McGaugh follows creative process from start to finish for documentary that airs Feb. 9 on PBS
By Chris Casey | University Communications
DENVER — Law and art may not seem like the most natural of pairings, but a new film allows viewers to peer into the creative process that produced stunning adornments for the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center.
Jessica McGaugh, an instructor of film and television programming in the College of Arts & Media, spent about 18 months training her camera on the artists selected to create public installations for the new Colorado Judicial Center at 2 W. 14th Ave. in Denver. “Imagining the Law” will air on Rocky Mountain PBS at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9.
“One of the things about public art is the artist really designs the art around the features of the building,” McGaugh said.
She has developed a niche of filming artists who craft pieces for public spaces. McGaugh turned her lens on Donald Lipski, the artist who created the piece “Psyche” on the Auraria Campus as well as an installation for the Sacramento Airport.
Her latest documentary follows the work of nine artists, five of them local, who melded their imaginations with the spaces in the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center, which takes up a block just southeast of Civic Center Park. For a preview of the fim click here.
“You’ll see the painting, the welding, just everything that went into putting the art all together,” McGaugh said. “I followed them through the fabrication of the piece and the install at the Judicial Center building.”
Anne Shutan crafted wood pieces in the center’s library — wooden waterfalls on back wall panels, “Peaceful Resolution,” and the doors, “Justice Doors.” Throughout her methodical creation of the pieces in her Boulder studio, Shutan thought about her late father, who was a lawyer.
“The artists were all inspired by that theme for sure,” McGaugh said. “Justice, law, human rights, the environment — they all came into play for inspiration.”
The pieces include Madeline Wiener’s marble sculpture of human figures — a pair of Justices talking to children — on the outdoor steps of the Judicial Center, and a chandelier that spirals down a four-story staircase. On the latter installation, artist Thomas Sayre included mosaic of the state of Colorado at the bottom of the staircase. “They gave him a hallway and a staircase, so his piece is long and narrow,” McGaugh said. “The design is really determined by the space, the building. That’s what really makes public art different than gallery art.”
The other artists featured are Gary Alsum, Amy Baur, Ken Bernstein, David Griggs, Walter Riesen and Wowhaus. The documentary was sponsored by Colorado Creative Industries, a division of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade. McGaugh is hopeful the film will be picked up by other PBS stations around the nation.
She collaborated with film partner Roma Sur on a documentary a couple years ago, “The Golden Hour,” about the problem of road accident fatalities in India. “The Golden Hour” won a best documentary award at the Indian Film Festival of Houston and has upcoming screenings at the Mumbai International Film Festival and the Golden Door Festival of Jersey City.
McGaugh is also working on a character-study film that examines what it’s like to be a CAM student as well as a creative person in Colorado. The project, which explores the connection between CU Denver arts students and the vibrant culture on their doorstep — including the Denver Performing Arts Center, local arts museums and the music scene — will air on Rocky Mountain PBS next fall.
“It’s a very Colorado-centric and very CU Denver-centric piece,” McGaugh said.
(Photo: Boulder artist Anne Shutan cuts wood for one of her installations in the library of the Colorado Judicial Center.)