Veterans Tell Their Stories by Photography in Relational Ground

Relational Ground – Personal Projects by Veterans showcases work by nine veterans who were students of the most recent Veterans Workshop Series at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center. The characterize marks the fifth year of the program, in which chosen participants attend free classes for five months under the mentorship of Frank Verney, Patti Hallock, Paul Weinrauch and CPAC director and curator Samantha Johnston.

Devon Wiggers was a student in the 2021 class and he is the youngest member by about two decades. After serving as an equipment officer in the Navy from 2013 to 2018, Wiggers enrolled at MSU Denver, where he is pursuing a BFA.

“I fell into taking some art classes and that clicked with me. I picked up a camera and the rest is history,” he jokes.

nevertheless a year out from graduating, Wiggers found the Veterans Workshop an highly useful experience. by one-on-one mentorships, group critiques and skill workshops, Wiggers developed the series A Natural Religion. The collection of six photographs explores humanity’s relationship with mushrooms and women’s prominence in the field of mycology, sometimes referred to as the “Queendom Fungi.” Wiggers produced three nevertheless life pieces and three portraits that draw from historic religious imagery and use his partner as his subject.

While most of the photographs were taken on his own time in his homemade studio space, the Veterans Workshop helped Wiggers hone his craft and theme. With a community of veterans who have an “moment rapport” because of shared experiences, Wiggers says he was promoted to “delve into the meat” of his original idea and shape it into a more thoughtful expression. “After Herself” is the capstone of his series, displaying his partner draped in white robes, holding flowers in one hand and appearing to levitate mushrooms in the other.

The eight other projects in Relational Ground vary dramatically in theme but all have the same thoroughness. Eating disorders and body dysmorphia, gentrification, water pollution, climate change, PTSD, the evolution of the Longhorn cowboy and the uphill battle of trying to conceive are brought to life by the veterans’ photos in the CPAC gallery space.

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The Veterans Workshop series culminates in a month long show at Colorado Photographic Arts Center.

Todd Fichtemaier

The other artists include Clifford Carter, Richard Caldwell, John Diani, Todd Fichtemaier, Amy Gamm, Maureen Hanrahan, YAh Kadesh and Mike Teubner.

The Veterans Workshop series has no artistic prerequisites. Some participants may have hardly touched a camera before, while others like Wiggers might be studying the art in other spaces. Wiggers says one of the most highly useful aspects of the workshop is how it fosters community with other veterans. He also touts its mentorship and being given access to gallery space for the show, which is a “really difficult thing to accomplish on your own,” he says.

Wiggers won’t be leaving photography behind any time soon. A Natural Religion may very well be expanded for his thesis project in the coming months as he returns to school. Wiggers also has found himself increasingly interested in different processes of photography, such as camera-less photography such as anthotypes and cyanotypes, which CPAC has themed numerous shows around in the past.

None of the veterans are ever done with the program: Each year CPAC invites past participants to join in special critiques of current student work. A Facebook group for alumni also helps keep the community strong well after the workshop has ended and the photographs have been taken from gallery walls.

Relational Ground – Personal Projects by Veterans is on view Friday, January 14 by February 12. Colorado Photographic Arts Center, 1070 Bannock Street. Opening reception: Saturday, January 15, 5 to 8pm. More information can be found on the Veterans Workshop website.

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