Rain gently graced the pavement under charcoal skies, and the city was cast under a dreamy haze. Walking along the streets, the atmosphere felt pensive and slow, arguably perfect for the closing reception of “From, Dawn,” an exhibit of work curated by local artist and MSU Denver professor Kenzie Sitterud at the LEON Gallery located at 1112 E 17th Ave in Denver.
Even nestled within the dense brick walls of the building, the bright lights from within the exhibit poured through the gallery’s large windows, inviting passersby into Sitterud’s playful world. Upon walking into the gallery, the space was a hubbub of excitement, and vibrant characters gathered to celebrate Sitterud’s art and the community they’ve created through their work.
Viewers were greeted by an eclectic mix of artwork in different mediums, including sculptures of cowboy boots that looked like they could belong in Austin Powers “Goldfinger,” large paintings of deconstructed cowboy boots, intimate photographs, and video of Sitterud themself.
“From, Dawn” is inspired by Sitterud’s upbringing in Capitol Reef Desert in Emery County, Utah, and Walter Benjamin’s theory of mechanical reproduction. Their art takes us through an intimate exploration of nostalgia for their upbringing juxtaposed by the feeling of their queer identity, feeling boxed in by this same dynamic. This body of work continues Sitterud’s explorations of queer identity, specifically in recreating the dysphoria that queer individuals experience navigating a world that is not built to be inclusive.
Furthermore, the Western theme of their work pays homage to both their internalized ideals of masculinity from watching their grandfather growing up and the surprisingly queer history of the Western frontier.
Their work is often probing, layered, and thought-provoking. The closing reception of “From, Dawn” was no exception.
Once the audience had finished trickling into the gallery and taken their seats, Sitterud sat before them with a piano and microphone ready. The lights grew dim, and following a brief introduction, they began to speak before beginning a performance of their “COVID ballads,” a collection of songs they wrote during the pandemic. Many of the themes of the ballads were appropriate for the exhibit, pondering Sitterud’s feelings around various pressing social justice issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In between ballads, Sitterud performed spoken word poetry, dissecting and confronting various issues that came to the forefront during the pandemic. Their poetry and music covered issues such as #BlackLivesMatter, during the heated protests in the thick of the pandemic. Sitterud’s voice was clear, and their expression was raw as they spoke their feelings from a personal and educated perspective. Audience members sat silently in the dimly lit room, captivated by Sitterud’s performance and undoubtedly pondering questions about their expression, identity, and the world.
Upon their closing remarks, the audience erupted into applause because as everyone celebrated Sitterud’s dynamic body of work, the audience also celebrated Sitterud’s ability to bring people together in open spaces, allowing everyone to explore the more intimate parts of themselves through Sitterud’s work as the medium.
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