Fresh composition 

New Rubbish co-owner brings local pride and surrealist works

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Here's something you wouldn't expect: Brett Andrus, a young, hip, up-and-coming local artist, declaring, "Thomas Kincade can paint."

"He's a cheesy motherfucker, but if I had his chops ... "

In summary: This is a guy in Rock & Republic jeans, smoking Camel Reds on the rooftop of his south end home and studio, professing respect for the "painter of light" whose art is found in malls across America. But it's only one of many contradictions for Andrus, whose work will show through August in downtown's Rubbish Gallery.

Andrus, a new partner at Rubbish, paints in the style of Rembrandt, Renoir and other masters of technique. But by day, he's a mortgage broker.

"There are some highly functioning artists out there who didn't buy into the Bohemian thing," says Andrus.

As a gallery owner, he says the real contradiction is in being a painter who promotes art.

"I have two distinct personalities when it comes to art," says the 30-year-old. "I have my art warrior personality that says, 'Fight the power. Get people to look at art.' Then with my own art, I'm very self-conscious and say, 'You can look if you want to.'"

'Everything's intentional'

In November 2007, Andrus capitalized on the chance to promote the scene when one of Rubbish's original co-owners, Carlita Trujillo, stepped down. Trujillo had opened the gallery with Jon Lindstrom in February 2006. Andrus took on Trujillo's half of the business, and began lining up shows.

Andrus actually finds commonality in painting and processing loans; he says both jobs require "creative problem solving." As a narrative figure painter, Andrus approaches painting by putting together a story through symbol. He begins the process with composition.

"I've got pages and pages just figuring out composition," says Andrus. "Everything's intentional."

After deciding on a composition from his sketches, he does a full-scale study in charcoal. He calls these studies "cartoons" for their rough, thick, black edges.

Finished in oil paint and a glossy varnish, they do resemble large, roughly hewn comics. Andrus paints the studies carefully, getting the color on in layers. Once he finishes a study, he begins the final product. The end result: a polished canvas, complete with rich, complex color and figures positioned in a well-constructed composition.

Andrus' subtle, surreal scenes hint at larger narratives. For example, in the study "Melissa with Stork," which Andrus will show along with his finished paintings, a woman poses with one leg up in an almost empty room. A stork stands behind her and two eggs sit on a windowsill. Outside, the sky teems with arabesque clouds.

Blooming scene

The show he's putting together for Rubbish, the fourth he's planned since becoming co-owner, will celebrate the women who enrich his life. In "Micheala and Allison with Praying Mantises," a woman sits in a chair. Behind her, another woman leans forward on the chair protectively. Andrus says he thinks of the woman standing as a mother figure to the other woman.

Beside them, three praying mantises stand on a table. Andrus says the insects, which sometimes eat their mates' heads before using their sperm to reproduce, symbolize powerful women.

Although images fill Andrus' large canvases, the spaces they occupy are often rather vast: empty rooms with ornate walls, surreal landscapes that hint at Colorado's big skies.

Andrus, a Black Forest native, went to school at the Savannah (Ga.) College of Art and Design. When he returned in 2001, Andrus says, he put on guerilla art shows in his home.

"We'd put all the furniture in the garage and leave just a couple of chairs. Fill the walls with art," he says.

One weekend, he says, more than 250 people showed up. This interest in promoting, beyond producing art, is what later led to the desire to buy into Rubbish.

Andrus says the local arts scene has bloomed, pointing to artists Lindsay Hand and Marc Huebert, both of whom he recently showed at Rubbish.

"This town has so much more going for it," he says, "than anywhere else out West."


Be Good to Each Other, recent work by Brett Andrus
Rubbish Gallery, 17B E. Bijou St.
Show runs through Sept. 8; opening reception, Friday, Aug. 8, 5 p.m. to midnight
For more, visit myspace.com/rubbishgallery.

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