Sculptor Nancy Lovendahl looks to the future after coronavirus shut down her exhibitions

Snowmass-based artist Nancy Lovendahl's exhibition at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center has been closed to the public since soon after its mid-March opening.
Courtesy photo

Old Snowmass sculptor Nancy Lovendahl put years of work and resources into her solo exhibition at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center at Colorado College, “Small Glimpses, Many Times.” A sprawling milestone of a show, it included sculptures and works on paper and cloth and mirrors, video and photography – all of them meditating on the shape of a mountain.

The public barely got a glimpse of Lovendahl’s work on March 13 before the museum closed due to public health restrictions from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve been working for three years for the biggest exhibition of my career and it was open for four hours,” Lovendahl said.

This major Colorado Springs show, due to run through Aug. 2, was the first in a carefully calculated three-exhibition summer cycle, which was to continue with complementary work at Michael Warren Contemporary in Denver in the Art Base in Basalt.

Lovendahl has come to terms with the idea of the museum show sitting empty for the months ahead.

“I’ve gone through the five stages of grief,” she said, detailing her calculable periods of denial, anger, bargaining and depression before landing in acceptance. “I went through it pretty fast, because I started noticing everything I was grateful for.”

Chief among her blessings, she said is that she has her home studio, where she has been devoting herself to new work for the last seven weeks of quarantine. She’s also thankful to have means for shelter and food, as she wasn’t counting on sales from her 2020 gallery shows to cover basic short-term expenses. Lovendahl’s husband, the jewelry maker Scott Keating, sold his Aspen shop last year and used the proceeds to pay off the couple’s home.

Still, it’s heartbreaking to have put so much into the work into artwork nobody will see for a long time.

“I’ve invested everything in these exhibitions,” she said. “I’ve never felt more of a sense of incompletion.”

All is not lost on the Colorado Springs show, though. The museum is now planning to keep it up until Thanksgiving, in the hopes that distancing protocols will loosen enough for the public to enjoy it.

But the experience may permanently change the kind of work Lovendahl makes, as she thinks about how different the post-coronavirus world will be.

“I am using this shock, awe and pause to really reassess a 35-year career,” said the artist who has been based in Aspen since the late 1970s. “So, of course, I’m scared shitless. But what am I waiting for? What are any of us waiting for?”

She’s at the beginning of experimenting with virtual art, applying her skills as a sculptor to make screen-based art experiences. She’s toying with 3-D technology and ideas for communicating the power of sculpture through virtual means. Her career has depended upon art galleries and museums showing her work, but now she is thinking for the first time about how art might exist in a world without them. She’s surprised herself by finding some positives in the seemingly apocalyptic scenario, such as moving the art world away from its baked-in elitism toward true equal access to art.

“What’s been running through my mind is, ‘How can we come together as a global culture through art, share it for free, share it over country borders through social media or ephemeral means like the internet?’” she said. “‘Inviting dialogue while still supporting me financially or serving my community?’ That’s where the pandemic has put me.”

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