Gallery at Studio J, Arise in the corner.

The November night is cold and icy after the first snowfall of the season. I pull my coat tight around me during the short walk to the gallery, hand-in-hand with my husband. Isolated figures smoking a cigarette on the corner or walking a dog do not say hello. Windows without curtains yawn into small, beat up spaces. The urban heart of downtown Denver pulses nearby.

I feel exhilarated.

A quick step through the door into the Gallery at Studio J in the Santa Fe Arts District, and we enter another world: golden wood floors, welcoming people, and vibrant color and possibility. Joe, husband to one of the gallery owners, Jahe Smith, scurries about laying a spread of food and drink. Artists, identified by name tags as “exhibiting artist,” greet one another and discuss each others work.

Carlene Frances, Colorado artist and juror, gives a short presentation about her jury process and criteria for inclusion in the show: that intangible quality of “magic;” works that say something – whether profound or simply the wonder of the color red; expertise in media; originality and experimentation; and professional presentation.

She invites personal conversations, and I don’t waste any time in approaching her. As a “new” artist on the scene (I earned my BFA a couple decades ago but I’ve walked other paths and only returned full-time to painting about four years ago, and this is my first Denver show as a “professional artist”), I ask her to impart whatever wisdom she is willing to this eager sponge. Her gracious encouragement of my work means more than I could thank her for, and her sage advice to just keep entering shows and meeting people resonates.

Jesse McLaughlin, one of the gallery owners, generously shares with us about the Denver art scene: happenings and highlights and challenges. His humble but overt efforts to elevate the artistic community, even hosting a show in January for elementary kids, endears him to us immediately.

My mom arrives with our daughter. I feel that familiar rush of gratitude for her lifelong support of me as an artist. And, as usual, I am wearing my “cowgirl boots” in honor of my dad, who always eschewed dress shoes for boots. As always, he could not feel closer.

My husband and I top it off with an amazing Ethiopian dinner a few doors down from the gallery.

Despite driving through thick Denver traffic and feeling like I was going to throw up from nerves on the way to the opening, in the end it was like a reunion with an old friend – warmth, laughter, and that feeling of being home.

I am grateful.


My next challenge: I plan to enter Holy Moly, a show hosted by Niza Knoll Gallery, also in the Sante Fe Art District. It’s a space where I would love to have a voice: “What is religion, is it real, fantasy, confusing, corrupt, what do you think, how do you feel, how do you interpret it? Paint it, sculpt it, and create your passion.”

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