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Sending up suburbia 

Denver artist pokes fun at the new American landscape (and the Springs)

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Talking to Bill Amundson makes me wonder if he had a depressor on his tongue for days before answering the phone. At some point he asks me for questions, but what I'm asking pales in comparison to the monologue that's already catapulted forth.

So it's really no surprise when he tells me he buys cases of caffeine-laden Starbucks products at Sam's Club.

"I feel like I have to give something back," he says.

Starbucks franchises and other suburban phenomena dominate the artist's subject matter. And that's one reason he's excited about his upcoming show at Smokebrush Gallery, Misreading the Signs.

"It's interesting, doing something in the Springs," he says, "because you're the hotbed of Christian franchise and regular franchise. That's my area."

For research on Colorado Springs, Amundson, a Denver resident, drove down Academy Boulevard, counting more than seven churches that he calls perfect for their proximity to shopping malls. A James Dobson franchise called "Jimmy D's" is making its way into some of his current work.

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In order to portray the city, Amundson's series will include landscapes with deer (symbols of urban encroachment into nature), mountains and SUV "mishaps."

"The term 'mishaps' is really fun," he says. "'Mishap' has a soft feel. Even if you die, you die gentle."

It's no wonder Amundson's interested in the language of urban sprawl, as well as the images. He says he doesn't pay much attention to the art world and aligns himself more with humorists.

"I'm just a visual artist because when I was little, people said I could draw," says the 55-year-old, who's seen his work purchased by the Denver Art Museum and shown in New York

galleries.

However he aligns himself, Amundson certainly never considered himself a consultant. But urban developers in Denver building over the grounds of the old Stapleton International Airport recently consulted him.

"They wanted to know what I was going to make fun of," says the artist, who advised turning the control tower into a disco.


Misreading the Signs
Smokebrush Gallery,
218 W. Colorado Ave.
Art Walk opening reception, May 2, 5-8 p.m; exhibition runs through May 23.
Free; gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturdays following First Friday Art Walk receptions. Call 444-1012 or visit smokebrush.org for more.

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