With the coronavirus pandemic requiring Coloradans to stay home, local artists have retreated from their shared studio spaces, teaching jobs, storefronts, and galleries. While even the temporary loss of a secondary job or artistic commission will bring financial burdens, the extra free time has also allowed them to get lost in creative productivity. Here, four local artists share what they’re creating during this time of stress and uncertainty.
A mural artist paints on canvas.
Denver isn’t a stranger to the work of Lindee Zimmer (@lindeezimmer). The southern wall of the Ramble Hotel, on Broadway and Larimer, features one of her murals—a four-story purple woman framed by pink and yellow flowers. Odell Brewing Co. in Denver plays host to a painting of two people gazing into each others’ eyes in front of a rainbow background. The Mile High City-based artist’s work brings color to underpasses, alleyways, and even bathrooms both in downtown Denver and in Fort Collins, where she founded the Fort Collins Mural Project in 2015.
With her mural work largely on hold, Zimmer has chosen to welcome the pause that the quarantine brings. “I work too much,” she says. “So I’m taking this time to go really slow.” Having returned from months overseas in Sri Lanka and India in late March, she’s back in her studio, painting on canvas. With shelter-in-place on her mind, her first piece (pictured above) features a house whose windows and chimney erupt with plants that stretch toward the sun. “I’m always trying to make things that are otherworldly and connected,” Zimmer says. “There’s always a lot of sadness and tragedy; this is a moment where the whole world is on the same page about it.”
No stranger to playing with color, Zimmer’s chosen palette was no coincidence. “There’s something about bright yellow that shocks you out of sadness,” she says. “I hope the things I make can help people see the bright side instead of the dark side.”
A woodworker creates kits to help others learn wood carving.
With a chunk of wood spinning on the lathe, Chris Hoehle (pictured at top) enters a meditative state. Other types of woodworking require detailed preparation, but wood turning, like throwing pottery, can yield results in a matter of hours.“It takes shape right before your eyes,” says Hoehle, who also teaches woodworking at the Denver Tool Library. “It’s kind of like the jazz music of the woodworking world, it’s so improvisational.”
Despite some concerns about the local economy, Hoehle is using this time to ramp up production of his fine salad bowls, vases, cocktail muddlers, and rolling pins from the studio in his garage. “We’re all kind of nervously waiting to see if some of our summer art markets are going to go on or not,” he says. “Are people going to be too scared to come out? Is the economy going to have come back enough to where people have discretionary income again? There’s a lot of unknowns right now.”
To ward off these worries, Hoehle has created wooden spoon-carving kits, which he’s offering to send to his students for free, and to members of the public for $20. “I feel really fortunate that, even if we are quarantined, at least I have something that I really enjoy to do all day long,” he says. To buy a kit and see his collection, follow Hoehle on Instagram (@studiocsh) and visit his Etsy shop.
A potter takes 3D modeling to the next level.
Curt Hammerly’s approach to his work involves, in his words, “incorporating cutting-edge technology into an age-old pottery technique.” He recently began 3D printing his designs, and in one bold experiment, printed a massive vase whose four separate, hollow branches converge at its top and bottom. It was an indicator of more good things to come.
Hammerly, who closed his studio doors and shut down his online shop in solidarity with other self-isolating Coloradans is using the quarantine period to dream up some ambitious new 3D designs. “We have our line of functional ware, which are the mugs and the bowls and the plates,” he says. “For me, that stuff pays the bills and keeps us going, but I really want to push things further. Right now, I’m working on designing big wall installations and larger-format, four-foot-tall, 3D-printed vases. So I’m getting to play a little more than usual.”
Several years ago, Hammerly was hit by a car while riding his bike, leaving him with a broken neck. Afterward, he turned to pottery as a form of art therapy. “It was very therapeutic, very calming, and got my mind off the fact that my body was still pretty destroyed,” he says. “That same kind of thing holds true now—doing creative things can definitely help you get through crazy times like this.”
A fabric artist stitches trees onto recycled jackets.
From her professional life to her recreational habits to her hobbies, Emma Longcope is dedicated to the outdoors—particularly to maintaining the wildness of public lands. During the day, she’s the content manager for the American Alpine Club. On weekends, she skis and climbs. In between, she creates paintings and embroidered pieces, the profits from which are donated back to the places represented in her artwork. “I’m getting inspiration from all these different wild places, so it feels good to give back to that,” she says.
Longcope’s job has turned remote, and she’s decided to stay away from the mountain, leaving plenty of time to craft. Namely, she’s been stitching inspiring images of landscapes onto the backs and sleeves of used jackets, and onto smaller, decorative hoops. Longcope has set to work creating lots of small pieces that will soon be on sale through her online shop. She’ll donate the proceeds to Colorado organizations dealing with COVID-19. “I didn’t take on any commissions for the next few weeks, so I’m hoping I’ll have some things I can sell and help the people on the frontlines,” she says.
The act is bringing her peace during the unrest of the quarantine. “Sewing all the tiny green trees on my latest jacket was the most centering, meditative activity,” she says. “I was super grateful for it. It’s a great way to zone out a little bit and just focus on making something.”