CAM Invites You to Step “Through the Looking Glass” in Newest Next Stage Gallery Exhibit
In its first exhibit since the onset of COVID-19, the Next Stage Gallery invites visitors to step "Through the Looking Glass" into a wonderland-like display of multimedia art.Megan Briggs | College of Arts & Media Sep 28, 2021
When “Through the Looking Glass” opens at the Next Stage Gallery on October 5th, visitors will encounter a collection of curious pieces inviting them to look at the world a little differently. Like Alice exploring the quizzical reality she encounters after stepping through the looking glass and into wonderland, the goal, according to artist Chris Bagley, is for visitors to have a transformative experience that leaves them with more questions than answers.
“I think the questions are much more interesting than the answers ever are,” Bagley says as he sits in front of over-sized pink, yellow, and green mushrooms hanging from the ceiling of the gallery like stalactites.
Global Pandemic Waylays Original Project
One practical question has hung over this exhibit for quite some time now: Whether or not the public would be able to enjoy it. “Through the Looking Glass” originally started as a project undertaken by students in visual arts Professor Melissa Furness’ Concepts in Painting and Drawing spring 2020 course at the University of Colorado Denver’s College of Arts & Media. “The students worked in small groups, creating unique immersive spaces for the viewer to walk through and experience in transitional ways as a suggested narrative of mirrors and reflections, fragments and refractions of reality,” Furness explains.
As it did several things, the pandemic waylaid the project, leaving the works of art in limbo as the students weren’t able to meet. In the fall, students in Furness’ Interdisciplinary Studio class attempted to wrap up the project. Furness explains these students had the labor-intensive task of moving the pieces into the Next Stage Gallery while also moving walls (literally) and other things out of the way so the space could be transformed into a “truly immersive and walkable space.” Despite their effort, this group also ran into unforeseen difficulties brought on by the pandemic and were unable to complete the exhibit. “The installation has become a true reflection of the complexities of the time that we have and are living through,” Furness reasons.
Bagley, who contributed to Meow Wolf’s Denver location, took the project on in June 2021, tasked with finishing pieces that were not able to be completed by the original artists and adding his own, original creations to bring a sense of cohesion to the collection. He finds it a uniquely sensitive challenge to finish another artist’s work, something he has not done before. It’s a process he compares to reading tea leaves as he tries to divine where the artist was attempting to go with the unfinished piece.
Interactive, Accessible Art on Display
Despite the challenging circumstances that have surrounded this project, Bagley is looking forward to the exhibit opening at the Next Stage Gallery in conjunction with the re-opening of the Denver Performing Arts Complex (DPAC) after an agonizing 18 months of uncertainties and outdoor-only events. The exhibit, like all the exhibits at Next Stage, is free to the public. Bagley, whose original work accounts for roughly half of the exhibit, recently completed a year-long artist-in-residency with Redline and appreciates the juxtaposition of Next Stage with the various auditoriums and theaters in DPAC, which typically require a ticket for entrance. In this way, Bagley feels the gallery, located within the DPAC on 1400 Curtis St. across from the Buell Theater, and with its entrance accessible to foot traffic coming from Speer Blvd., is a conduit for people who might not typically darken the door of a more elitist-looking venue.
Whether visitors are seasoned gallery-goers or not, Bagley hopes the pieces cause them to slow down and take a second look at what they are seeing, hearing, and feeling in the multimedia exhibit. And while the soft opening is scheduled for Oct. 5th, visitors on October 21st can experience the exhibit’s Halloween-themed opening celebration. Bagley has hidden easter eggs throughout the gallery and plans on making adjustments throughout the exhibit’s run (closing date is January 2, 2022) so that a recurring visitor may be surprised by what they see their second or third time around.
One of the hallmarks of Bagley’s work is creating pieces that visitors are a part of, literally. A feature of “Through the Looking Glass” is a contraption Bagley designed that captures visitors’ likenesses in real time and projects them in a spinning kaleidoscope on the wall of the gallery. If that seems hard to wrap your mind around, you, like Alice, will simply have to step through the looking glass to experience it for yourself.
Through the Looking Glass Details
Exhibit dates: October 5, 2021-January 2, 2022
October 5, 2021 – Soft open
October 21, 2021 – Halloween-themed opening celebration
January 2, 2022 - Closing date
Gallery location: Located inside the Denver Performing Arts Complex on 1400 Curtis St across from the Buell Theater
Exhibit web page: https://www.nextstagecu.org/current-exhibition
Gallery open days/times (prior to October 21st)
Tues/Wed/Thurs 10:00am – 4:00pm
Friday-Sunday 10:00am - 2:00pm
Or by appointment
Gallery open days/times (starting October 21)
Saturday/Sunday 12:00pm – 5:00pm
Thursday/Friday 4:00pm – 7:00pm
(The gallery will also be open in the evenings following the schedule of Denver Arts & Venues beginning October 21st or by appointment.)