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Art Tourists returns to Denver

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Fall of 1995
Landing in the largest public art project in America

DENVER - Getting off a plane at Denver International Airport after a month's journey, I feel like artist-elves have been at work. There are fossils in the floors of Concourse A; big folded-paper airplanes hovering above riders ascending escalators from the trains underground to the main terminal. I'd visited the airport before it was open to look at art, and now as a traveler, I remember our art tour guide saying it was the largest public art project in America.

Above the train stops is the hub of each concourse with wings of gates extending to each side. In these hubs are big sculptures, busy sculptures that fit the mood of frantic travelers worried about missing their plane or connection, or nervous about wasting time waiting for a plane, or harried at having allowed too much time in order not to be frantic.

This last one, the over-early Art Tourist, can take a train ride to all three concourses and look at the hub sculptures:  a busy ode to transportation, a giant plastic-looking kind of Mayan ruin, and a naturalistic canopy of color. I'd looked at these in the empty airport  where they'd looked more like a stage design, but months later the Mayan ruin was starting to grow living green stuff and felt kind of homey to this returning Art Tourist.

I got on the train and am as giddy as a kid on my first air trip moving around to different places to look down its dark tunnel lit up by a series of whirly-gigs activated by the movement of the train. Walking out at our stop, I hear Colorado voices. 'Train arriving at Concours A,' says Raynelda Muse, a long-time Denver newscaster, and 'Doors closing,' says Pete Smythe, a voice that embodies cowboys and campfires and belonged to the state's Walter Cronkite of the '50s. Thanks to sound artist Jim Green, everyone gets a very Western 'Howdy' or a personal 'Welcome Home' just hearing these voices.

In the terminal, I have the opportunity to see the balustrade by Boulder's grand dame of ceramic sculpture, Betty Woodman. If you've seen one Woodman, well, you'll recognize these.

One of the most interesting pieces at the airport is on a hallway that separates the West and East Terminals. It's all about travel in the 50s, a photo montages with humor. This is not a hallway one would usually traverse, so finding it may take some Art-Tourist dedication. It's on the north side in the east wing.

'Excuse me, what's your favorite sculpture in the airport?,' I ask a fellow traveler while we're waiting for bags. 'I didn't know there were sculptures in the airport.'

The Family Art Tourists in Paris

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Fall of 1995
PARIS -- Here we are, Art Tourists in Paris, and the last thing we want to see are realistic paintings inside a museum after climbing up from the dank metro at the Louvre stop. It's Indian Summer even though Parisians would call it Summer of St. Martin, and the sky is only minimally covered by what I'd come to think of as Paris Gray. So we just stroll around the Louvre plaza and see the new I.M. Pei pyramid.

Across the courttyard is a flesh colored version of Rodin's The Thinker. Maybe a little thinner than the bronze version. This is my first visit to Paris and I'm with my husband and kids and a French woman we knew from our hometown and we're all staring at the sculpture. We're from Colorado, and so is an artist named John D'Andrea, who made life-like sculpture by making a mold of people, casting their form in plastic and then meticulously painting them to look realistic.

David.jpgThe Thinker stands up and then strikes the pose of Michaelango's David and we realize it's actually a man. Then, he became a Duane Hansen sculpture covered by a trench coat as police hauled him off for indecent exposure. Our Parisian guide and friend is embarrassed. She feels bad that the city has made a bad impression on our kids. But she's wrong.

Back in school, when asked, 'what was your favorite part of the trip to Europe?' my nine-year-old daughter says, 'The Naked Man at the Louvre.'

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