There was a chill outside in the crisp February air, as a crowd of designers, painters, art collectors, teachers, aficionados, and philanthropists gathered inside the Artwork Network. It was Thursday, February 9th, 2012, a night to remember. “In it’s 18th year, AIGA Colorado’s Heart Art is an historic event that mixes a vibrant theme with a lavish silent art auction to raise essential funds that support Project Angel Heart and their mission to feed people in Colorado living with life-challenging illnesses.” [HeartArtDenver].The event was hosted by Artwork Network, in the thriving art district on Santa Fe Drive in Denver, CO. Heart Art Denver – A Feast For The Senses, embodied the principle of gifting to a tee. There was art everywhere. The walls and tables were filled with donated artwork, all pulled from the minds and the hearts of the community, and the best part, they were looking for nothing in return.
It was all for the good of strangers. Project Angel Heart is an organization that uses gifting to help the lives of hundreds of people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, as well as various other life-threatening illnesses. “Since 1991, Project Angel Heart has delivered meals to men, women, and children coping with life-threatening illness, free of charge. Thanks to invaluable community support, Project Angel Heart delivered its 4 millionth meal on December 14, 2011.” [ProjectAngelHeart].
The gallery was ablaze with the buzzing of color, of conversation, and of heart while the crowd overflowed with vibrations of creativity, and community. Smiles lit the faces of the attendees as they perused the many works of art, donated by the local artists of Denver. The mix of artwork was eclectic and varied. From metalwork to photography, and from paintings to culinary art, the night was truly a feast for the senses.
Local artist, Harrison Nealey, donated two pieces for the auction, and was kind enough to share a few words with me about the event, as well as some insight into his donated works; Abstract Painting of Pink Linear Erosions (Giclee print), 14×14, and Beneath the Surface, 24×36, aerosol and acrylic.
How did you get involved with AIGA, or with Denver Heart Art?
I put a piece in Heart Art four or five years ago, so I’ve known about it for a while, and I’ve also done a couple art workshops with AIGA. I’ve hosted [workshops], and had 50 or 60 people come in and create art with me, and one of my friends.
Did you do the piece that you brought for this event specifically or was it one from your library?
It’s from the archives.
What was the motivation behind the piece that you did?
Motivation for that [Abstract painting of pink linear erosions] was another art show that I was working on. So it’s a recycled piece, but a lot of people really like that particular one, so that’s what I brought tonight.
When I was looking at it, I saw a real organic, almost batik, kind of a bamboo-wood grain, ethereal kind of feel to it.
It’s all aerosols, that’s just a print, but the original is all spray-paint.
And is that the original size?
No, it’s original size is smaller than that, it’s a 10” x 10” original, that’s a 14” x 14”.
When you were making it were there any points that you had successes where you overcame anything, or any parts where you were struggling on it, or was it really just kind of a conscious flow, like pulling it out?
Not really failures of successes, at least for that series of work, all my stuff is abstract, so it’s sort of is what it is. If you want to talk about my other piece around the corner, we could talk about that, because that’s got a little more to talk about in that realm.
(We walk over to Harrison’s other piece located on a more prominent wall in the gallery; “Beneath the Surface.”)
So this one was on the Heart Art website. What were your thoughts,your processes or battles that you fought with this one?
There’s actually quite a few layers in this, all this stuff right here (Harrison motions toward the upper-left portion of the painting) is my very first layer. I do a lot of contour drawings, over the whole piece, and then I just start pulling shapes out, so this (Harrison motions towards the right side of the painting) all this right here was the first shape that I made, and I did this more organic, colorful, rainbowy stuff right here, and then I made a harder, more industrial shape over the top of it (Harrison motions to the left side of the painting) and it’s floating,
The title of it is “Beneath the Surface” so all this stuff (he motions to the left side of the painting) is the armor that somebody wears and there’s all the color and the beauty underneath.
That seems very appropriate for this show. This was again out of the archives, more so than for this exact show?
You’ve done this twice now; you’ll probably do it again?
I don’t know, it depends if they let me drink for free next time. (We share a laugh, shake hands and part ways).
I am also a local Denver artist, and donated a painting for the auction. My painting, titled “My Melting Heart. 18 x 24. Acrylic.” depicted an abstract view on a human heart, with a band of color wrapping around the melting heart. The painting represented the
energy flowing both into and out from the heart, decaying and radiant. The color palette I chose was intended to represent healing, warmth, and compassion; emotions I associated with the mission of the event. I painted the piece for the auction, and drew upon the theme of the auction for inspiration. The Heart Art Auction is the second art donation I have made in the past year. My first piece was a painted toilet for the National Kitchen and Bath Association: Lav’s & Loo’s silent auction which raised money for scholarships to the Art Institute of Colorado.
The AIGA Heart Art auction featured foods from local sponsors Bombay Clay Oven, Crave Dessert Bar & Lounge, Margs Taco Bistro, as well as local Colorado brewery Odells Brewing Co.
Burn After Reading would like to give a warm thanks to Harrison Nealey for sharing his art with the community and for taking the time to talk about his paintings with us. B.A.R. would also like to thank the Colorado chapter of the AIGA, as well as Felix Sanchez and Michael Easton, the organizers of Heart Art Denver 2012, far all of their time and energy. Project Angel Heart is a wonderful organization doing very important work for the community, and reflects many of the practices we Burners hold dear. Both the AIGA and Project Angel Heat have shown that gifting is alive and well in Colorado, and the thriving art scene is more than willing to lend a helping hand to those in need. Through gifting and through sharing, we as a community can overcome great odds.