh and vivid—a delightful fragment of Arts & Crafts America on downtown’s fringe. The building, which now houses Colorado College’s facilities department, isn’t open to the public but you’re free to walk around and admire Anne’s remarkable work—not to mention architect Nicolas van den Arend’s spectacular building.

Luis Jimenez
The great Mexican/American artist Luis Jimenez suffered an untimely death in 2006, when a portion of Mustang, a massive sculpture that he was preparing for installation at Denver International Airport, fell on him in his studio. He’s represented in Colorado Springs by Fiesta Harabe, a larger than life dancing couple, sculpted in brightly finished fiberglass. One of many treasures at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Fiesta Harabe, is in front of the FAC in the 800 block of North Cascade Ave. Mustang was eventually finished by Jimenez’ son and installed at DIA, although the bright blue horse with glowing red eyes is not universally loved. A popular nickname: Blucifer.

Laura Reilly
You can see Laura Reilly’s sunny, brilliantly colored landscapes at (where else?) Laura Reilly Fine Arts, 2522a West Colorado Ave. in Old Colorado City. The tiny space has enough room for the artist, a customer or two, and dozens of paintings large and small, all affordably priced. Reilly is there Thursday through Saturday, 11:30 – 5:30, or by appointment. 719-650-1427.

Thirty-eight mysterious carvings
The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum is the city’s attic, art gallery, gun safe, architectural treasure and anything else you might think of. Housed in the 1903 El Paso County Courthouse, a glorious granite Renaissance revival pastiche of every conceivable architectural style, the museum is endlessly interesting. Start by walking around the building, situated at the center of Pioneer Square Park (at Tejon & Vermijo downtown), and check out the sculptured busts of Native Americans that crown every second story window. There are 38 of them-all different individuals. Were they actual people, or just products of the unknown sculptors’ imagination? The wedge-shaped keystones were probably carved by employees of Greenlee & Son, the firm contracted by architect A.J. Smith to create the building’s masonry.

101 + 100
Equals 201, the combined age of two of our city’s most beloved and capable artists, Eric Bransby and Marion Busey. You can see Busey’s work at Arati Artists Gallery, (2425 W. Colorado Ave.), the still-flourishing business she founded in 1977. They’re eminently affordable, and if you’re lucky, Marion will be there in person. Eric Bransby’s work is even more accessible—you can see his vast, multi-paneled mural “History of the Pikes Peak Region” on permanent display at the Pioneers Museum.

Latka Studios
Veteran Pueblo artists Tom and Jean Latka have used concrete, steel, ceramics, and fused glass for the past thirty years as the vehicle of their artistic gestures and statements. Their pieces, both sculptural and functional, attempt to enliven community spaces; to bring a sense of vitality and human connection to urban development through the presence of color, texture, and design. Latkaland, as their Pueblo studio is nicknamed, has been the source of an amazing variety of art, ranging from simple ceramic bowls to large-scale public art installations throughout the West, including Greeley, Aurora, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. Their studio is occasionally open to visitors—call them at 719-543-0720 or check their website athttp://www.ceramicsite.com www.ceramicsite.com.

Lorelei Beckstrom
There’s realism, abstraction, surrealism—and then there’s Lorelei Beckstrom. Her edgy dreamscapes float into your mind, and you can’t quite let go of them. It’s tempting to write about her work, but maybe it’s best to listen to Tom Wolfe, and let the work speak for itself. Beckstrom is represented locally by the Modbo/SPQR, twin icons of cool located downtown at 17 E. Bijou St.