Opening up to sustainable art

Bold Doors repurposes refuse to make high-end art

\"Secret Koi Pond\" by Jennifer Mosquera
Elizabeth Miller | Boulder Weekly

What began as an initiative to help the Center for ReSource Conservation clear out its inventory has blossomed into a community-building collaboration of artists and is drawing visitors into surprising corners of Boulder. The Bold Doors tour reinvented about 100 doors as artwork that is now on display in shops around town and part of a silent auction. The event finishes on Saturday, Aug. 4, with a Door Jam celebration that will bring the doors and artists out for final bids and continue the conversations Bold Doors sparked when the initiative began a year ago.

The mission of Bold Doors was threefold: making use of some of the building supplies at the Center for ReSource Conservation that might otherwise find their way to landfills, generating some financial support for professional artists and boosting the creative community so it draws more creative industry professionals.

Bold Doors put out the call for artists to take a door — any kind of door, from a cabinet, a car or the front of a home — and create artwork out of it in a contest to win cash prizes. Some of the more than 100 doors on display as part of Bold Doors could still function as doors. Some could be confused with any other painting. Two have been turned into art deco-influenced end tables.

The pieces are now on display at 65 locations around Boulder in a route that meanders from the west end of Pearl Street to the Twenty Ninth Street mall (with an ulterior motive here of showing those who do decide to walk the stretch how easy a distance it is to cover on foot).

The impetuses that would shape Bold Doors began last year at a gathering of about 20 leaders in Boulder’s art community, including Open Arts, the Dairy Center for the Arts and the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, who were asked what could be done to promote sustainable art. But there was also a push for boosting Boulder’s image as a city driven to sustainable options in all endeavors.

“If you walk around and see public art, or art that’s on display around the city — if you were to drop from Mars and say ‘OK, what does this city care about?’ I don’t think sustainability would quite capture peoples’ attention,” says Elzbieta (Elizabeth) Nolan, who co-created Bold Doors with Linda Olsson.

“Overwhelmingly, people felt that it would be fantastic to start perhaps a multi-year initiative that would show just how committed Boulder as a community is to making art sustainable, meaning not wasting materials, finding creative ways to reuse, but in a way that is really sustainable,” Nolan says. “I think we felt that, in general, culture has moved [away] from cute projects with garbage bags or whatever that entertain for a while but still end up at the landfill. So we felt it’s really about beautiful fine art, it’s about pieces that people want to treasure for years to come, and this is the second life of the doors, or any other material, for that matter.”

The message of sustainability reverberates through much of the artwork, and carries beyond the use of that one door.

In some, like Joan Wolbier’s “Closing the door … Forever,” the message is readily apparent: The four-paneled folding door shows silhouettes of passenger pigeons, a once-abundant North American species that is now extinct. Wolbier painted a single portrait of Martha, the last known of the species, with a note identifying her and her death in a Cincinnati Zoo on Sept. 1, 1914.

Some are made using other reused materials, like the glass bottles in Beth Van De Water’s “River,” which shows circles of glass embedded in the windowpanes of a door, or in Al Mowrer and Chad Blecha’s “The Still,” which reused all manner of materials to create a birdhouse on the front of a door and a re-cycling water fountain. “The Still” won first place, a $1,000 prize, in the juried professional artists contest.

In Jennifer Mosquera’s “The Secret Koi Pond,” in contrast, recycled glass all but vanishes in an ornate creation of glittering, reused glass pieces, some of which were unusable shards she melted down in a glass kiln. That the canvas was ever a door can be spotted only in its wood framing and the leftover brass latch. Mosquera is more often a painter, and began working with repurposed materials as a way of using up leftover supplies for making stained glass. But her first piece with a window from a Victorian house came out so well that she decided to try it again. Neighbors gave her a door leftover after a remodeling project, and she’d already started the 100 hours of work she put into “The Secret Koi Pond” when she saw the advertisement for the Bold Doors contest — a serendipitous encounter, she says. Her entry won second place in the professional category.

“If you take a moment to think about how much we waste and how much beautiful artwork was created out of this, it’s kind of staggering,” Mosquera says of Bold Doors. Artists are often creative with what’s around them, she adds. “In some ways, I think it’s our job to share that with other people. … In some ways it makes us teachers or examples of what is possible. So that is something that’s kind of motivating or inspiring to me when I see other people’s work. I think the whole contest is a sampler plate of that.”

Door Jam Celebration
4-7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 4
Twenty Ninth Street Mall Community Room
1685 29th St., Boulder. $5 admission at the door (includes one drink ticket and free appetizers)