Art: The Experts

Steve Sonnen, Mirada Fine Art Gallery, Indian Hills

CH&L: Who’s your favorite emerging artist?
Steve Sonnen: I’m a little biased because if I really like an artist, I try to get him or her into our gallery. So with that disclaimer, one of my favorites right now is Christian Dore. He’s from England, but he’s been in Denver for several years. Most of what he paints is his own distinctive take on the Colorado landscape. It has almost an abstract, cubist feel with these amazing, lush colors. It’s the type of work you have on a wall and every day you see new things. When he paints a tree, it’s not like anyone else’s tree. His process takes a while—which is understandable. My only complaint with his pace is that I have a gallery I’d like to fill with this work!

Christian Dore, Flight, Acrylic/mixed media on canvas, 36 x 72 inches

So while you’re waiting, tell us your thoughts on Colorado’s art community.
I think the art scene here is pretty amazing, and it’s continuously expanding. I grew up here and moved to California for a long time. My wife and I moved back about 10 years ago. Then, if you didn’t live in Colorado, you assumed the only “art” created here was bears carved from logs. Today, it would be hard for people outside of Colorado to argue that we don’t have a lively art scene. The gallery scene has been continuously growing as well. Just the other day, a couple walked into our gallery and told me they were on an art trip across the western states. They’d been to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Scottsdale, and Santa Fe. They said they were more impressed with the quality of art in Colorado galleries than they were with the work in Santa Fe. I wasn’t surprised: What’s available in Colorado to art collectors is really amazing.

Mirada Fine Art Gallery is located in Indian Hills, just 20 miles southwest of Denver. Its next exhibition, Marcela Panasiti: Art from the Earth, opens August 23.For more information, visit

Will Thompson, Telluride Gallery of Fine Art

CH&L: We know you’ve been in business for a long time—28 years by our count—but which artists are most exciting to you right now?
Will Thompson: I’ll give you two. Jesús Moroles, a sculptor. He’s quite a major artist. He’s one of the very few sculptors who have received the National Medal of Arts; it’s the highest award the U.S. government gives to people in the arts. Andrew Wyeth won it. So did Georgia O’Keeffe and John Updike. So Jesús is in good company. What I like about his work is that he sculpts only in granite, which is a pretty tough material to manipulate. Most sculptors doing his style might work in marble, but not Jesús. My other recommendation is Will Clift. If you’ve been to the Four Seasons Hotel , you’ve seen his pieces right there behind the reception area. What I love about his work—it’s almost beyond adjectives. He works primarily in wood and creates these streamlined, mobile sculptures that make you think about harmony and balance and grace. They remind me of [Alexander] Calder’s work, in terms of lightness.

Will Clift, Enclosing Form, Low and Horizontal, black walnut wood, 11 x 35 x 2 inches

And give us your take on Colorado’s visual arts community.
When the state government, in 2011, passed a bill to encourage the formation of creative districts, it was a great acknowledgement that the arts play a big role in our economy and in attracting tourists. Of course, you’ve got Colorado ski country, but people come to Colorado for more than the mountains. Culture matters here. Telluride received a little seed money as a creative district, and it really got us thinking about the cultural master plan here. We have a lot of grassroots arts organizations that have been really successful across all areas of the arts— dramatic arts, literary arts, films, visual arts. The beauty might draw people here, but it’s the arts scene that encourages them to stay.

The Telluride Gallery of Fine Art has been a fixture on the mountain town’s historic Colorado Avenue since 1985. For the exhibition schedule, visit

Bobbi Walker, Walker Fine Art, Denver

CH&L: Do you have a favorite emerging or new artist?
Bobbi Walker: How about a mid-career artist? We just had an exhibit with [painter and mixed-media artist] Brigan Gresh, and it was very close to a sell-out show. Her work is innovative and fresh, but it’s conceptual as well. I’m from Kentucky, so I always say that art really hits the trifecta if it’s three things: aesthetically compelling, intellectually or spiritually stimulating and technically executed. Brigan’s work is all three. I started with her when she was an emerging artist, and I was the only gallery on her resume. It’s been wonderful to see her execution of work go up a level with each exhibit she creates for the gallery.

Brigan Gresh, Gathering 3, mixed media on panel, 40 x 40 inches

Let’s talk for a second about the arts scene here.
We just had our 10-year anniversary last year, as did several of the other mid-career [artist] galleries. We have a wide range of mid-career galleries in Denver, and I think that all of them are so dedicated to the artist and dedicated to the city.  I see real people, authentic people, doing interesting, compelling shows. That’s thrilling. And a lot of cities—cities larger than Denver—have a single arts district. We have seven. It really allows a neighborhood to create its own flavor. You don’t need 40 art galleries in a neighborhood. You need five good ones. Then people can pick a First Friday and explore the galleries and the neighborhood. You aren’t rushing through 40 galleries. You can really experience what each gallery has to offer. That’s something remarkable. We’re very, very lucky.

Located in Denver’s Golden Triangle, Walker Fine Art specializes in contemporary art and sculpture. For more information, visit

Categories: Art, Stylemakers