Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

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Over the last few years something has been brewing in Fort Collins. Multitudes of musical acts have been surfacing, not only in Northern Colorado, but in the consciousness of Denverites. All but single-handedly stirring that same pot for the visual arts scene has been Summit Studios' Gallery Underground and, more particularly, Darren Mahuron.

Hosting some of the regionís most provocative artists while producing some of the most intriguing art photography anywhere in Colorado, Mahuron has managed to create an explicit sense of community in the quiet college town. And while one would believe that artists and musicians should be present around a state university, it is the Gallery Underground and Summit Studios which have managed to pool all critical talent together in one place, as one larger voice.

A Florida transplant, Mahuron moved to Fort Collins in 2005 and created Summit Studios, based on his newfound passion and developed skill sets in photography. In 2006, Summit Studios began to find its voice, led by Mahuronís deliciously surreal concepts and images. Shortly thereafter Mahuronís grand vision, Gallery Underground, found a space in Old Towne Fort Collins and began curating the galleryís first shows.

Carefully constructed by pulling influence from galleries in larger cities around the country, Gallery Underground instigated a strong sense of artist community in and around Fort Collins. However, Mahuronís vision wasnít static, and the initial inception of the gallery wouldnít be the final look. Originally when the artists and the gallery had a 60/40 split on sales, Mahuron found it difficult to sustain the venture. With continued support from artists around town, Mahuron shifted the model, renting out gallery space for artists to use as a studio and show space. Since then, Gallery Underground has managed to blossom into a larger picture, and an even bigger community.

Underground culture will always beneath the streets of every city. Yet, for Mahuron, the impetus to educate others on the work being produced all around them - all while fostering the community that is producing the work - began to fill in Gallery Undergroundís much larger canvas.

Since he was a child, Darren Mahuron has produced art work. He was that kid in the back of the class always drawing, always creating. Eventually, it was the video camera that captured his attention; as a result, he ventured into television and film production in college. Yet, Mahuronís need to create was not sated. He played bass in bands and subsequently dabbled in photography, a medium that didnít initially hold his attention. Merely capturing the life around him wasnít enough Ė Mahuron wanted to embellish it. Paint it. Twist it. Make a statement.

And then came technology. The computer. Photoshop. The ability to paint with photography. The light that illuminated Mahuronís imagination.

If there is one simple, concrete lesson to the fable of Darren Mahuron, it is that life is about movement. Progress. Creating as you go. And, more importantly, learning as you go.

Mahuron taught himself how to use a camera. He taught himself how to use Photoshop and manipulate the images he was shooting with his camera. Likewise, Mahuron had never owned a business. He didnít know how to open one, run one, or create a community around his vision. But, up and down his colorful spectrum of light, Mahuron has managed multitudes of successes: He is now an inventive photographer, gallery owner, educator and facilitator of his community. In all, a grand success story.

For while Mahuronís art photography served as the basis for his incipient vision, and it remains a large part of his work to this day. He has also employed his practical wits and used his skills as a commercial photographer in an effort to support his family. Still, Mahuronís larger vision is always at the fore of his work. Even apart from his photography and the gallery, he also educates young artists; however, Mahuron provides more than basic technical know-how. Rather, he spends his time in seminars and classrooms empowering, advocating and inspiring people to dispel the notion that the pursuit of art is impractical. I say, look at Mahuron and what he has accomplished. That alone will illustrate the fact that one can and should pursue art, and possibly even create a professional life with an astounding body of work.

Mahuron conceptualizes his work with painstaking diligence. He outlines what he wants to accomplish in drawings and in words. Always aiming at a larger meaning, the broader picture, Mahuron spends a copious amount of time altering the background of every image he sees in his head. As a youth raised in the South, Mahuron found his voice in his discontents Ė in the politics and sense of religion that he saw all around him. Consequently, he originally feared backlash in the reception of his work. But, running analogous to Gallery Underground, his expertise in his photography has evolved, as have his interests. After working his inner restlessness out in his initial pieces, Mahuron has moved-on. Now it is Greek mythology, those stories and concepts he once skipped over in high school, in favor of his pencil and a blank notebook page.

Mahuronís work is surreal, rich in texture, and big on narrative. From the annals of the old western novels, full of preachers, old time religion and pistols, Mahuronís work has evolved to capture even broader themes, and a more contemporary look all while harkening back to that old, dirty, greasy western world that speaks of Fort Collins and the great, wide open west.

Again: If there is one simple, concrete lesson to the fable of Darren Mahuron, it is that life is about movement. Progress. Creating as you go. And more importantly, learning as you go.

So, stay in-touch with Mahuron, Summit Studios and Fort Collinsí Gallery Underground Ė for something is sure to change in the coming year: