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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

A Ramble Through the Museum of Contemporary Art

I can’t remember where, but I recently read about a proposed project by Christo and Jeanne-Claude – the couple who did The Gates exhibit in Central Park – to drape nearly six miles of the Arkansas River in Colorado in a silvery fabric. A lot of people are upset by the proposal and the possible environmental impact it could have on the area. They are worried that it could cause lasting problems for the river, as well as the surrounding area, and the wildlife that rely on the river.

The debate had sat in the back of my mind for some time. I don’t really have a strong opinion on it one way or the other, so when I read about it I merely shrugged it off and turned the page in mild interest. It all came back to me this past weekend, though, on a visit to Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art. I had wanted to get out and see a museum I had yet to explore, and instead found myself thinking about choosing sides in the Over the River proposal.
I easily found a parking meter outside the museum; that’s a good thing, too, since the nearest parking lot was closed, possibly because a car collided with the pavement at a ninety degree angle. I enjoyed the art outside the MCA and glanced around a bit since I was in a Denver neighborhood I had never before frequented. It was a new environ for me, but one that felt comfortable in an artistic sort of way.
The admission was expensive for, but the cashier cut me a discount out of the goodness of his heart – I hadn’t taken public transportation or walked, but I still benefited from the available sale. From the desk, which I approached from a back alley entrance reminiscent of a trendy Los Angeles club, I poked through the gift shop, collected a handful of brochures for no other reason than to do my American duty of killing a tree, and headed into the exhibits.

Paintings by Isca Greenfield-Sanders were the first on display from the lobby. In truth, though, they weren’t just paintings, but instead a mixed media design that combined photography. I really quite enjoyed her pieces, all of which but one (Old Faithful geyser) were about soccer, and spent a lot of time in the room. I even returned to it on my way out of the museum to take another long look at her work.
From there, I headed to the second floor and into a cave creation, called Pellucid, that was made by Rebecca Didomenico from, as well as other materials, thousands upon thousands of butterfly wings. It, too, was an impressive work that I revisited, if for no other reason than to marvel at someone’s patience to create such a detailed piece.
And then, when I was perfectly content in my day, I wandered out of the cave and into a gallery dedicated to the Over the River proposal by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. I stopped for a moment, in awe at the conceptual drawings I was seeing. A great amount of work was put into them, and they were really quite impressive on their own as art. I passed by each one of them multiple times, analyzing not just the details but the thought behind the proposal.

Sitting down on a bench in the room I closed my eyes and imagined rafting down the Arkansas under the canopy. I imagined how memorable of an experience it would be, especially since it could be my first rafting experience, and how I would need to book months, if not years, in advance in order to get a spot on a tour under the canopy. All the plans started taking shape in my mind.
And once again, the wildlife and environmental impact popped into my head. The thought of rafting under the canopy disappeared like a popped bubble. It didn’t seem right to build such a thing, just for the sake of art, when it could negatively impact so many things in the area. It’s an amazing concept, but just not something that should be done.
I debated like this for a good chunk of time, all the while starring at the various drawings. They were all so fascinating and inspiring, yet also discouraging because of the harm it could do. I loved and hated it at the same time. And while I left a bit more informed about Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s vision, I still could not choose a side. I saw the benefit and detriment to both, and will likely always do so since I tend to ride the middle of the line on most issues.
The rest of the Museum of Contemporary Art, which wasn’t much since there were only a handful of displays between the two floors, held little interest to me. I feigned interest over an atom smasher that was built from the blueprints from the Manhattan Project because a beautiful volunteer met me at the door and took me through the exhibit explaining everything. But, in part because of her alluring vanilla perfume, I couldn’t focus on what she was saying; half of me was thinking gee you smell nice, and another half of me was still stuck on the Arkansas River issue.
And so I left, more clouded and disappointed than when I walked in. The feeling of contentment I so briefly enjoyed had fled, and I was instead wrapped in a blanket of art v. politics, as well as disappointment for not asking the woman for her number. So, in a way, I suppose the museum, and particularly the artists whose work is housed within, had succeeded in their duty: the extracted emotion from me, whether it be positive or negative, and forced me to think. Ultimately, that is what I wanted in my visit – although a phone number would’ve been nice as well.

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  1. Spending a Free Night at Denver Museums | Jason's Travels - November 1, 2012


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