Curating what hails you: Museum season is upon us


As the weather cools and becomes more unpredictable there doesn’t seem to be a better place to take refuge than in a metro region museum.

This season, Colorado’s chief educational institutions are boasting some of the best exhibits across the country, and in some instances, the globe. You won’t find as many Claude Monet pieces anywhere else as you will in Denver this winter. You’ll get a rigorous look at the southern border through the lenses of talented photographers who have tasked themselves with telling the stories of people affected by the wall. You’ll even get a peek behind the curtain of some of your favorite Pixar movies. Making “Finding Nemo” actually look like the ocean is harder than you think.

Whether your season is filled with visiting family or you need to get away for a day, local museums are the places to be.

Museum of Contemporary Art | Francesca Woodman: Portrait of a Reputation

Showing until April 5

By the time Francesca Woodman died by suicide at the age of 22 she had completed an impressive body of photography, although few people knew it. The Denver native who grew up in Boulder with her artist parents and aspiring filmmaker brother was considered a young rockstar of modern photography after her death in 1980.

Since, more than 800 of her photos have been made public. They represent a coming of age in contemporary photography. Steeped in emotion, Woodman’s photos were often of herself.

“Ranging from portraits in her studio/apartment in college to self-portraits in the bucolic Colorado landscape in which she was raised, these works capture Woodman’s hallmark approach to art-making: enigmatic, rigorous, and poignant, all at once,” curators for the show write of the exhibit.

The exhibit features more than 40 prints, postcards and letters that capture the artist early in her career.

Denver Art Museum | Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature

Showing until Feb. 2

To really know the truth about something you must observe it at different times, in different light, in different conditions. This is what made French impressionist artist Claude Monet famous with his dreamy scenes of Argenteuil, moody scapes of Normandy and, of course, vibrant and unmistakable flower gardens.

This winter the Denver Art Museum is hosting the most comprehensive exhibit of Monet pieces in 25 years. The two-story showing is made up of 120 pieces. Eighty lenders from 15 different countries make the one-of-a-kind show possible. Beyond the number of Monet works, this exhibit stands out because you’re able to walk through the different eras of Monet. He traveled through Europe during the last half of the 19th century, searching for a sense of truth in each location.

“Throughout his career, Monet was indefatigable in his exploration of the different moods of nature, seeking to capture the spirit of a certain place and translating its truth onto the canvas,” said Angelica Daneo, Chief Curator and curator of European art before 1900 at the DAM. “Monet’s constant quest for new motifs shows the artist’s appreciation for nature’s ever-changing and mutable character, not only from place to place, but from moment to moment, a concept that increasingly became the focus of his art.”

The showing is in partnership with Germany’s Museum Barberini. The complete exhibit will head there in the spring.

Colorado Photographic Arts Center | La Frontera de Cristal

Showing until Nov. 23

In one year there are more than 990 million total crossings at the border between the U.S. and Mexico, making it one of the busiest borders in the world. That would also make it one of the most storied.

This fall three artists — Tom Kiefer, Elliot Ross, and Griselda San Martin — approach the nearly 1,950 mile border with a difference lens, but all focused on the people who are somehow impacted by the boundary.  “La Frontera De Cristal,” which translates to English as “The Crystal Frontier,” is on display at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center until Nov. 23.

San Martin’s work focuses on Friendship Park, where families in both countries meet, divided by a fence. Kiefer documents items that people crossing the border abandon on their journey across the border, through the desert. Ross examines life along the entire length of the border.

While the border has become ever politicized, CPAC curator Samantha Johnston says the exhibit transcends talking points and policy debates.

“From Ross’s vast landscapes, to San Martin’s portraits, to Kiefer’s close-up photographs of personal items, each photographer shows us a unique aspect of life along the U.S.-Mexico border that we rarely see in mainstream media,” Johnston says of the exhibit. “This exhibit invites us to look beyond the political rhetoric of the immigration debate and consider fresh perspectives on the landscapes and people that exist in the shadow of the wall.”

Denver Museum of Nature and Science | The Science of Pixar

Showing until April 5

To infinity and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science! There’s a lot to learn about Pixar and how the company’s beloved films, like Toy Story, are made with the help of math, technology, engineering and art. Through April 5, the museum is featuring an entire exhibit on what goes into an animated film. (Hint: it’s a lot. There’s intelligent life everywhere, as Buzz Lightyear would put it).

“Pixar films are one of the most inspiring examples of how science, technology, engineering, art, and math can intersect with creativity and imagination to bring joy and awe to people of all ages,” said George Sparks, President and CEO of the museum.

Pixar has made 21 films in the last 25 years, a few you may even be able to quote line-for-line. It all started with Toy Story in 1995. Each film involves a 9-step process, starting with the storyline. Creators then model, rig, animate, simulate and finally render a 3D product into a 2D movie.

“The Science of Pixar” exhibit explores each step of the process, from initial drawings to explaining the complexities of rigging, the digital bones of a character. Activities throughout the exhibit tie everything together. Build a WALL-E-esque robot, make your own 3D shapes like the ones that are eventually made into characters, and of course there are giant re-creations of your favorite characters.

Afterward, we recommend a major Pixar binge
so you can geek out on all
the science you’re sure to learn.