Canyon Courier article on Topher Straus' Exhibition

Topher and his son, Oliver at Niza Knoll Gallery.

Topher and his son, Oliver at Niza Knoll Gallery.

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Article by: Deborah Swearingen

For Topher Straus, there’s nothing more inspiring than nature. 

Topher Straus will be featured in a show at the American Mountaineering Museum in Golden.

“For me, being outside in nature allows your soul to be free. It disconnects you with the world around you,” he said. “... That’s why I choose to do my art in Genesee, to produce it in Genesee. Because I love the mountains. I love the fresh air. I love seeing the stars at night.”

Oftentimes, being an artist requires taking a risk and putting yourself out there.

That’s what the Genesee-based artist did for his first exhibit at Bitfactory in Denver’s Santa Fe Art District, and it’s what he did for his latest exhibit, set to open July 18 at the American Mountaineering Museum in Golden.

“He just showed up one day honestly,” Eric Rueth, museum manager at the American Mountaineering Museum, said, laughing.

But Straus’ work — primarily large-scale, colorful interpretations of landscapes — fit in perfectly with the museum’s upcoming art exhibit. Reuth believes the pieces will be “a good way to hopefully draw … a broader crowd.”

Heidi McDowell, museum events manager, agreed.

“... Topher’s work is very beautiful. It’s creative. It’s imaginative. It’s eye capturing. You can’t help but look at his work,” she said. “And with the national parks theme, it was definitely a natural fit.”

The majority of the pieces that will be on display at the museum feature national parks, though there is a new piece of art of the Maroon Bells in Aspen that Straus is set to debut in the exhibit.

To create large interpretations of the natural world he loves, Straus uses his computer, a stylus and touchpad to recreate photographs he’s taken. He draws and paints over the digital image and then prints it onto transfer paper, which is placed on top of aluminum.

“It causes the colors from the transfer paper to go permanently into the aluminum on a molecular level, and then I put a resin over it,” he said.

Straus’ journey to visual art is a bit unconventional. While attending film art school, he was required to take an art class. Though he worked alongside those with years of artistic experience under their belt, he appreciated the challenge.

“Having that blank slate allowed me to see things differently,” he said, noting that he quickly realized how much he loved it.

It began as a personal journey, and Straus only recently began sharing his work with the public. Now he incorporates frequent hiking and biking explorations, trips across the globe and time spent with his son, Oliver, into his work. To Straus, art is as necessary as the air he breathes.

“Art is living, experiencing,” he said.

Want to go? An opening reception for the art exhibit will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. July 18 at the American Mountaineering Museum, 710 10th St. in Golden. Straus will be there to discuss his work. The exhibit will be viewable through Sept. 30 during regular hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $7.

Link to article: https://www.canyoncourier.com/content/genesee-artist-debuts-national-parks-exhibit-american-mountaineering-museum

Lakewood Sentinel article on Topher Straus

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.”

Link to article: https://lakewoodsentinel.com/stories/national-parks-to-be-highlighted-at-american-mountaineering-museum,283403


"THE EDGE EFFECT" an International Juried Exhibition at New York's Katonah Museum of Art

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June 30 - September 22, 2019

The Edge Effect describes an ecological phenomenon in the border area between disparate habitats, such as a meadow and a forest, which results in exponentially greater biodiversity. The Katonah Museum of Art recognizes that a museum creates a similar environment where works from artists with diverse backgrounds and locations are brought together to foster dialogue and spark creativity. Just as a border area is teeming with life, an exhibition can be a fertile place of ideas and images.

This exhibition includes works in all media and subject matter submitted by artists from all over the U.S. and 13 countries around the world. 67 works were chosen out of 957 submissions. Juried by Akili Tommasino, Associate Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Awards will be granted to the top three submissions.

Click here for a full list of the artists.

Link to article: http://www.katonahmuseum.org/exhibitions/

Aspen Public Radio Interviews Topher Straus

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Article by Christin Kay

Outdoor recreation is a $62 billion a year industry in Colorado.  The arts and culture sector generates $13 billion a year, more than mining or agriculture.

These two economic powerhouses came together at a forum in Golden last week, hosted by the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts.

Jedd Rose (left), Sue Jesch (middle), and Ben Anderson (right) sit in front of Topher Straus’ “Grand Canyon National Park”.

Jedd Rose (left), Sue Jesch (middle), and Ben Anderson (right) sit in front of Topher Straus’ “Grand Canyon National Park”.

A panel of leaders from Colorado-based companies like Smartwool, Topo Designs and Icelantic skis talked about how important art is to their products and their sales.  

Reporter Christin Kay speaks with host Zoe Rom about the "Arts+Outdoor Rec" forum

Companies might follow a few different models to integrate art into their products. Smartwool, for example, collaborates with artists on products like socks that are are unique and fairly true to the artists' vision.

Icelantic, a small Denver-based ski company, uses one artist to design their topsheets. In this collaborative model, founder Ben Anderson meets with the artist every year for a back-and-forth process of design and modification.  

Colorado's Topo Designs was founded by Jedd Rose. Rose has a degree in fine art; he wants to bring an artistic sensibility to outdoor apparel.  

Sales are driving more outdoor companies to integrate art into their gear.  

"Without question, our artist collaboration products sell out the quickest," said Molly Cuff, Smartwool's director of global communication. 

These companies see art as a way to differentiate themselves in the crowded field of outdoor gear, even if it means risking alienating customers who might not like the aesthetic, according to Icelantic's Anderson.

It can get complicated when artistic vision meets commerce.

An artist's work will probably have to be altered to fit a product.  Sue Jesch, the design director of Smartwool, says that when a painting is adapted for a textile, like a sock or a shirt, whole colors or details have to be eliminated. 

Jesch says the company asks artists to sign detailed contracts that to avoid misunderstandings.  

Icelantic's Anderson says he definitely had conflicts with his resident artist.

"We had screaming fights. 'Do you want art or do you want graphics?'” he said.

Anderson believes, though, that ultimately, those heated discussions made their product better.  

While artists have a wide range of responses to the idea of putting their art on a consumer good, Topher Straus, an artist in attendance at the forum, says the stigma of “going corporate” doesn’t exist anymore. He said most artists he knew want to get their work out into the world, whether through a gallery show or a pair of socks.

Link to article: https://www.aspenpublicradio.org/post/outdoor-gear-companies-use-art-set-themselves-apartand-drive-sales

Saturday Night Alive 2019 (Denver Center for Performing Arts) Denver, CO

Mark Sexton, Jonette Crowley, artist Topher Straus (cq), and Natasha Williamson. "Saturday Night Alive," benefiting Denver Center for the Performing Arts education programs, at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Seawell Ballroom, in Denver, Colorado. Photo StevePeterson.photo

Mark Sexton, Jonette Crowley, artist Topher Straus (cq), and Natasha Williamson. "Saturday Night Alive," benefiting Denver Center for the Performing Arts education programs, at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Seawell Ballroom, in Denver, Colorado. Photo StevePeterson.photo

Article by Joanne Davidson

The 39th Saturday Night Alive was fun, profitable — and a historic occasion.

Vanessa Williams performs. “Saturday Night Alive,” benefiting Denver Center for the Performing Arts education programs, at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Seawell Ballroom, in Denver, Colorado.Photo StevePeterson.

Fun because March 2 was a cold and snowy night and quite a few of the 700 guests had tales to tell about braving the elements in formal attire as they made their way to the the Denver Performing Arts Complex for this fundraiser highlighted by a performance by Vanessa Williams, whose vocal and acting skills have earned her nominations for Tony, Emmy and Grammy awards.

Profitable because the net proceeds came to $685,000 — money that will enable Allison Watrous, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ executive director of education, and her team to both continue and expand the DCPA’s arts education programs that to date have given 2.7 million Colorado school children a taste for live theater by attending plays, gaining technical knowledge, and staging productions of their own.

And historic because the $1,000-a-ticket gala was the last to be held in the Stage Theatre. Renovation of the 778-seat venue is part of a $36 million project that also includes upgrades to the adjoining Ricketson Theatre. When the Stage Theatre reopens in November 2020, it will bear the name of longtime benefactors Marvin and Judi Wolf. Work on the Ricketson Theatre begins in the spring of 2020 and is expected to take about a year to complete. It, too, is being renamed — in honor of DCPA trustee and former Denver Post publisher Dean Singleton.

Singleton and his sister, Pat Robinson, were among those attending Saturday Night Alive, joining a crowd that included Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and first lady Mary Louise Lee; Martin Semple, chairman of the DCPA board of trustees, and his wife, JoAnn; University of Denver Chancellor Rebecca Chopp with hubby Fred Thibodeau; and Hassan Salem, who is chairing the capital campaign that is funding the renovations, and his wife, Sheila.

Semple lavished praise on the team that chaired Saturday Night Alive: Roberta and Matt Robinette; Lyn and Dr. Michael Schaffer; Wanda Colburn and Dick Havey; Adrienne Ruston Fitzgibbons and Jack Fitzgibbons.

“We have a larger leadership team than ever before,” he said, which resulted in an event that ran like clockwork and had a handsome financial return.
Vanessa Williams, whose Broadway career took off in 1994 when she replaced Chita Rivera in “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” told her audience that she was “a proud example” of one who benefited from arts education.

“My parents were teachers and when I told them I wanted to major in musical theater, they said ‘Go for it,’ ” she said. “And here I am.”

Williams also has earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and co-authored the autobiographical “You Have No Idea,” which was a New York Times best-seller in 2012.

The festivities didn’t end with Williams’ last song. Afterward, guests returned to the Seawell Ballroom, where earlier in the evening they’d dined on beef tenderloin from Epicurean Catering, for a selection of desserts and dancing to the band Wash Park.

Janice Sinden, the DCPA’s president and chief executive officer, was among the late-nighters, joining such others as Justin and Shelly Klomp (he’s the president of Trice Jewelers, sponsor of the Surprise Box sale conducted during cocktail hour); Kristina Davidson; Kathie and Keith Finger; Faye and Dr. Reginald Washington; Tina Walls; artist Darrell Anderson and his wife, Shawnee; Patricia Baca; CBS4 anchor Jim Benemann, the evening’s master of ceremonies; Marcia and Dick Robinson; Liz Orr; and former Saturday Night Alive chairs Meredith and Roger Hutson, Gail and George Johnson, Margot Gilbert Frank, Claudia and Jim Miller, Lisa and Norm Franke and Judi and Bob Newman.

Link to article: https://www.denverpost.com/2019/03/15/saturday-night-alive-vanessa-williams/

Westword Review of Topher Straus' "The Parks" Landscapes

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“Thrilled to have this review in Denver’s Westword about my solo show at The Niza Knoll Gallery by art critic Micheal Paglia”

-Topher Straus

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Review: Topher Straus Creates a Digital Look at Landscapes in The Parks

Michael Paglia | January 31, 2019

Colorado native Topher Straus performed with a local children's group called Kidskits in the 1980s, and later appeared on TV in shorts for the Two Bits Club. He left the state to attend Syracuse University, where he studied film; after graduation, he went to the West Coast and later to New Zealand, to pursue a career behind the camera in video production and advertising.

Straus moved back to Denver in 2012, changing career directions to become a full-time visual artist, and started working in his studio. It was just last year that he had his first solo. Topher Straus: The Parks, at Niza Knoll Gallery, is his second.

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The Parks comprises ten large pieces, each depicting an iconic image of a specific national park. Strauss has visited all the parks he’s depicted, but he does not use his own photos or sketches as preliminary studies. Instead, he finds and appropriates photos of his chosen landscape and scans them; then, using various programs including Photoshop, and a tablet and stylus, he follows the outlines of the selected scene loosely, as opposed to doing a careful tracing. He also computer color-matches the shades found in the original images, isolating single tones that he incorporates into his reformulated views. The colors are not placed where they are located in the original, but rather are freely associated in the reconfigured compositions. The digitized images on the monitor are printed onto transfer paper and applied to sheets of aluminum. The pictures are then finished off with transparent acrylic resin, creating a wet-looking surface.