"The problem was that there wasn't anyone in a staff position to do any kind of public relations," said McConnell. "A lot of similar size colleges have more funds dedicated to a museum or gallery."
McConnell also noted the college's tendency to downplay its role in the arts community because of its proximity to the Fine Arts Center.
While Coburn often features exceptional works by individual artists and students, their latest show, Mexican Painting: An Other View, is an international show by Mexican artists of the so-called "Second Rupture" movement with the breadth and scope one would expect from UCCS's Gallery of Contemporary Art.
The "First Rupture" in Mexican painting, said co-organizer Dr. George Rivera, a gay Chicano activist and professor of fine art at CU Boulder, was a break from the muralist movement dominated by Diego Rivera, Jos Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros. The "Second Rupture," then, was "a movement of actualization" that happened concurrently with postmodernism and opened the Mexican art world to new voices from culturally marginalized groups such as gays, lesbians and bisexuals.
As the show's subtitle -- "An Other View" -- suggests, most of the works in the show address aspects of marginalized identity in relationship to the larger context of Mexican culture.
Josafat Miranda's stamp prints, for example, use the very traditional marblelike mata paper, on which are juxtaposed stylized images of gay clichs.
In her extraordinarily rendered classical drawings, Roco Caballero unites idealized male and female figures under water with dreamlike, symbolic images of hearts on fishing lines, a shark butting into a woman's crotch and drowned marble heads to address the issue of submerged identity.
Most graphically stunning of the works in the show are those of Nahum Zenil (who'll give a talk at the opening on Dec. 6). The most widely known Mexican artist in the show, Zenil also deals with identity conflicts in an exaggerated symbolic fashion. In "Chameleons" for example, the male figure in the foreground has a chameleon's head while we are left to guess the identity of the person behind him whose arms are wrapped around his waist.
In contrast to the implied cultural blending-in that Mexican gays must perform, Zenil also confronts the viewer with nude self-portraits featuring himself as the devil and elaborately composed and explicit renderings of gay sex.
Also stunning are the embroidered works of Carlos Guerrero, which are among the few to even indirectly address religious themes, posing Death and the Devil together as lovers, for example, in "Pareja."
While Dr. Rivera insisted that family-oriented culture of Mexico is far more accepting of gays, lesbians and bisexuals than the puritanical individualist culture of America, it's evident from the show that the conflicts inherent in being an "other" anywhere are both a source of profound pain and struggle and a font of extraordinary creativity.
Funded by a grant from the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado written by co-organizer Dennis Dalton, professor of art at the University of Southern Colorado in Pueblo, this show represents a selection from a similar show that Rivera and Dalton mounted at USC in Pueblo last year titled Mexican Painting 2001.