Juneteenth art exhibits run the gamut in Colorado this year

Leonard Anderson’s “passion for fashion” is evident in his photography. The Denver-based artist specializes in professional shots and editorial fashion shoots like the one he did for an exhibit at the Cottonwood Arts Center in Colorado Springs that features 13 artists of color.

One of her pieces, ‘Cassandra-Pretty In a Pink Parachute’, points the lens at a model wearing a flowing hot pink garment that runs the length of the image – a custom piece that ‘Anderson said he did it himself. Another, “Afropunk Queens,” depicts three models posing on a rock in the Denver Botanical Gardens. The photo required Anderson to get down on the ground to get the right angle, he said, resulting in a “kind of 3D effect” that’s accentuated by the lake above which the models were standing. The three photos Anderson submitted feature color patterns he said he wanted to highlight.

The show, titled “Cottonwood Juneteenth Afro-Caribbean Celebration,” is open through June 25 and honors the Juneteenth holiday, June 19, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and honors black culture.

Juneteenth is a US federal holiday for the first time this year, and a number of Colorado organizations, like Cottonwood, mark it by celebrating black art, music and culture.

“Cassandra-Pretty In a Pink Parachute” featuring model Cassandra Hobson and photographed by Denver-based artist Leonard Anderson, is on display at the Cottonwood Center for the Arts’ Juneteenth exhibit through June 25.

Anderson, 51, is one of the more established artists with works on display at Cottonwood; he has been photographing for decades.

Artists were deliberately not given any sort of theme or guidelines for their submissions, so the range of works and topics explored in the gallery is vast, said Jess Preble, Cottonwood’s curatorial director. Some artists have explored heavy messages in their art involving slavery and current social issues, some have taken a more abstract or lighthearted approach. The youngest artists on display, Eva, 2, and her sister, Flourish, 4, painted a picture of their cat.

This will be the second Juneteenth exhibition that the Cottonwood Center for the Arts has organized. Preble said many artists from the center’s first gallery last year have returned this year, including Anderson. Preble said the gallery this year showcases “pretty much anything you can imagine” in various artistic mediums, ranging from traditional oil paintings to mixed-media assemblages.

“Afropunk Queens,” featuring models Ari Collins, Regina Anne Grace and Midori Horton, and shot by Denver-based photographer Leonard Anderson, is on display at the Cottonwood Center for the Arts’ Juneteenth exhibit through June 25.

The Denver Art Museum is also highlighting the work of artists of color this Juneteenth, and its booth at the Juneteenth Music Festival this weekend will feature black artists who have recently collaborated with the museum, including current artist in residence, Kerrie Joy.

The museum will also host an evening with local artists on June 17, titled “Untitled: Creative Fusions” which will celebrate Juneteenth and Black Pride with spoken word and poetry, DJs, drag performances and video screenings.

University of Colorado Denver students can also attend the university’s Juneteenth Denver Art Walk on the morning of June 19 to view murals and street art on display by local artists.

As for the Cottonwood facility, which the center plans to hold every year going forward, executive director Jon Khoury said its significance extends far beyond June 19.

“It’s not just about Cottonwood, it’s about all of that – inclusion on a fundamentally unlimited level because we want a unique expression to live here,” he said.

William E. Bennett