teens pose with Jaime Molina in Past the Tangled Present

Teens Collaborate with Jaime Molina at the Denver Art Museum

It was really fun for me to try something new, and it was really cool because it would be in the art museum, and I think that was really big for me.

Shaleeyah, age 14

Making Space for Discovery

When Jaime Molina first designed Past the Tangled Present, his immersive installation at the DAM, he envisioned a project that would make space for discovery.

“Every day you get caught up with work and family and just life, so when you discover something, when you’re walking down the street and you see something that catches your eye, you need to be present and stop and take the time to explore it," he said. "This space is almost like taking the time to peer around the corner and discover this whole little imaginary world.”

In May and July, Molina decided to expand his imaginary world through a collaborative project with Denver youth. Over a series of workshops, participants from Denver Public Library’s Montbello Branch ideaLab and the William E. Cope and Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Clubs created their own pieces to contribute to the world of Past the Tangled Present.

“I didn’t expect people to add to it, that kind of came about after,” he said. “Now walking in and seeing all the leaves and all the color, and that whole space activated, it made me realize how much better it looks like this…."

Everybody’s pieces turned out great, and I think everybody’s voice got to come out, and everybody’s proud to have all of it on the wall.

Jaime Molina
teens and Jaime Molina in Past the Tangled Present

On View Through September 9

Walking through the space now, visitors can spot over 30 artworks created by youth ages 12–18. Each young artist worked with Molina to create their own project—something inspired by the installation, but also expressing each artist’s own style. Every piece of artwork is unique—from the painted leaves, to an owl perched on a cactus, to a floating rocking chair hiding among the stars.

The youth art pieces will be on view as part of Past the Tangled Present through September 9. This exhibition is included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and younger.

I think to be able to say as a teenager that you’ve had your artwork in the Denver Art Museum is a pretty incredible feat. To be able to give our young people that experience is priceless.

Sarah Krieger, Art Director at the Cope Boys and Girls Club

What Inspired the Collaborating Artists?

Check out the quotes below to hear from some of the other artists about their projects, the workshops, and what it’s like to be a part of Past the Tangled Present:

Shaleeyah, age 14: “My leaf at first was inspired by henna, because I like doing hennas and I like small patterns. So when I saw the leaf and I saw how [Jaime’s] style was, I thought ‘oh, I can kind of incorporate that’…It really means me trying something new and going with the flow, and not being a perfectionist (as I am). It was really fun to do because it challenged me…it was really something cool for me to focus on and devote enough time to. It was really fun for me to try something new, and it was really cool because it would be in the art museum, and I think that was really big for me.”

Journey, age 12: “What I wanted to do is show that I’m not someone who likes to blend in. So what I did is darker colors as a background and an ombre effect as the base color. I chose to do the bright pink over the kind of maroon-ish color and the dark blue to show that I like to stand out rather than blend in.”

Atyana, age 13: “I did the design for my leaf based off the characters that I draw, because they all sort of have different dye styles because they all have differently dyed hair. The dye styles kind of represent something…it sort of represents their personality, which is all, to be honest, my personality.”

two leaves painted by teens in workshops with Jaime Molina

Mari, age 15: “Jaime said to paint something that represents you—I painted my city.”

Camira, age 12: “My painting is about – so the middle part is an elephant and then the sides are blue palm trees. The elephant represents my African heritage on my dad’s side and the palm trees represent my mom’s heritage from Dominican Republic on her side. The dots that are around the elephant and palm trees represent the thoughts I have and dreams I have about my heritage. It was really frustrating because it took me a long time, but it was also an amazing experience to work with Jaime because he’s really fun and chill. And it was fun showing a part of me in one of his sculptures – I feel like that’s an honor because most people don’t get to do that.”

Tamia, age 14: “I just wanted to do something different, and I wanted to make a texture…mine doesn’t have a meaning, but I just like expressing myself.”

Foune, age 16: “Honestly, my leaf really represents just how I feel in the moment. I just felt like we needed some sun, and some rain, and a moon, and that’s what I put down.”

Ashlynn, age 12: “I did kind of an eye, because I thought that would be cool with the flower inside it because I love flowers…I liked doing the background color because I had to mix a lot of colors to make it, and I think it’s a really pretty color…I feel like the flower represents how many different things could be in the world, everything that could be different, with all the petals.”

Tamia, age 14: “I just wanted to do something different, and I wanted to make a texture…mine doesn’t have a meaning, but I just like expressing myself.”

Victoria, age 13: “I called [my leaf] a beach theme, because when I went to Cali I really liked the beach and whatnot!”

Journie, age 13: “The meaning of it is…there’s some colors to represent a rainbow, because in my life there’s a lot of people who didn’t accept anything, and they were saying you can’t do this, you can’t be that, and I think that a rainbow stands for pride and acceptance, and I feel like everyone should be accepted for what they do and what they are. The heart represents my family crest because nothing means more to me than them. The rising sun represents the opportunities of a new day, because even if it feels like your world is ending, the sun will rise again in the morning. The constellations represent the endless possibilities of anything, and the Gemini sign represents me as a whole, because I was born as a Gemini and it has been a part of my life since I can remember…I’m really glad we got to do this.”

Jada, age 12: “My piece doesn’t have a meaning to it, but I just did whatever was in my heart.”

Erin Cousins is a program assistant for studio and artist programs in the department of learning and engagement at the Denver Art Museum. One of her favorite exhibitions that has been on view here is Joan Miró: Instinct & Imagination.

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