Francisco Alvarado-Juárez’s installation at the Denver Art Museum, Aqua-Terra / Terra-Aqua uses recycled paper from thousands of grocery bags to create a magical world. Unlike his other installations, this one involved collaborating with others. The artist hosted workshops with 30 Denver artists and art teachers in March to demonstrate his process and reveal his vision for the project. The artists, teachers, and their students then set out to paint thousands of bags, later returning to help install the work. Several DAM volunteers and staff also assisted.
“The experience has been rather unique compared to other installations I have done,” Alvarado-Juárez said. “I don’t usually involve people in making the work. In some installs, when I had a lot of time, I had people collaborate with me painting some images on the walls. This one was very different because the range of participation is so much greater and it’s been very unique and beautiful.”
The Jefferson County Boys & Girls Club painted some of the bags. Their art teacher Elizabeth Bossert noted that the experience had a profound effect on them. “We had just finished painting a second round of bags for the exhibit and each youth had freshly paint-stained hands,” she said. Francisco observed this and explained to my students that the paint under their nails was the mark of a true artist. This moment I know changed their lives, they repeat it to me daily, they ARE real artists!”
Michael Gadlin, a local artist who worked closely with Alvarado-Juárez, said the impact of the collaboration was not lost on him either. “There are, of course, many experiences and memories that I will forever be changed by,” Gadlin said. “Ones that affected me generously when it came to working with an artist of his ilk and the institution itself. There are many facets and personalities involved in this process [and] I began to understand how great a leader and director the artist must be to maintain the original vision for an installation of this magnitude.” See some of the photos Gadlin took of the installation process in the slide show below.
The installation will continue to evolve with community participation. You can even join in the creative fun. Stop by Aqua-Terra / Terra-Aqua and create a paper animal to add to it.