It’s only mid-June, but Denver’s already sweltering. If you’re ready to cool off, plan to spend an afternoon at any (or all!) of these diverse, thought-provoking summer exhibitions.

Repeat Offenders, Pattern Shop Studio
Through August 5

Headed to RiNo for First Friday? Make sure to stop by the Pattern Shop Studio. The gallery’s summer exhibition, which is also available to view by appointment, is an intriguing juxtaposition of portraits by Sharon Brown. (The gallery actually doubles as Sharon and her husband Rex’s home.) View recent additions to Brown’s “Creators” series (black-and-white oil paintings of artists, based on color photographs Brown takes of her subjects); and contrast those with older pieces from her “Damage” series—colorful portraits crafted from black-and-white images of wanted or convicted criminals.

Last in the Woods & When Trellises Break, Red Rocks Community College
Through August 25

Photography enthusiasts will want to check out this dual exhibition from Alexis Clements and Terri Bell. Both focus their cameras on themes of nature and memory, and their black-and-white images are hauntingly beautiful. Clements’ fine art photography captures semi-constructed scenes staged in woodsy landscapes, while Bell’s photo and mixed media series investigates life’s ups and downs through abstract compositions.

Women of Abstract ExpressionismDenver Art Museum
Through September 25

Abstract Expressionism is considered the first fully American modern art movement—and this exhibition is the first museum-scale presentation devoted to the movement’s female artists. The 51 paintings by 12 women range in scale, color, and meaning, and together they offer a captivating look at the individuality of the movement. The artwork was primarily produced in the 1940s and ’50s, and each piece serves as a stark reminder of how the contributions of female artists continue to be overlooked. Don’t miss the 15-minute, DAM-produced video in the Fuse Box gallery for an introduction to Abstract Expressionism and this talented group of painters. (If you’re interested in women artists, also check out the Colorado Women in Abstraction exhibit at the Center for Visual Art, which opens July 15.)

Awkward Family Photos, History Colorado Center
Opens June 18

History Colorado’s latest offering is based on Mike Bender’s hysterical website, Designed to feel as though you’ve entered an actual family’s living room (ceramic cats included), the exhibition features more than 100 photos plus “behind the awkwardness” stories from the families. Before you leave, capture a cringe-worthy moment with your own family in the DIY photo studio.

Observing (A)trophy Life—Celebrating Our Luxury of Social, Personal and Political Addiction, Leon Gallery
June 18 through July 16

Texas artist David Freeman creates art that makes a statement. His satirical, mixed-media trophies—which incorporate objects found at flea markets and yard sales in Mexico and Texas—life-sized piñatas of border patrol guards and refugees, and photographs all serve as commentary on the issues facing border-nations and the violence associated with drug cartels.

Finishing School: Bliss, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art
June 23 through September 11

For a less traditional art experience, head to Boulder to view this commissioned “social engagement project” by Finishing School, a California-based art collective. The interactive experience is divided into two galleries: In the first, explore three structures, made of ballistic fiber, that were designed to help people evade contemporary surveillance technology. Then move into the next room, which features a series of multimedia artwork that comment on the idea of privacy (or lack thereof).

Resistencia/ResistanceMuseo de las Americas
June 23 through September 16

Mexican contemporary artist Saner (a.k.a. Edgar Flores) is headed to Denver for his first museum exhibition in the United States. His paintings of masked creatures are inspired by nahual spirits (a human who has the power to transform into animal form) and are portrayed on 48 canvases, a graffiti mural, and one digital representation. Meet the Artist: Saner will lead a free walk-through of the exhibit on June 23 from 5 to 6 p.m. He’ll also be in town for a meet-and-greet on June 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Renegade Brewing Company. Tickets are $25 and include a pint and traditional taco bar.

BONUS EVENT: Mark June 24 and 25 in your calendar. That’s when the sixth-annual Weekend in the West Art Show and Auction is going down in Evergreen. Fifty painters and sculptors (think: Quang Ho, Karen Roehl, Pati Stajcar, Don Stinson, and more) from across the Mountain West will be in town, too—and you’ll have the chance to watch them and maybe even take one of their quick-draw pieces home at the live auction. Some of the artists’ works will also be on display at Evergreen Fine Art from June 18 through July 16.

Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at