New works by Floyd Tunson inaugurate Ent Center for the Arts gallery

By: Jen Mulson February 1, 2018

Fragment Three of Floyd Tunson’s new piece “Untitled 147.” The 12-panel painting will cover one wall of the Marie Walsh Sharpe Gallery of Contemporary Art at the Ent Center for the Arts. “Floyd D. Tunson: Janus” will open Thursday. Courtesy.

The inaugural exhibit in the Marie Walsh Sharpe Gallery of Contemporary Art at the new Ent Center for the Arts is a doozy.

“Floyd D. Tunson: Janus” will feature eight to 12 new pieces by the significant and influential Manitou Springs artist whose political and social works are internationally recognized. It’s his first major exhibit since the 2012 retrospective “Floyd D. Tunson: Son of Pop” at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College.

The show opens Thursday with a free reception and runs through April 15. Tunson and gallery curator Daisy McGowan will hold a free conversation Friday.

“Floyd was a perfect fit to inaugurate the space because of his deep roots and significance in the region and because he has been creating fearlessly every day,” said McGowan. “He’s not slowed his output. Since he retired from teaching in 2000, that’s increased. He’s always been at this point in his career of taking a lot of risks with his work.”

Viewers familiar with the artist’s oeuvre will recognize his line work, color palette, boldness of strokes and experimentation with materials. This time, though, he’s pushed himself on a technical scale by creating a large work called “Untitled 147.” The 42-foot-wide piece contains 12 panels and stands 10 feet tall. It will span one wall of the gallery.

In his artist statement, he declares himself a Janus, the Roman god of doorways, portals and new transitions.

“That was appropriate for the new space – this portal onto a new era for GOCA – and to do that with an artist who’s so significant to the region, and for us to take a risk of putting new work in there,” McGowan said.

The installation will include Tunson’s 1991 exhibit “Haitian Dream Boats.” Tunson groupies might remember the delicate wooden boat frames hanging from the ceiling along the corridor of the CCFAC. They’ll now hang in the public area of the Ent Center. The work was the artist’s response to the dictatorial regimes in Haiti during the late 1980s.

“It’s wonderful for highlighting the architecture of the space,” McGowan said. “If you look at them from the second level, you can almost imagine yourself in the boats riding the waves. They have such a buoyancy to them.”

Denver-born Tunson spent three decades teaching art at Palmer High School, all the while working on his stuff in the wee hours of the night. As the seventh of 10 kids, he watched his older brother paint and draw for hours and knew that he, too, would make art his life’s work.

“When the smoke clears, maybe I just do the work,” he said in a 2012 story in The Gazette. “I’m compelled to do it. It’s my sanctuary, my love, my heart.”