Show Preview | After Dark

Denver, CO
Arts at Denver, February 6-28

Mike Natale, Violet Night, oil, 18 x 18.

Mike Natale, Violet Night, oil, 18 x 18.

This story was featured in the February 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art February 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!

For its annual Valentine’s Day show, Arts at Denver is hanging an exhibition with a hint of mystery and a dash of romance. After Dark, which opens with an artists’ reception on Friday, February 6, from 5 to 8 p.m., features some 50 night scenes.

Mike Natale is among the 35 participating artists, all of whom are regular exhibitors in the gallery. In his impressionistic paintings, which are inspired by and reminiscent of the work of J.M.W. Turner, Natale often paints the cusps of night: sunrise and sunset. While serving as a Marine in a rifle company during the Vietnam War, Natale observed many striking sunsets and set the intention to paint these scenes once he returned home. The scenes are meditative and allow for color explorations.

Natale builds images with earth tones and splashes of color, frequently purple. “The colors he chooses often draw attention even from people who don’t customarily like abstract work,” says gallery owner Paula Colette Conley. Recently, in works such as VIOLET NIGHT, Natale wields the palette knife more than in previous paintings. “Depending on how much detail I want, I’ll switch to a brush at some point. But I want to stay as loose as possible for as long as possible,” he says.

Lani Vlaanderen enjoys painting nocturnes, though she’s known foremost for wildlife portraiture. “I love the colors: the blue-greens and the muted grays. By using those lower values, I can get a lot more impact with my light,” she says. She’ll combine these approaches for the first time in her contributions to the show, depicting deer and bison illuminated by the moon. In STARLIGHT, Vlaanderen captures a scene she saw out her back door in Drake, CO. “I do love painting where I live. The emotion you feel for a place and the animals comes through in the painting,” she says.

Of STARLIGHT, Conley observes, “The color of the sky she chose is a gorgeous shade of blue, and it makes you want to be outside at night, which is a rarity—especially in the winter. Lani has such an elegant hand. It’s a gem, that little night piece.”

Portraitist E. Melinda Morrison draws upon her standard repertoire for her contributions to the show. Many of the moments that most inspire her—lively scenes of dancers and musicians—occur at night. Morrison is also drawn to the relaxed, spontaneous moments of everyday life. “These interactions reveal intimacy,” she says. “The beauty of the moment is the most important thing because if I connect with that, other people will, too.” —Ashley M. Biggers

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