Article by: Christy Steadman
One thing that Topher Straus hopes to accomplish through his artwork is that when people view it, they are transported to a National Park that they have previously visited, or want to visit.
“I’ve heard so many wonderful stories about the National Parks,” Straus said. “It’s a subject matter that resonates with people.”
Straus’ artwork will be featured in a solo exhibition, Topher Straus: The Parks, on display July 18 to Sept. 30 at the American Mountaineering Museum in Golden.
The American Mountaineering Museum exists to inspire, educate and preserve mountaineering culture, said Heidi McDowell, the American Mountaineering Museum’s event manager. She added that people enjoy the museum because it allows veteran mountaineers to re-live their memories, and inspires future mountaineers by educating them on historic explorations.
The museum is excited to highlight Straus’ art because it “captures the beauty of some of the country’s most beautiful parks,” McDowell said. And “art is a really powerful means to inspire mountaineers and conservationists.”
Straus, 44, grew up in Genesee but left Colorado after high school to attend Syracuse University in New York. After he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in film art, Straus lived around the world — from Los Angeles to New Zealand — before returning to Genesee about five years ago.
“That’s when my art career took off,” Straus said. Following a divorce, Straus decided to focus on his own happiness and “being a dad,” he added. “Through that came a desire to show my artwork.”
Straus’ first art show was in July last year, and then he eventually got a commission from a friend in Boston to do a landscape.
“I was a little apprehensive” to do a landscape, Straus said, “but it became a catalyst for my career. I’m only doing landscapes now.”
The exhibit at the American Mountaineering Museum will debut Straus’ newest painting of the Maroon Bells in Aspen, and landscapes from seven U.S. National Parks. The mountaineering museum will be supplementing the exhibits with some of its archives — old matted photos, glass lantern slides and mountaineering hardware, for example.
For the duration of the exhibition, Straus’ art will accompany the museum’s other unique exhibits, which include the suit and gear that Jim Whittaker wore when he became the first American to summit Mount Everest 1963; an exhibit on the 10th Mountain Division; an interactive Colorado 14ers exhibit; and the state high points exhibit, also interactive, which showcases the highest points from all 50 states.
Straus’ artwork will be a nice addition to the museum’s current exhibits, said Eric Rueth, manager of the mountaineering museum.
His use of “color and imagination in the paintings will provide a fresh take on the mountains,” Rueth said.
Straus’ art is inspired by his own exploration of the outdoors, and his experiences from travelling with his 9-year-old son, Oliver Viking Straus.
“Color and light are everywhere, and I make art a part of everything I do,” Straus said. “I find it very important to put nature as the centerpiece of my work.”
Straus’ process for his work is called dye sublimation. He takes an image based off a photo, then sketches it out and paints it on transfer paper. Straus then sets it on a large piece of metal/aluminum, heat presses it and seals it with a high-gloss, transparent acrylic resin. The results are dynamic abstractions of familiar park scenery with an array of vibrant colors, Straus said.
The exhibit at the mountaineering museum will be Straus’ first show in Golden and in a museum — all of his other shows took place in an art gallery, he said.
“I’ve lived all over the world, but Golden has incubated my creativity and soul,” Straus said. “To be more of a part of my community is great.”