To Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak means a lot. It is a constant skyline sight. It provides a place to exercise, and brings in tourist money.
But what new is there to say about it?
That's the question behind 36 Views of Pikes Peak, opening Friday at GOCA 121, downtown. One part traditional Japanese art, one part "Wish you were here" postcards from traveling family, 36 Views is a joint effort of KRCC radio producer Noel Black and Galleries of Contemporary Art director Daisy McConnell.
McConnell approached 10 regional artists — "anyone who can see the mountain" — and asked them to interpret Pikes Peak in a manner similar to what Katsushika Hokusai did in the early 19th century with his 36 Views of Mt. Fuji. Hokusai's series of (incongruously) 46 woodblock prints features Fuji in the background of everyday life in Japan, both as a distinct feature of the landscape and as a shared cultural object.
Working in a wide variety of media, local artists looked at the Peak from angles that reflect more on us, such as commerce and politics. Corie Cole, a 33-year-old originally from Kentucky, crafted 36 small ceramic cups, each with a painting of Pikes Peak as viewed from the sites of local defense or aerospace contractors on Google StreetView. Having lived here only four years, Cole says, "I'm a little bit concerned as to how much of the local economy is based on the defense industry, so I wanted to take a closer look at that" — though she says her goal here is to depict, not judge.
Colorado College print workshop supervisor Heather Oelklaus, 41, originally from Iowa, is contributing an image of the Peak from Garden of the Gods — something tourists take every day, though few tourist photos are quite so large. "View from the Garden" is a single image composed of 78 black-and-white photos taken with a pinhole camera. Pinhole photography inverts the colors, imparting a ghostly quality.
Perhaps the most traditional artist for this exhibit is Jean Gumpper, 59, originally from Hawaii and here by way of Michigan. Like Hokusai, Gumpper makes reduction woodcut prints. Her contribution features intimate, close-up views of life on Pikes Peak from hikes on all sides of the mountain.
"I lived right on the edge of Pikes Peak in Chipita Park, and you can't see [it] from there," she says, explaining that her pieces invert the "can't see the forest for the trees" cliché. Gumpper has one large print of the Peak itself viewed through crabapple trees outside her workspace; the pink blossoms evoke the cherry blossoms endemic to spring in Japan.
Bearing other contributions from Cole T. Bennett, Sean Cayton (a freelance photographer who works with the Indy), Carol S. Dass, Marina Eckler, Lindsay Hand, Holly Parker Dearborn and Bogdan Swider, 36 Views also helps usher in KRCC's new radio program Wish We Were Here (see "Postcards from home," News, July 2).
Black, McConnell and Pikes Peak Library District outreach officer Dee Vasquez Sabol also have juried an exhibit at Library 21c with the same 36 Views title. It will be up until September.