Artists with Wyo Roots Make Their Mark on Denver’s Meow Wolf
Lucero, Molina is part of the team that created the âIndigenous Futurist Dreamscapes Loungeâ in Meow Wolf’s new location in Denver.
Michael shay, WyoFile
The Wyoming origin story for the installation âIndigenous Futurist Dreamscapes Loungeâ at the new Meow Wolf Denver is as fantastic as the work itself.
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Stevon Lucero grew up in Laramie in the 60s and 70s. He is a long haired man, he considers himself a hippie. At night, he and his friends party at the Ames monument. To protect themselves from the constant wind, they sneak into the pyramid and hang out in its interior passage.
In 1975, fueled by his trips to the pyramid, Lucero dreamed of a lucid dream dazzling in its details.
Four figures are seated facing the walls of the pyramid monument. A green orb appears, and it has tentacles that plug into the characters’ navels. They turn green, the monument turns green. Now they are outside the monument. It is starting to glow green like the whole country. Everyone who is touched by the light begins to meditate. America is going green and so is the planet. Lucero the dreamer is on the moon watching this. The Earth opens up like an egg revealing a radiant androgenic being that extends its arms, becomes an infinite form, and soars into space like a comet.
âThe dream stuck with me,â Lucero said. âI always wanted to paint this. But where?”
Enter Adrian Molina (aka Molina Speaks), native of Rawlins. Denver-based oral creation artist and musician, Molina met Lucero and saw his works at the 2019 âUntitledâ exhibition at the Denver Art Museum.
Molina knew who to talk to when he had the opportunity to design one of Denver’s exhibition spaces. He knew Meow Wolf Santa Fe, billed as an “explorable art experience for people of all ages, with over 70 immersive art rooms.”
âAll I could see in my mind was Stevon’s art,â he said. “I wanted to combine the visual art of this older artist with the music and videography of the new school.”
Molina brought Lucero to the proposed space in the four-story Denver structure still under construction. He told Lucero his vision was to create a dream.
âSo I saw him,â Lucero said. “I left and, within an hour, I had it all sketched out.”
The two artists spent “weeks and weeks, from sunrise to sunset,” said Molina, in their “Indigenous Futurist Dreamscapes Lounge,” one of 79 installations created by more than 300 artists, one-third of whom Colorado. Lucero painted the dreamscapes and Molina recorded the soundscapes and videos. It was ready to be experienced by the curious crowds that flocked to the much-anticipated opening of the downtown Denver site on September 17.
âThe feedback has been positive,â said Lucero, 71. âI am a Symbolist and this piece has a lot of content. Visitors come in, sit down and say “Wow”.
“I think somehow my space shows the whole idea of ââthe Convergence Station.” This is the theme of Meow Wolf Denver’s permanent installation: “the convergence of four different dimensions.”
Meow Wolf began in 2008 in Santa Fe, NM, as an artist collective. In 2016, he opened a 20,000 square foot immersive installation featuring surreal landscapes and secret passages, which quickly exploded in popularity. This is its third permanent outpost after that of Santa Fe and another in Las Vegas.
The “convergence” of these two artists speaks volumes about the growth of the Latino artistic community.
Since moving his young family to Denver in 1976, Lucero’s work has been featured in unique artist exhibitions across the United States. He has lectured on crafts at Harvard and Columbia universities. In 1996, the Museo de las Americas presented 54 of Lucero’s paintings. In 1992, he painted the “Tlateco Market” diorama for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science exhibit, “Aztec: The World of Montezuma”. In 2010, he returned to his hometown of Laramie to paint the KOCA La Radio Montanesa mural at Lincoln Community Center.
He helped found the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, which transformed Santa Fe Drive, a neglected thoroughfare on the western outskirts of downtown Denver, into an official Colorado Creative District. It will be busy this fall as part of âDenver Visual Artists & Their Legacy,â an exhibition that opened on October 3 at the CHAC Gallery.
It hasn’t always been that way. When he first shopped at his job, trying to make a living to support his family, “A Chicano couldn’t have shows,” he said. “Hey, you’re supposed to be a gardener or a janitor and not an artist.”
Lucero’s colorful styles, which he calls metaphysical fantastic realism (metarealism) and neo-Colombian or Aztec art, blend the symbols of his Mexican heritage and his trippy visions. He plays with the image of Quetzalcoatl, the Mayan calendar and ancient symbology. He was friends with Tony Schearer, a New Age author of Lakota origin who was the architect of the Harmonic Convergence held at Telluride in August 1987. Lucero may have been a hippie in 1970s Laramie, but he now looks like the Chicano elder that he is. He hasn’t lived in Laramie for 45 years, yet there are influences he carries with him. He always wears the same outfit, whether he’s lecturing at Harvard or painting a mural: blue work shirt and blue jeans. He was once stopped from going into a classy black tie affair in his usual attire. âI am the artist,â he remembers saying. They let him in.
âSome people say, ‘Hey, you dress like a cowboy.’ No, these are the guys who tormented me in high school. Growing up Chicano in Laramie was awful.
Molina Speaks videos are available on YouTube. In one video, he sits on a pile of weeds and broken concrete. Behind him, the Denver Light Rail trains roar past. In the distance are the Rocky Mountains. Molina is dressed in black, her hat pulled down over her forehead. Turn this light rail train into Union Pacific freight, and you can imagine him as a restless young creative sitting by the tracks in Rawlins.
Molina speaks: “My salvation speak no English. Because progress has robbed us of a piece of history. Mi hijo, my people, if someone does not break this cycle, soon there will be no trace of us left.
In another episode of “Bronze Future”, his eight-part autobiographical lyric series, he discusses his origins. He tells how his family came to America from Chihuahua, Mexico, his abuelo a bracelet who heard Cesar Chavez speak in the fields, his abuela a curandera a healer, how his family moved north “to come to the land of slavery” and eventually came to “Rawlins, Wyoming, still grappling with the racist history of the border”.
Molina was the only Latino student in his junior high school, he said.
âI grew up in South Rawlins and am proud of my roots,â he said. âI love the great blue sky of Wyoming. I watched the cloud a lot when I was a student at UW, in Laramie Parks, and hiking in Vedauwoo. Denver was my destiny, but I wouldn’t be me without those Wyoming roots. This mix of urban and rural experiences gave me a wide canvas to explore the human condition.
Molina describes himself as âan artist, performer, emcee and human bridgeâ on her website. He often returns to Cheyenne, where he is a mentor for the Wyoming Arts Council’s Poetry Out Loud project, and to Laramie, to teach at UW.
He is still the educator too. He was Creative Director of Youth on Record when it founded its Youth Media Studio, which serves over 1,000 students each year. He was a winner of the Lalo Delgado Poetry Festival, named after the Denver poet who mentored generations of downtown youth. Molina was named Westword Magazine Mastermind in 2017 for her creative contributions to the city of Denver.
Visitors can book tickets to Meow Wolf Denver at https://meowwolf.com/visit/denver.
Inside, the âIndigenous Futures Dreamscapes Loungeâ illustrates how the Wyoming experience can be channeled in new ways by two of its expatriate artists.
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