Art with a DU signature

No matter where you turn in downtown Denver, you’re sure to encounter creative works with DU DNA. 

Start with “I See What You Mean,” the famous big blue bear outside the Colorado Convention Center. It’s by the highly prolific Lawrence Argent (1957–2017), who taught sculpture at DU’s School of Art and Art History for 24 years. 

Argent utilized computer-aided design and other innovative technologies to construct his thought-provoking sculptures, including Englewood’s “Virere” at Broadway and Yale Avenue, “Leap” at Sacramento International Airport, and “Venus,” the tallest statue in San Francisco. He also left his mark on the DU campus, creating “Whispers” outside the Ritchie Center for Sports & Wellness.

At the Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel, formerly the Colorado National Bank, history buffs and art lovers can savor “Indian Memories,” a collection of murals depicting Native American life (above). These are by Colorado Springs native Allen Tupper True (1881–1995), who attended the University of Denver from 1899–1900 and went on to study at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. 

Beginning his career in magazine illustration, True transitioned to easel paintings and then large murals. Other works by True are on display at the Brown Palace Hotel and Colorado Capitol building. Perhaps the most widely known of True’s works, however, is the bucking horse emblem centered on every Wyoming license plate since 1936. 

Just south of downtown, in a neighborhood known as the Golden Triangle, art lovers can revel in a museum devoted, in large part, to the works and legacy of Vance Kirkland (1904–1981), founding director of DU’s School of Art and
Art History. 

The Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art introduces visitors to the many facets of Kirkland’s career. Never satisfied with his previous works, the artist always pushed the boundaries of art, developing three unique painting methods over his five artistic periods. As his methods evolved, Kirkland’s watercolor landscapes of the American West transitioned to abstract explosions of texture and color (see examples above), and finally, in his famous dot paintings, depictions of far-away nebulae. 

“He was an innovator,” says DU alumna Maya Wright (MA ’13), director of interpretation at the Kirkland. “He wanted to make every painting better than the last.” 

Photos by Wayne Armstrong; images of Vance Kirkland’s paintings courtesy of the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art

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