Colorado Springs, CO – July 14, 2012


Leslie, Tyler, and I went to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (FAC) today.

When we initially arrived at the FAC, we found one of the retaining walls in the parking lot had numerous murals. There are several sculptures installed in the exterior public spaces including a buffalo sculpture of steel, Survivor II; a limestone sculpture of some Native American women, Hopi Basket Dancers; and a very colorful sculpture of a Mexican Hat Dance. There was also a butterfly sculpture that was part of a city-wide exhibition of butterfly sculptures.

The FAC building is a classic example of art-deco architecture, finished in 1936. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Detail of some murals at the parking lot of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
Murals in the parking lot.
The main entrance to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. The five murals above the doors are by Boardman Robinson (1936).
National Register of Historic Places plaque.
Survivor II by Paul Hathaway (1973).
Hopi Basket Dancers by Doug Hyde (1985).
Fiesta Dancers/Jarabe by Luis Jiménez (1991-97).
Spore by Christopher Weed (2010). Fiesta Dancers/Jarabe by Luis Jiménez (1991-97) is in the background.
Hopi Basket Dancers by Doug Hyde (1985) near a butterfly sculpture.
The sign outside the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center seems to be pointing the way to Pikes Peak.


It was the first full day of a new exhibit, ‘Trace Elements: Light into Space’ and ‘Places Apart,’ installations by James Turrell and Scott Johnson. That particular area of the FAC did not allow photographs. Regardless, we all very much enjoyed the displays. The first one we saw titled ‘The No Plateau.” It consisted of four columns of tinted glass. Each one was about four feet square and about 15 feet tall. There was a space nearly three feet wide which allowed one to walk between the columns. The columns were placed to form a larger square of about 12 feet by 12 feet.

Each of the 16 glass panels was clear at the bottom and became progressively darker as the height increased. The columns did not have a top; instead, there was a light shining straight down in each. At the bottom inside, each was a substance that looked like dried and cracked mud. The ambient light in the exhibit room was dimmed considerably. This installation was the only thing in that room.

Because of the lighting and the interior reflectivity of the glass, one could see the reflections of the mud seemingly going on forever. A slight change in the reflections occurred as one walked around or through the installation. We all three thought it was the most fascinating and unique piece.

As we left that first exhibition room, we entered an enormous hall. This hall had three or four pieces, some of which were built directly into the wall. In each case, either the wall or the art piece was a brilliant white. Looking straight on at the works with spotlights from above, it reminded one of a distant horizon. On the horizon, it appeared to be a forest that was lit oddly, maybe due to a white fog. We had never seen anything like it, so we decided to inspect them more closely. Each piece had one or more of the “horizons.” The lowest “horizon” in each one was just slightly above my eye level.

If one stood at the end of the wall and looked toward the other end, it appeared there were small “shelves” protruding from the wall. At its widest point, the “shelf” ranged from one to three inches wide. If one were to look down the plane of the wall from the ceiling, one would see that the “shelf” emerges from the wall in a very gentle arc and then disappears back into the wall. Each “shelf” is canted up at a slight angle. On top of each “shelf” is a piece of material that looks similar to aluminum foil. It is the light from above reflecting off of the foil that creates the “horizon.” I thought it was the most interesting use of light.

When it comes to original works of art, I am sometimes amazed at how artists can dream up such artworks. I can’t imagine I would have come up with ideas like those described above in a million years. Both of the pieces described above were by Scott Johnson.

On the ground floor, preparations for a wedding and reception were underway in the Smith Gallery and the courtyard. The ceremony was set to take place outside. The colors of the wedding were purple and hot pink. It may sound odd, but it was striking.

Wedding reception set up in one of the halls. The Sacred Rain Arrow sculpture in the distance.
Sacred Rain Arrow by Allan Houser (1988).
Panoramic view of a mural to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center by Eric Bransby and Trevor Thomas (2010-12).

Somewhere between 2006 and 2008, the FAC hosted an exhibit of glasswork by renowned artist Dale Chihuly. Some generous patrons purchased several pieces for the FAC. One of the first things we saw on the ground floor were five large Chihuly bowls, made between 1992 and 2004. The colors were vivid, while some parts were translucent.

A grouping of glass bowls by Dale Chihuly, dating between 1992 and 2004.
Detail of a Chihuly piece.
Detail of a Chihuly piece II.
Detail of a Chihuly piece III.

The FAC has an extensive collection of Native American clothing, tools, and baskets. The beadwork on the various items of clothing is very colorful. The intricacy is amazing.

An example of Native American beadwork.
Detail of Native American beadwork on a cradleboard.

There was an exhibit in the Loo Gallery I had never seen before, Hispanic Works – Santos and Bultos. Some of the pieces were quite new. For example, my favorite, Altar Screen with Bulto was from 1993. Another example was the Coronation of the Virgin by the Holy Trinity, 1996. Some of the other pieces dated as far back as the early 1700s. Crucifixes covered two walls in the exhibition space.

Altar Screen with Bulto by Victor Goler (1993).
Detail of Coronation of the Virgin by the Holy Trinity by David Nabor Lucero (1996).
Multiple crucifixes on display.
A view down the hall toward the Ute Agency painting.

One of my favorite paintings at the FAC is Georgia O’Keeffe’s, Dark Iris No. I. Another of my most favorite items on display is the Orange Hornet Chandelier by Dale Chihuly in the Lane Gallery. It is a very vivid piece. Lastly, another of my favorite works is one that I have associated with the FAC since I was a small child is Trio by Walt Kuhn. I think it just brings back fond memories of my many visits when I was young.  Some additional choices of mine follow.

Dark Iris no. 1 by Georgia O’Keeffe (1927).
Orange Hornet Chandelier by Dale Chihuly (2007).
Detail of Orange Hornet Chandelier by Dale Chihuly (2007).
Just beyond the Chihuly piece is Spore by Christopher Weed (2010).
Trio by Walt Kuhn (1937).
Storm in the Sangres by Tracy Felix (1991).
Native Land by Chuck Forsman (1993).
Vibrations of Scarlet on Blue and Green, No. 5 by Vance Kirkland (1967).
Ute Agency by Paul Pletka (1995).
Detail of Where the Best Riders Quit by Charles M. Russell (1920).

In the courtyard, I was able to photograph the mural by Frank Mechau, Wild Horses. To the best of my knowledge that painting has been in place since 1936.

Wild Horses by Frank Mechau (1936).

In the main foyer is another Dale Chihuly chandelier, made in 2004 of 842 separate glass parts. The fixture weighs an impressive 2,200 pounds. It certainly does not look like it should weigh that much.

The desk at the main entry is dwarfed by the large Dale Chihuly Chandelier.
View of the Dale Chihuly chandelier in the entry lobby from directly below.

After touring the FAC, we opted to sit on the terrace of Café 36 for a light lunch and a beverage.  The weather and the scenery added to our enjoyment.

The interior of Café 36.
A view of Pikes Peak from the terrace of Café 36.
An art deco light fixture on the Café 36 terrace.
Now that is unusual…wine on our table…
The happy Tyler.
The thinking Tyler.
The terrace of Café 36 is on the west side of the facility.

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