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Review: In Theatre Aspen’s ‘Coach,’ Beau Bridges delivers inspirational pep talk for the game of life

Theatre Aspen’s inaugural one-person show festival, Solo Flights, opened Wednesday night with the world premiere of “Coach: An Evening with John Wooden.” Written by acclaimed writer-producer John Wilder and starring multiple award-winning actor Beau Bridges, the play explores the exemplary life of coach John Wooden.

Both Wilder and Bridges are UCLA alumni who knew and admired the iconic basketball coach that led the Bruins to 10 national championships. Bridges played on Wooden’s team in college, while Wilder heard him speak at his high school letterman banquet in 1954. A signed copy of Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” still hangs on the wall of his office.

Wilder first planned to write a film script, but decided on a one-person play to give audiences the same feeling he’d had sitting in Coach Wooden’s den, listening to his stories. Directed by Joe Calarco, the onstage version employs minimal props and a couple of stools to suggest a humble man cave, where Wooden, portrayed by Bridges with the pragmatic warmth of a midwestern grandfather, is gracious enough to host us.

Early on, a phone call interrupts the visit. UCLA wants to name a new sports pavilion after Wooden, but he will accept the honor only if his wife is included on the marquee — and only if her name appears before his.

“None of this would have happened without Nell,” he says.

“Coach” is not only the tale of one of the most successful coaches in the history of basketball, it’s the story of a man who loved one woman for all of his adult life — with everything he had.

“She was the mirror I looked into find the truth,” he says.

It’s this search for truth and willingness to admit faults that make “Coach” irresistible. Entering manhood during the era of Jim Crow laws, he stood against them. But in reminiscing about his interactions with black players, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he regrets his limited awareness of the obstacles they faced.

“I thought I was color blind,” he says, “but I was just blind.”

Bridges once described Wooden as “decent, right to the bone.” And that’s the character he brings to life — a man who will only celebrate his achievements if all the people who made him who he is are invited to the party. In today’s “look at me” culture, it’s refreshing to settle into an evening of storytelling focused on the ethics and values that not only shaped the life of one man but that helped define the character of a nation in tumultuous times.

On the court, Wooden encouraged his team to pass the ball and celebrate a scoring shot by pointing out the man who gave the assist. In their evening with Coach Wooden, both Wilder and Bridges clearly point to Wooden as their inspiration to “make every day a masterpiece,” right up to the final second on the clock.

Collective Creativity: Artists take over Base Village for Sun Sets in September

Seventeen artists will start a takeover of The Rink area outside of The Collective in Snowmass Base Village on Friday, painting murals on large, pop-up walls for the inaugural Sun Sets in September Art Show. The community art exhibition, featuring Roaring Fork Valley artists, is set to kick off Saturday evening.

“We have so many young artists but a lot of them don’t have the opportunity to show,” said Matty Davis, curator of the Sun Sets in September show. “So I want to give them that opportunity. I hope people catch on and start doing the same thing to build this art community stronger for the young artists.”

Davis, a local artist who works in Snowmass, said he curated art shows in San Diego for 12 years before moving to Aspen about five years ago.

Soon after he moved here, Davis said he realized a need to create more out-of-gallery art experiences and opportunities like in his former home, leading him to bring some of those southern California art vibes to Aspen and Snowmass, namely in the form of the Sub Terranean Art Show held at The Collective in March.

The spring show had such a great turnout that Davis said The Collective asked him to organize another one, this time outside. He hopes the Sun Sets in September art celebration has similar success, and sees the show as an avenue for young, up-and-coming artists to share their work.

Davis said he did a lot of research and handpicked artists from both from the Roaring Fork Valley and out of state. The artists will showcase ceramics, jewelry, sculptures, paintings, photography and more, including Teal Roberts Wilson of Snowmass, Heather Quinn of Carbondale, Glenn Smith of Basalt and Kelly Peters of Aspen.

Peters was a part of the art show in March and has been painting inside of The Collective building over the past week for its game lounge and experiential art center, on top of painting a mural on The Rink for the Saturday show.

Like Davis, Peters said she thinks art shows like the Sun Sets in September are a way for artists to interact with each other and with the community, and feels Snowmass is opening doors for local artists.

“Shows like this are a step for the future,” Peters said.

But the Saturday art show doesn’t just aim to support local artists. Part of the proceeds from purchases made at the Sun Sets in September Art Show will go to Challenge Aspen, a local nonprofit that provides year-round adaptive experiences for people facing cognitive and physical disabilities.

Overall, Davis said he hopes the show will be a “cool party” the entire Aspen-Snowmass community can take part in.

“I think it gets people excited and brings all of the us together,” Davis said. “That’s what community is all about, just helping each other. If you’re not helping each other you’re not going anywhere.”


From Toronto to Aspen: Fall Film Preview (Part One)

For 10 days every September, Toronto plays host to one of the world’s largest festivals. Fondly known as TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival is North America’s premiere film event. From early morning until late at night, moviegoers hoping to score tickets to sold-out screenings (which most are) queue rush lines that wind around the block. Observing the daily sea of attendees (tens of thousands) surge from one venue to the next, one can’t help but wonder: how many pounds of popcorn and coffee beans does it take to fuel these committed movie-goers?

TIFF’s battalion of programmers spends a year ferreting out features, documentaries and shorts from six continents. They then funnel their 300-plus eclectic choices into 14 loosely themed sections that range from red-carpet galas featuring A-list talent to experimental Wavelength’s more artist-driven projects. Even armed with advance research and guideposts—Discovery, Contemporary World Cinema, Docs, Midnight Madness — navigating TIFF is daunting.

Like the blind men’s assessment of the elephant, it’s impossible for even the most dedicated cineaste to fully wrap his or her arms around this massive beast. Chat with any line partner or volunteer (a legion of 3,000) and one quickly discovers TIFF is not one festival, but a panorama of unique, divergent experiences, each individually curated by a moviegoer’s tastes and curiosity. Like our voraciously enthusiastic cohorts, we plunged in, seeing 70 screenings of 58 titles from 25 countries. Here are some initial impressions of our festival elephant:


While independent and international productions struggle at the box office (“specialty” film weathered an especially disheartening summer), directors new and old continue finding ways to translate their idiosyncratic visions to the screen. Whether it’s a poetic Sudanese drama (Amjad Abu Alala’s “You Will Die at Twenty”) or toe-tapping crowd pleaser (“Military Wives” by “The Full Monty’s” Peter Cattaneo), filmmakers never tire of asking: How do we live with ourselves and in the world?

Fortunately for movie lovers, most TIFF films will travel the festival circuit, get a theatrical release and/or stream in the coming months. Next week, fresh from Toronto, Steven Soderbergh’s “The Laundromat,” Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life,” Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite,” “Honey Boy” with Shia LaBeouf, Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” “Seberg” starring Kristen Stewart and Scott Z. Burns’ “The Report” will be among several stopping at Aspen Filmfest.

The risk-taking “Jojo Rabbit” and Rupert Goold’s biopic “Judy” also are bound for Filmfest.

Taika Waititi’s (“Thor: Ragnarok”) highly anticipated “JoJo Rabbit” proved to be one of most provocative premieres, contentiously dividing critics while winning the audience award. Filtering his quirky vision through a child’s eyes (as in “Two Cars, One Night” and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”), Waititi’s sharp black comedy sets out to skewer the insanity of tribalism. Ten-year-old Jojo is a Nazi Youth group member with Adolf Hitler as an imaginary friend (Waititi) and a secret in the closet. From this audacious, high-wire premise Waititi concocts a unique cocktail of biting caricature, absurdist buffoonery and trenchant humor, all threaded with a touch of whimsical sweetness. Filmgoers will soon have the chance to determine for themselves whether “JoJo” succeeds in packing its intended punch.

As the title character in “Judy,” a mesmerizing Renée Zellweger flings herself into an emotionally complex portrayal of the late-in-life Judy Garland. Transcending mere impersonation and jettisoning the “Tragic Judy” legend, Zellweger infuses her role — and hits her own notes — with the fierce intensity of a scrappy down-but-not-out welterweight: frail, faltering, bruised by the abuse of others (and herself), but still capable of igniting the stage with moments of electrifying brilliance.


Especially with Oscar night moving up to early February, TIFF is considered an essential awards platform for high-profile hopefuls. Some, most notably “The Goldfinch,” John Crowley’s pedigree adaptation of Donna Tartt’s bestseller, took an Icarian tumble. Others like Noah Baumbach’s superb “Marriage Story” soared. Good people unwittingly at their worst is the premise of this funny, sad autopsy of an unraveling marriage, based, in part, on the writer-director’s own experience. Despite best intentions to part amicably, Charlie and Nicole (Adam Driver and Scarlet Johansen in career-defining performances) chart messy terra incognita. Through an accretion of resonant moments, including an incendiary fight (the kind partners hope never to have) and a wistful musical coda (all the more poignant for its timing), Baumbach brings compassion and grace to the complicated truths of letting go.

Great performance, while it can’t save a truly bad movie, often elevates films whose less artful script, direction or edit falls short of expectations. Watching actors dig deep to bring their characters vibrantly alive reminds us why we love going to the movies. Whenever Kasi Lemmons’ “Harriet” — about abolitionist Harriet Tubman — sags under tired tropes of “historic epic,” Tony-winner Cynthia Erivo bursts through, bringing agency and urgency to this story of uncommon courage, fortitude and faith.

“Sound of Metal,” the odyssey of a punk-metal drummer who suddenly goes deaf, is tethered by a ferociously raw and tatted Riz Ahmed (“Girls,” “The Night Of”). Floundering in fury and bewilderment, Ahmed’s vulnerable Ruben captivates, even when Darius Marder’s unwieldy story meanders. Following his sublime “Shoplifters,” Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “The Truth” plays in a more minor key, to be sure. But it’s hard to resist the pleasure of watching the incomparably deft Catherine Deneuve, now 76, play an aging actress who’s self-absorbed and emotionally tone-deaf in equal measure.


While TIFF focuses primarily on narrative features, it also showcases a consistently strong documentary strand.

Nonfiction masters Alex Gibney and Barbara Kopple premiered their latest, “Citizen K” and “Desert One.” There were profiles of the creative process (Ebs Burnough’s “The Capote Tapes,” Daniel Roher’s “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band,” Pat Collins’ “Henry Glassie: Field Work”). Several compelling works grappled with serious global issues, such as ethnic discrimination (Daniel Gordon’s “The Australian Dream”), environmental degradation (Ellen Page’s “There’s Something in the Water”), and the treatment of the U.S.’s non-citizen military veterans (Andrew Renzi’s “Ready for War”).

Among the most powerful, critically lauded documentaries was “Collective,” Alexander Nanau’s chilling examination of systemic corruption in Romania’s medical industry. In 2015, a fire in a Bucharest nightclub tragically took 27 lives. In ensuing weeks, another 37 survivors with severe burns died due to preventable infections and inadequate hospital care. Edited like a fast-paced police whodunnit, “Collective” follows journalist Catalin Tolontan as he and his investigative team pry behind the government’s wall of denials and lies, eventually uncovering an appallingly pervasive web of professional and governmental self-dealing, avarice, and callous indifference to the welfare of patients. As public outrage builds, reform efforts are forced on the government, but politicians push back. A moving example of a free press’s crucial role in combating wrongdoing, the film’s final developments ominously echo other ongoing struggles to change entrenched injustice.

Since 2017, TIFF has spearheaded “Share Her Journey,” an initiative to advance women in the film industry. The festival line-up reflected that commitment with 35% of the program directed, co-directed or created by women, the highest representation of gender parity in the world’s top-tiered festivals. Not always, but often, stories told by women feel new and different. French director Alice Winocour (writer of “Mustang”) refreshes familiar family-versus-work territory by raising the stakes in the absorbing “Proxima.” Sarah (a wonderful Eva Green) is a single mom and astronaut. Training for a long mission, she strives to balance the responsibilities of conflicting devotions: parenting and profession. Both are demanding, both involve risk. This nuanced drama, beautifully researched and shot at actual training facilities, launches an intimate voyage into the human heart.


Director Marielle Heller has a fondness for broken people finding redemption, especially when they don’t realize how much they need it. Like her “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is inspired by a writer and actual events. In this case, the writer is an embittered journalist assigned a story that will shake his very being. What better agent of transformation than television folk hero Mr. Rogers? And who better to embody his soul-mending message than Tom Hanks? With quiet stealth, Hanks creates a Fred Rogers who draws from a deeply private, fully human place to meet people exactly where they are. This cleverly crafted tale of genuine goodness is a welcome fall antidote to the creeps, villains and ne’er-do-wells that crowd our worldview, onscreen … and off.

Film critics George Eldred and Laura Thielen, based in Carbondale, are the former directors of Aspen Film.

Beau Bridges stars as John Wooden at Theatre Aspen’s Solo Flights festival

Despite an acting career spanning more than six decades onstage and screen, Beau Bridges has never performed a one-man play until now.

The actor stars in “Coach: An Evening with John Wooden,” which opens Wednesday night at Theatre Aspen’s Solo Flights festival and also marks his Aspen debut.

“I’m looking forward to ‘Coach’ because the man in the title, John Wooden was my freshman basketball coach at UCLA and he is a lifelong friend and mentor,” Bridges said in an e-mail interview. “I hope the audience leaves with a better understanding of what an amazing man Coach Wooden was and how they can apply his teachings toward their own lives in a positive way.”

The show shines a light on the legendary basketball coach, who led UCLA from 1948 to 1975. In a 12-year period in which he was head coach, he won 10 NCAA national championships, including a record seven in a row.

Wooden died in 2010 at age 99. Throughout his lifetime and especially since his passing, Wooden has been recognized for his inspirational messages to his players, including his “Pyramid of Success” and inspirational maxims like “Make each day a masterpiece.”

“Coach Wooden inspired a generation to live a life free of stress by just trying to be the best they can be,” Bridges said. “Not trying to be better than the next person. He said that success had nothing to do with winning. It has to do with finding peace of mind by leaving the task, knowing that you have done your very best.”

From humble beginnings to the pinnacle, “Coach” lays out Wooden’s life — showing his relationship with his wife of 53 years, the only girl he ever loved, and the journey they took together from a small town in Indiana to Los Angeles.

Director Joe Calarco and playwright John Wilder will be working alongside Bridges throughout the play’s development.

“I have not worked with John or Joe before but I have the utmost respect for them both and I look forward to working with them on this project in progress,” Bridges said.

Bridges’ career has spanned Broadway, television and film. Nominated for 15 total Emmy Awards, he has won three of them — including for his work in HBO’s “The Second Civil War” in 1997 and for his supporting role opposite Holly Hunter in the 1993 HBO movie “The Positively True Adventures of The Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom.”

The son of Hollywood legend Lloyd Bridges and brother of Jeff Bridges, one of his favorite projects was a family affair.

“A film I really enjoyed working on was ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys,’” he said of the 1989 film he co-starred in with his brother. “I liked the way the film turned out and it was great fun working with my brother Jeff.”

When offering advice to an aspiring actor, Bridges encourages them to “get out and do it.”

“Perform anywhere you can,” Bridges said. “I did a lot of street theater back in the day — hospitals, prisons, market parking lots. There are a number of great community theaters around to get involved with. Get proactive, write your own project and film it on your phone for a start. If Steven Soderbergh can do it, so can you!”

Demitri Martin cancels Thursday night show at the Wheeler

Comedian Demitri Martin has canceled his performance scheduled for Thursday night at the Wheeler Opera House, citing illness.

The theater has booked Aspen Laugh Fest regular Alex Edelman and Denver-based comic Rebecca Robinson to replace Martin. Both comics played the Laugh Fest in February.

The Wheeler box office is processing refunds for all Demitri Martin ticket-buyers, according to a statement on the cancellation.

Tickets for Edelman and Robinson are $18, available at the Wheeler and aspenshowtix.com.

Theatre Aspen’s new Solo Flights festival spotlights one-person-shows

While Aspen’s summer art scene may be winding down, Theatre Aspen is giving visitors and locals a reason to stick around a bit longer.

The inaugural Solo Flights festival features four in-development one-person plays and a series of panel discussions that are free to the public. Performances run Wednesday through Saturday at the Hurst Theatre.

“There is no festival in the United States that focuses on this part of the theatrical world,” said Theatre Aspen producing director Jed Bernstein. “I’m hoping that over time — it’s not going to happen immediately — but over time those theater professionals who are interested in developing new work and in booking new work will start coming to Aspen specifically for this. Then, the avid theatergoers who go to play festivals in various cities or musicals in various cities, will add this to their itineraries.”

One-person shows are a growing part of the theater world. Originally, they mostly consisted of famous people portraying historical figures. For example, Hal Holbrook playing Mark Twain or Julie Harris playing Emily Dickinson

“We still have some of that,” Bernstein said, “but now writers are writing shows with one character. Comedians are doing dramatic pieces, and less stand-up comedy. Billy Crystal’s ‘700 Sundays,’ for example. It’s a category that’s getting more and more attention.”

Solo Flights replaces and re-brands the company’s Aspen Theatre Festival, which ran annually from from 2015 to 2017 at summer’s end. It focused on workshop productions of developing plays and musicals.

With relatively fewer events happening in Aspen this time of year, Bernstein thinks September is the opportune time of year for this festival.

“We think it’s going to catch on and we’re excited for it,” Bernstein said.

Theatre Aspen put out a call for entries almost exactly a year ago and they received 86 submissions, from which they chose four.

“We wanted to make sure there was some variety in terms of the topic and men versus women,” Bernstein said. “We think they’re all interesting in their own way.”

The festival will debut four different one-man shows including: “Coach: An Evening with John Wooden,” “Dr. Glas,” ‘’What We Leave Behind” and “When It’s You.” The shows run between 60 and 80 minutes, all performed without intermission.

The schedule has them playing like a film festival would, all day long. People can see one a day for four days or they can see two and two. The schedule is flexible, Bernstein noted, offering optimal convenience.

“What I say to people is that they will for sure hate one of the four, they will feel good about two of the four and they will love one of the four,” Bernstein said. “Every person will have a different sequence, but that’s how it’s going to break down. I hope people will embrace the idea of sampling — they could see the entire festival in two days if that’s what they wanted to do. There’s lots of choices and I hope people will sample everything.”

Theatre Aspen’s hope is that over time, the festival will attract more and more people from outside Aspen.

“I think that it could be a real value added to the list of the other various iconic events that are on the Aspen calendar every year,” Bernstein said. “I hope that at least one or two of the projects that we do over the next five years will go on to successful and highly visible lives, whether that means Broadway or London or get turned into a film or whatever it might be. I think we have significant talent this year at the director level, writer level and at the acting level.”

Bernstein hopes that audience members will take away a sense of adventure about it all.

“One of our goals is to expand our footprint so we’re not just an end-of-June to the middle-of-August organization, and this is a big step in that direction,” he said.

The festival will ultimately allow the nonprofit organization to expand the kind of work they do. Bernstein suggested that Solo Flights will allow Theatre Aspen to take a little more risk in terms of topics, to be a little more ambitious.

Bernstein is striving to make this week as festival-like as possible, meaning there will be offstage events as well as the four main shows. There are two events open to the general public including an interview with Beau Bridges, who stars in “Coach,” as well a panel discussion with the directors.

Ken Burns on making his new ‘Country Music’ documentary series

In Ken Burns’ editing room hangs a neon sign that reads “It’s Complicated.”

The motto has held true across the wide swath of American history the documentarian has covered and certainly does on his latest series for PBS, “Country Music,” which begins airing Sunday night.

The eight-part, 16-hour series details a surprisingly complicated history of the genre with Burns’ signature depth of archival research, rarely seen photos and original interviews.

Burns himself was blown away by revelations big and small, from how some of country’s most iconic songs came into being to the central roles that women and African Americans played in the story of country music.

“That’s why this isn’t just a K-tel record offer, it’s not the TimeLife country music series — this is a story,” Burns said backstage at Harris Concert Hall last month, before a preview of the film hosted by the Aspen Music Festival and School.

The documentary tracks the history of country from the early 20th century and the days of the Carter Family through the 1990s and the superstardom of Garth Brooks, who defines country music as “three chords and the truth.”

Along the way it traces the music’s role in American culture and counterculture, the evolutions of its sound as well as its place in gender equality and race relations.

Country music has been intertwined with Burns’ work seemingly from the beginning of his career and his 1988 documentary on the painter Thomas Hart Benton, so it’s a surprise it took him until nearly four decades into his filmmaking career to tackle it.

“It couldn’t have happened a moment sooner and I’m happy we didn’t start it a moment later,” Burns said.

A self-proclaimed “child of R&B and rock ’n’ roll,” Burns was not a country music fan before this undertaking, which spanned eight years of production. Making the film, however, converted him.

“I was completely unprepared,” Burns said. “It shattered every preconception I had.”

The film is arriving into a moment of cultural debate about country and its preconceptions as a regressive artform for and by straight white men. Sunday’s premiere comes on the heels of “Old Town Road” — a country song by the black, gay rapper Lil Nas X — breaking the record as the longest reigning No. 1 charting song in history. The song’s success and its unorthodox approach to the country sound underscore the film’s thesis that country is — and always has been — more complex and inclusive than it might seem.

“Thanks to Lil Nas X for walking onto the stage and preparing our audience for us,” Burns said. “We don’t have to prepare anybody or worry about, ‘Oh, here’s Burns again with his race thing.’”

Every episode of the series touches on issues of race in country music. It includes sections focused on the banjo, which descended from African instruments that were brought to the U.S. by slaves, on how early country was built from a foundation of spirituals and field songs, and on the fascinating evolution of the melody in Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” back to the Carter Family’s “Little Darling, Pal of Mine” to its original source material as a black church hymn.

Kris Kristofferson calls country “the white man’s soul music” in the film, but Burns seems to make an argument against that definition. His film highlights the contributions of African American artists who have been written out of history, the integration of country music recording sessions as early as the 1920s and it devotes an extended segment to the mid-1960s stardom of Charley Pride.

“Nobody ever believes it, but every time I finish a film it seems to be exactly what the culture wants at that moment,” he said.

Each episode also highlights the centrality of women to the country music form, from Maybelle Carter through the trailblazing proto-feminist songs of Loretta Lynn. Burns said he was personally most moved by the story behind Dolly Parton’s “I will Always Love You,” which she wrote to get out from under the thumb of her manipulative and controlling creative partner Porter Wagoner.

“Women will look at this film and not believe it was editorially done before the #MeToo movement,” Burns said.

Aspenites will take particular interest in the sixth part of the series, which digs into the early days of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The segment focuses on the making of the band’s watershed 1972 triple album, “Will the Circle be Unbroken,” and how it brought together an older and more conservative generation of country music fans with the hippie kids of the day.

The section includes dozens of photos of the band’s historic six-day Nashville recording session, showing a baby-faced Jimmy Ibbotson alongside country-western legends like Maybelle Carter, Earl Scruggs and Roy Acuff, and includes interviews with Dirt Band members John McEuen and Jeff Hanna.

“For us, it was like going back to 1928 and making an old record,” McEuen says in the film. “We wanted to make an old record.”

“Country Music” is built on seemingly comprehensive research, including 101 interviews, 1,000 hours of film and some 100,000 photographs, culled down to the 3,300 featured in the final product.

Twenty of the interview subjects in the film have since died, including some of the final on-camera interviews with Merle Haggard, Ralph Stanley, and the series standout Hazel Smith — a folksy and blunt-spoken woman who served as an office manager to Willie Nelson and The Outlaws during their mid-1970s heyday.

Burns’ research for “Country Music” overlapped with his 2017 documentary on the Vietnam War, and with forthcoming films on Ernest Hemingway and Muhammad Ali.

“They talk to each other all the time,” he said of his always-full slate of projects.

Burns has four production teams that work on films simultaneously, so he is constantly hopping between seemingly disparate topics for films in various stages of development. For example, Burns was leaving the editing room of “The Vietnam War” to shoot interviews for “Country Music,” and he’s now early in editing the Hemingway film and finalizing his voiceover scripts for the Ali project while he’s out promoting “Country Music,” all while he’s in the early stages of films on Benjamin Franklin and the Revolutionary War.

“It’s a tapestry,” he said. “It’s all woven together.”

Every project informs the other and deepens his understanding of American culture. He’s made 15 films that cover the U.S. in the 1920s, he noted, and as he put it, “It’s always a different ’20s. The flappers show up, the gangsters show up, but the other stuff underneath — whether it’s ‘Jazz’ or ‘Baseball’ or ‘Country Music’ or ‘The Roosevelts’ — it’s a different ’20s. It’s wonderful. I didn’t think you could wring that much information out of something.”


An artist’s untimely death and a rebirth at Gonzo Gallery in Aspen

The Los Angeles-based artist Brendan Missett didn’t show or sell his work in galleries. The mixed-media artist — known to fans and friends as @trenchvvave on Instagram — exhibited his fierce, politically and sexually charged collages online.

That was set to change this year, when the Aspen-based gallerist Daniel Joseph Watkins bought a Missett painting and convinced him to rattle some capitalist cages with a solo exhibition timed to the Fourth of July holiday here in Aspen.

The pair met in February and began planning the show, which would play off of Missett’s interest in patriotism and extremism.

Soon after, the artist — who had long struggled with substance abuse — died of a drug overdose. He was 36.

With the support of Missett’s parents, Watkins has followed through with the exhibition, which opens Friday at the Gonzo Gallery’s temporary home at 601 E. Hyman Ave.

“They’re obviously devastated but they’ve also been saying, ‘Let’s turn this into something good,’” Watkins said this week while hanging the show.

Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit Brendan Project, founded in Missett’s honor to support artists suffering from addiction.

This weekend’s opening is expected to draw Missett’s friends, his family (his mother is Judi Sheppard Missett, founder of the Jazzercize fitness franchise) and the fans he found nationwide through Instagram.

“He lived online and he had all these people from there who were like a family,” Watkins said.

Watkins, who didn’t know of Missett’s struggles with drugs until the overdose, also heard from Missett’s friends from recovery programs and who the artist mentored.

“He had this powerful impact on all these people who loved him,” Watkins said.

Missett’s incendiary works — all made since 2017 — take a fierce and fearless look at America in the early Trump era, with pieces themed around fetishized violence, commercialized sex, militarism, cults and political hypocrisy. The charged imagery here includes President Trump kissing a baby bordered by the phrase “Attrition and Terror,” surrounded by pornographic images and a cutout of a sex doll.

The centerpiece is a large-format collage of hundreds of images crowded around the title “AMERICA NEEDS A FAITH LIFT.” A viewer could spend hours studying it and discovering new things in its sea of guns, fashion models, trucks, status symbols (including a napkin from Mezzaluna in Aspen) and hidden texts (“dress to suppress”).

“There are just enough words and just enough of a message to let people come up with their own ideas, too,” said Watkins.

Some of the work takes on a new poignancy in the wake of the artist’s death, like a small collage featuring the phrase “ELEGY FOR A REBEL.” It was the last image Missett posted online before he died.

Works featuring more graphic pornographic imagery will hang in the bathroom rather than the gallery proper.

The gallery is exhibiting Missett’s original pieces, but isn’t selling them. Instead, the benefit show will have prints of the originals, made in editions of 25 by Missett himself in anticipation of his Gonzo Gallery show, for sale.

Watkins recalled how excited Missett was to show with the Gonzo, which has showcased work by and about counterculture icons like Hunter S. Thompson, William S. Burroughs, Tom Benton and Ralph Steadman.

“He was honored to be aligned with Hunter and Burroughs and Steadman and all these people,” Watkins said.

The exhibition is the second of three benefit shows that Watkins has planned for his itinerant gallery. The first, exhibiting works by the Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Sergey Ponomarev last month in Watkins’ Cooper Avenue apartment, sold out and raised $39,000 for the nonprofit Afghanistan Libre.

Missett’s work will hang in the gallery for two weeks, followed by an exhibition of works by the Aspen-based sculptor Ajax Axe benefiting the Nomadic Library.

The gallery, through the end of this month, is taking over the prime corner space of the Hecht family’s commercial building adjacent to the Aspen Art Museum.

In the space next door, the artist Richard Carter’s summer-long pop-up gallery is hosting its third and final show, “The Imagined Still Life.”

Carter’s gallery, the Gonzo and artist Merrill Steiger’s summer pop-up will all close at the end of September as the Hechts sign tenants with long-term leases for the building.


Benjamin Timpson’s “Metamorphosis’ opens at Art Base on Friday

Photographer Benjamin Timpson will open the solo exhibition “Metamorphosis” at the Art Base in Basalt on Friday. The work constructs portraits of missing, murdered and abused Native American women out of butterfly wings.

A descendant of the Pueblo Indian Tribes, Timpson uses safe-sourced butterfly wings to create his portraits of Native American women, who are two-and-a-half times more likely to be raped or killed than any other women in the country.

“I am inspired by nature and feel compelled to tell the story of these women through the symbolic nature of the butterfly wing,” Timpson said in an exhibition announcement. “The butterfly represents metamorphosis, fragility and hope, and it is revered and respected by tribes of the American Southwest.”

Timpson researches victims and connects with family members to explain the project and intent of his work. Families share photographs that he uses for reference for the portraits. Timpson works on a light table to construct a portrait from butterfly wings. The portraits are encased in wooden frames and backlit to show the transmitted and reflective light qualities of each piece.

“It is my hope that this series brings awareness to a very important issue through beauty and change,” he said.

The gallery will host an opening reception Friday from 5 to 7 p.m.

Formerly the photography and new media studio coordinator at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, Timpson specializes in interdisciplinary mediums including photography, painting and sculpture. He was awarded a Poynter Fellowship at Yale University in 2019 and has exhibited nationally and internationally. Recent exhibitions include a solo show at Colorado Mountain College in Aspen; the Allegany National Photography; the Alternative Processes exhibition at the SE Center for Photography in Greenville, South Carolina; and the Black and White exhibition at The Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins. He is a professor of photography at Arizona State University.

Jazz Aspen launching ‘She-Bop’ workshop for young women

Jazz Aspen Snowmass has partnered with the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts to bring a version of CCJA’s existing She-Bop jazz workshop to Carbondale on Oct. 18 and 19.

This two-day jazz workshop is open to female jazz musicians ages 10 to 18 from across the Western Slope. The experience “will focus on providing high-quality educational experiences in an environment that gives them a sense of belonging and community, a safe place to explore their artistic selves, and extra support and enlarged context for the role of women in jazz,” according to an announcement.

The workshop will be led by an all-star faculty of accomplished women musicians/composers including She-Bop creator Annie Booth (piano) along with Anisha Rush (saxophone) and Sonya Walker (trumpet/brass/general instructor).

Beginning on Friday evening, Oct. 18, and running all day Oct. 19, the workshop will include small group and big band playing, master classes, jam sessions and group activities.

The workshop will conclude with a live performance featuring all of the students and faculty at Carbondale Middle School beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 19.

Jazz Aspen began exploring initiatives aimed at female students last year after noticing how few women were being represented in their own programming across all levels.

“From JAS Café bands, to headliners for Labor Day, the majority of all JAS performers have been male,” Senior Vice President Andrea Beard said in an announcement. “When looking at over the applicants for the JAS Academy Summer residency, primarily consisting of musicians ages 18 to 25, only 15% were women, with only four of the 23 selected students being female.”

A study by USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative examining gender of artists and content creators across Billboard Hot 100 year-end charts as well as Grammy nominations in top categories showed that in 2017 only 16.8% were women.

“We know there are so many talented young women in our local schools, with She-Bop we hope to encourage and expand that talent, while creating a new community of young female musicians throughout the Western Slope,” Beard said.

The cost for the program is $150 per student. Full scholarships are available for those who need the assistance. Program details and scholarship application can be found at jazzaspensnowmass.org.