A fine transgression 

Local artists work entertains, teases

click to enlarge Jumping Businessmen by Michael Cellan.
  • Jumping Businessmen by Michael Cellan.

Michael Cellan's Art Show, which will be up at the Bridge Gallery through March 28 is, like its creator, accomplished, smart, funny, and mildly transgressive.

If you don't know Cellan, or his work, you're missing something. He's been making art here in the Pikes Peak region for nearly a third of a century, and he's currently making the best work of his long career. Unlike musicians and mathematicians, visual artists often do important work in middle age (think Picasso), particularly when they're not bound to any particular style or medium.

Looking at Cellan's show, it's hard to believe that a single artist created such a wildly diverse collection of work. You'd almost think that this was somebody's contemporary art collection, with at least a dozen artists represented. And maybe there are -- but they all seem to be named Michael Cellan.

Just to give you a flavor of the show, here are half-a-dozen randomly selected pieces from the exhibition, with straightforward, utterly factual descriptions.

"Security Light" -- light in a clear glass bottle containing small plastic soldiers, policemen and firemen.

"Asian Houses" -- red and yellow houses, aerosol spray paint on plastic substrate.

"Organized Religion" -- wood, light, plexiglass, green, black, white acrylic paint, plaster-painted stage set containing plaster cross-painted with image of money.

"Mom, Dad, Bud & Sis" -- orange, blue, violet, yellow, red and green on plywood substrate; rope, wooden clothespins, underwear garments and aerosol spray paint.

"Symbol#1" -- light hanging on wall with yellow-and-brown patterned cloth background with white and blue lights representing male genitalia.

Cellan was at the opening a couple of weeks ago -- as always, cheerful, approachable and ready for the occasion. Asked just how he created a particular image, a hard-edged, sleekly modernist abstraction, he gave a two-word reply: spray paint.

Cellan's not for everyone -- you'll be amused or irritated, delighted or exasperated. That's because Michael's art is visibly prickly and opinionated, the amused, slightly pissed-off product of an old lefty who can make his materials dance. There's always a sly subtext, and there's always technical excellence. So even if the content is annoying (conservatives take note!), the execution is terrific.

Check out "Boss," described as "orange, blue, yellow, white and black painted clothing on plywood substrate." It's a visual feast, an empty suit of clothes -- sport jacket, shirt, pants, the whole works -- in vivid, garish colors. The medium isn't apparent -- it looks like the result of some bizarrely difficult process, such as cast resin or sculptured fiberglass. Asked about it, Cellan said, "I just painted some of my clothes -- easier than getting rid of 'em." And how did he paint old clothes and create a massive, sculptural, work of art? By now, I knew not to ask.

If anything links all of his work, it's the use of homely materials to create wonderful things. Michael has taught art in the public schools for over 25 years, and that experience surely has shaped his art. Cast-off clothing, acrylic spray paint, light bulbs and plywood are -- unlike oil paints, bronze and marble -- universally available and close to cost-free.

Cellan's work isn't exactly cost-free, but it's more than affordable. If a little eccentrically priced (e.g., $773.46 for "Boss," $301.67 for "Jumping Businessmen"), it's still way less than you'd expect to pay for work of this quality.

-- John Hazlehurst


Michael Cellan's Art Show

The Bridge Gallery, 218 W. Colorado Ave.

Through March 28

Gallery open Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 3 p.m.; or by appointment

Call 329-1574


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