The tower at Seidel City. Courtesy photo

Seidel City: Boulder’s Unexpected Art Gallery

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It’s the kind of hidden gem you simultaneously want to tell everyone about but also tell no one about so it doesn’t change.

 

Along the highway that borders the foothills north of Boulder and at the end of a dusty, dirt road, you’ll find it—but only if you know. There’s no sign. No flashy lights. Just a few old warehouses and a tin shed circling a dirt parking lot.

 

Terry Seidel jokes that, from the outside, it kind of looks like a meth lab.

 

That’s far from the truth, although he does consider it a lab. An art lab. It’s Seidel City, Boulder’s most mysterious contemporary art gallery and alternative art space. It’s quite possibly also Boulder’s most exclusive.

 

That’s why Seidel isn’t concerned with fancying up the exterior and drawing huge crowds. He likes to keep it a bit of a secret. That’s the charm, he says.

 

And anyway, Seidel is much more concerned with what’s inside.

 

Seidel City (3205 Longhorn Road, gallery viewing by appointment only) still carries echoes of its historic roots as a former foundry, but it’s been stripped down, simplified and then punctuated with careful gallery lighting, so the art is the main voice.

 

These unsuspecting warehouses in northwest Boulder have displayed or still display an assortment of famous artists’ works and representations. Andy Warhol, for starters. “Ferocious” realist Robert Hawkins. Clark Richert, considered Colorado’s “most important” painter. Keith Haring, with his pop art legacy. Christopher Makos, photographer and visual artist, who worked with Man Ray and Warhol. Presley LaFountain, a Native American artist who helped pioneer the Boulder art scene, and Earl Biss, one of the most prominent American Indian artists who was also a pivotal influence in Boulder in the 1970s.

 

“Good thing I’m wearing these steel-toed boots with all this name-dropping,” Seidel says with a laugh, looking down at his feet. He stands in the first of four different art spaces, wearing casual clothes and a smile that’s as disarming as the exterior of this unusual place he has created.

 

Seidel is an artist, too—a sculptor. And while he very easily could fill these walls with his own work (like a large black shaman mask he carved out of Belgian marble tucked away in one of the galleries), he says he’d rather showcase other artists who have influenced, inspired and taught him.

 

“As much as I love carving, I enjoy meeting other artists and showing their work,” he says.

 

He also clearly enjoys surprising people. The unexpected, the unique. The mystery.

 

“The underground part is the best part,” he says. “It’s all spontaneous. It all happens in real time out here.”

 

That goes for the exhibitions, as well as special events; Seidel City also hosts live music, poetry and other performances in its tin shed with a stage. Who Seidel features (on the stage and in the galleries), when, how long and what is completely inspired. Often it’s a new connection through a connection that catches Seidel’s eye. No one artist stays on display too long to keep things evolving, although you can see pieces from dozens of past exhibits all displayed on one wall in the farthest warehouse.

 

One piece, however, remains permanent: a massive tower topped with a gold chair built outside the tin shed. The tower was inspired by a painting by Robert Hawkins, one of the first artists shown at Seidel City about eight years ago. He gave Seidel the painting and said, “Build this tower.” A month later, Seidel did.

 

Photo by Aimee Heckel

 

Other exhibits are much smaller, like a series of small photos by Mark Sink, co-founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, created via an old process called collodion wet plate photography.

 

Or another exhibit where visitors had to take off their shoes and wade through six inches of water to view the art.

 

Boulder artist Sherry Wiggins was featured in an April exhibit as part of the Month of Photography. Her work, a series about historical heroines, uses the body and photography in a tongue-in-cheek way, as she reenacts historical paintings of various heroines, inserting herself into the images. Her art featured in Seidel City was a look at various women from the Bible. But instead of the youthful Eve eating an apple near a serpent, it’s Wiggins herself, age 67, wearing a snakeskin dress and gloves eating a quince in Portugal. The photos were taken by photographer Luis Branco.

 

“I want to examine the different images of women throughout history. Why was Eve blamed for our exit from paradise?” Wiggins says. “I look at Eve as a heroine instead of a ‘bad girl.’”

 

Wiggins writes on her blog (sherrywigginsblog.com): “The story of the original temptation and the forbidden fruit baffles me. Why wouldn’t Eve want to know the difference between good and evil which the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge offers? And how did this idea of Eve as the original ‘dangerous woman’ get passed down through millennia?”

 

Photo by Aimee Heckel

 

And instead of the young, often sexualized versions of the female form expressed throughout history, Wiggins reimagines the archetypes in the form of a bare-breasted, older woman. She’s curious about portraying these well-known stories differently—and how switching out the age and appearance of the subject changes how you feel about the story.

 

You might not be able to display photos like these in a typical gallery or online, she says. But this isn’t an ordinary gallery.

 

In that, she says, Seidel City reminds her of how New York City used to be: these you-only-know-if-you-know collections of high-quality art.

 

Seidel agrees.

 

“You don’t have to go to LA or New York or Chicago to find high-caliber art,” he says. “You just have to go to the end of a dirt road in Boulder.”

 

Seidel City’s latest exhibit opens soon and features the works of painter Jason Appleton. Keep on eye on the gallery’s Instagram page and website for more details and to learn about upcoming exhibits and events.

 

 

 

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