Words: Tara Bardeen
Images: James Florio & Kyler Deutmeyer
A rosy-cheeked cherub with a selfie stick? In a series of murals commissioned by Denver-based Nine Dot Arts, artist Forrest J. Morrison, assisted by fellow artist Michael W. Vacchiano, has just created the most delightful, disarming and captivating parking garage entrances you’ve everexperienced. Playfully reimaging iconic works of art on five levels of elevator lobbies at The Curtis Hotel, Morrison paints 1980s TV icon Slim Goodbody into a scene from the SistineChapel, and transforms Rembrandt’s ruffle-collared figures into onlookers at a tattoo parlor.
Traveling from the top floor of the garage (level 2 on the elevator control panel) to the sub-basement, visitors encounter murals parodying masterpieces by Michelangelo, François Boucher, Edward Hopper, Rembrandt, and Hieronymus Bosch. When asked about the genesis of his vision for this project, Morrison explains, "I became fascinated with the possibility of creating a direct dialogue with historical artworks and using them as a lens to interpret elements of contemporary society. It seemed perfect for the Curtis’s unique brand of humor, and highlights its close proximity to arts and cultural destinations."
A self-taught artist, Morrison works in a variety of mediums including ink, oil pastel and acrylic. He keeps a studio in Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe and is also a member of the Art District board. Whether a small studio piece or a 2-story outdoor mural, Morrison’s work is highly detailed and refined in style, yet fresh and unconventional in subject matter. His arrangement of objects in a composition often results in a unique tension that is both unsettling and inviting.
In addition to his works at The Curtis Hotel, Morrison’s other works in public spaces include a mural on the side of Leon Gallery, which he painted in collaboration with artist Travis Hetman, and a mural at the Mariposa Community Plaza near Youth On Record. "Public art helps strengthen branding and connects businesses to clients," observes Morrison. "It signifies that a place is important, is a destination, and creates the sense that the public shares in the ownership of the space."
Morrison’s career and portfolio speak to trends in Denver’s business scene that reveal an increased interest in large-scale mural projects that blend art, place-making and branding, as well as an increased interest in working with local artists to enhance not only a building’s aesthetics but also its connection to the community. These shifts bring exciting new opportunities for artists and foster unique collaborations, but as Morrison notes, competition is still tight for the top commissions.
While awaiting news about his most recent proposals, Morrison prepares to unveil his latest works at a solo show at the Leon Gallery that will run from April 22 to May 6, 2017. "Subject to Non-Renewal" is a contemporary western narrative in still-life that addresses the commodification of nature, and explores how technology influences our interaction with the natural world. You might want to bring your selfie stick.
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