Some context first. Thursday marked the halfway point of my 50th year. This is not new experience #25, so I am a little behind. Also, a few days back a photo from Denver Art Museum’s (DAM) Untitled Final Friday #66 (Rebel Rebel) showed up in my Facebook memories. Before our “great adventure” and move to Pueblo, we were members at DAM and particularly enjoyed those Friday nights at the museum.
So as I was hanging up laundry at the end of the day, I was contemplating the possibilities for a new experience this weekend. And it clicked. There’s an art museum here. It’s open late-ish on Fridays. Why not make our own Final Friday outing?
We ventured to the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center in the rain, encountering one non-functioning traffic light along the short journey. While Sangre de Cristo does mean “blood of Christ,” here it refers to the southern Rocky Mountain range to our west. The center has been in existence since 1972, expanding over time to include a Children’s Museum, Sculpture Garden, and several galleries.
Upon arrival, we were informed that the building was at “half power,” presumably due to the same problem that affected the traffic light. Operations were not significantly affected, except that we had to pay admission (we chose membership) in cash. We headed upstairs, taking time to admire this interesting piece by Thomas Derrick.
Next, we moved on to the exhibit that had prompted the visit, Touched by the Hands of God: Michelangelo’s Models. The main portion of the exhibit consisted of six reproductions of models that Michelangelo had used as bozetti or maquettes–small scale rough models for larger sculptures. The story behind the models is interesting. Too fragile to be moved or reproduced (a process that can be destructive), they were basically copied using laser scanning and rapid prototyping. The results are impressive–they look like authentic sculptures.
An equally interesting aspect of the exhibit was a timeline of the years surrounding Michelangelo’s lifetime (1475-1564). The timeline recounted major events in the Old World, New World, and Michelangelo’s life. It was very cool to see all of those events displayed together and provided some additional connecting of the dots, as we like to say. Sadly, it also reminded me that conflicts like we are seeing now in Syria and elsewhere have always been part of human history.
I enjoyed remembering some of the fantastic art we saw during our Gap Year, including Michelangelo’s David, Pietà, and Moses. Reading about his life in this exhibit, it was perhaps painfully clear that he was primarily (and with great genius) a sculptor, which solves some of the mystery of why the painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling is not quite what one anticipates from a great artist. His commission for that project came from Pope Julius II (Michelangelo’s patron for many years), so he had little choice but to accept it. The contentious and eventually much-scaled-down project of the Tomb of Pope Julius II was one of Michelangelo’s great projects. I was happy to finally get to see it–including the Moses with horns statue–at St. Peter in Chains in Rome on my second visit there. Many of the models in this local exhibit were roughs for the original 40-figure tomb design. Interestingly, Pope Julius II is not buried in his tomb (before you ask, I don’t think anyone is), but lies in St. Peter’s Basilica with the rest of the popes.
I learned a couple other things from this exhibit: (1) Michelangelo spent a lot of time at the quarries above Carrara personally choosing marble for his sculptures and (2) Hieronymus Bosch was a Dutch painter from Michelangelo’s time (I always wondered why that name seemed familiar), not just a fictional LAPD detective.
After we left the Michelangelo exhibit, I took a few moments to check out an exhibit by Corinne Bisland, who uses photography to focus attention away from living with chronic pain. This is one of her ink prints, mounted in a handmade light box.
One of the reasons we like museum memberships is that we can enjoy art in small doses, and not feel like we have to “get our money’s worth” in a single visit. So we were pretty much ready to leave at this point. We did want to check out the center’s gift shop, but as we walked toward it, there was a noise and many of the lights in the building went out, including those in the gift shop. We took this as our cue to head home–and return another day.