Many Colorado artists are inspired by nature. Not so many use the natural world as their medium. Denver-born, Golden-based artist Gayle Crites is one of the latter. Her mixed-media explorations of the environment, conservation, and the lessons we can learn from ancient communities and peoples are the result of a careful layering of bark (from Samoa, Tonga, Mexico, and elsewhere), paint made from beetles, silk, sumi ink, and other materials. The laborious process—her larger works can take as long as three months to complete—starts with the flattening of the bark, then she brushes on pigments (many of which she mixes herself), paints the small details, and finishes with silk piping. The collage-esque final product displays the obvious influence of Crites’ background in printmaking and serves as a modern commentary on an age-old concern: How do we live on the land while respecting it as something that existed before we were here and will continue after we’re gone?

In person: See Crites’ mixed-media pieces in “One Thing Leads to Another”—her first solo, museum-level show—at Macky Auditorium on the University of Colorado Boulder campus through June 1.

Watch the video below to see more of Crites’ work and hear about the family trip that inspired her artistic passion.

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