A sign above the door that says, "Not responsible for persons left behind" is the only indication that G44 Gallery used to be a tanning salon. The cultural upgrade to this strip-mall space is a part of owner Gundega Spons' aspiration to further the renaissance of Colorado Springs' Ivywild neighborhood.
Co-owner of the neighboring Sovereignty Wines, Spons used to talk with her brother about wanting just one extra wall of the spirits store to fill with art. Instead, she got 500 square feet of renovated space and a total of 10 walls, complete with an LED lighting system and a stainless-steel hanging system.
So the former assistant curator at the Milwaukee Art Museum, who also has a master's degree in art history, is still basking in the satisfaction of a dream realized as she preps G44's second show ever. Monoprints features two like-minded folk: Denver artist Joe Higgins and Colorado Springs creator Megan McCluskey.
Higgins, who teaches the monotype form at the Art Students League of Denver, describes it as a simple process wherein ink is applied to an acrylic-glass plate and run through an etching press, where the pressure binds the ink to the paper. Higgins likes the technique's relative immediacy: "Once you put a mark on the paper, you're really not going to be able to cover it up or change it," he says. "You're working in real time, and the marks you put on there tend to be spontaneous."
Using stamps, rollers or sharp-edged objects to apply paint to create landscapes, interiors (or a combination of the two), Higgins will also rub the ink around to create interesting textures, similar to the effects of watercolor. In one print, called "Cormorant Place," the smudged ink helps create silhouettes of black birds in flight against a grey and pale-yellow background, and is the perfect contrast to the sharp edges of tree limbs.
This is the first post-collegiate show for McCluskey, who graduated from Colorado College in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in studio art. Her style is to create laminated stencils from interesting shapes she finds or draws, like one she has of an ice cream cone combined with a shoe. She then inks the stencils, arranges them, and runs them through the press, which stamps and embosses the images onto the paper.
Her prints have a graphic feel that is both delicate and sharp at the same time. They look similar to elegant pressed blossoms whose crisp shapes have been simplified and dipped in bright, vibrant colors. "People are always telling me that I can't ever stop drawing, painting or printing flowers," she says.
As for as her prints in the show, McCluskey says she's finally parting with some long-time favorites: "I really think they are meant to be enjoyed, and not stacked in my closet."