AI made an art show about wolves that debuts in Steamboat this weekend
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Steamboat Springs resident Dagny McKinley wants to start a conversation, and her art show should bring two contentious topics to people’s attention — the reintroduction of wolves in Colorado and artwork generated by artificial intelligence — in what will be Steamboat’s first art exhibit created using AI. The exhibit will debut at First Friday Art Walk on Friday, March 3, at the Depot Art Center.
McKinley is very much up-to-speed with the two controversies her exhibit will illuminate and was front and center to one of the most historic moments in the ultramodern timeline of AI art.
Back in September, Pueblo resident Jason Allen won the blue ribbon at the Colorado State Fair’s contest for emerging digital artists, which made national headlines and sparked a vigorous debate once word got out that Allen used artificial intelligence to create the piece that won first prize.
“I’m not going to apologize for it,” Allen told the New York Times shortly after his win. “I won, and I didn’t break any rules.”
McKinley, a local writer, was on that panel of judges and didn’t know at the time that Allen’s winning piece was generated using AI. Nonetheless, she stands by her judgment.
“We wouldn’t have changed our opinion on it because I consider AI digital art and it was still the strongest piece in that exhibit,” McKinley said.
There are those in the art world who liken AI-generated art to plagiarism and fear that AI may devalue art as a whole, but McKinley sees AI as an exciting tool that removes barriers for those who have artistic visions inside of them but lack the skill to finely craft works of digital art.
She said her craft as a writer is similarly being expanded by artificial technology, and she doesn’t feel threatened by it.
“There are so many people I know that would love to write a book about their stories or their life, or have a story that they want to tell but they don’t know how to write it or they’re not good at writing,” McKinley said, adding that AI software still can’t replicate an artist’s brushstroke or a photographer’s instincts for framing and timing.
McKinley used the artificial intelligence software DALL-E to create the 34 pieces being featured at the exhibit. Each piece depicts wolves in the style of a different famous artist such as Rembrandt or Frida Kahlo and are meant to reflect the many perspectives of those stakeholders who are active in the wolf reintroduction debate.
Some of the pieces depict wolves as violent beasts, for example, while others show wolves as majestic cohabitants of the natural world.
“Let’s start to spark the conversation, but let’s have empathy for the different perspectives,” McKinley said. “You don’t have to agree with them, but let’s at least understand them a little bit better.”
The exhibit’s premiere will run from 5-8 p.m. Friday and remain on display until the end of the month. Food and beverages including complementary wine will be offered as well. McKinley’s pieces will be available to purchase in 8 inch by 8 inch prints for $75.
Also at the Depot Art Center, at 7 p.m. March 11 and at 10 a.m. March 12, the Empathy Theatre Project production is partnering with the Endangered Species Coalition to present “Wolf Reintroduction One Voice: Community Monologues,” which will feature four stories crafted from interviews by different perspectives surrounding the wolf reintroduction debate such as biologists and ranchers.
Then at 7 p.m. March 31 and April 1 at the Strings Pavilion, as part of the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra’s spring concert, “The Wonder of the Wild,” the orchestra will premiere “Wolf Songs,” composed by the symphony’s maestro Ernest Richardson featuring lyrics written by McKinley.
More First Friday Art Walk exhibits
In honor of National Women’s Month, the Jace Romick Gallery is hosting “Cowgirls and Cocktails,” an event embracing the Western spirit of Steamboat.
Local artist Brian Bonebrake will be painting live while The Neighbors provide music.
Visitors are welcome to dress up in Western wear while viewing new photos and art pieces by Romick, Bonebrake, Gregory Block, Chula Beauregard and Sandy Graves.
Pine Moon Fine Art is debuting a show called “Black, White and a Pop of Color,” featuring local artists Jennifer Baker, Missy Borden and Sandi Poltorak. The three women use different mediums and styles, but they blend in the show through a unified theme.
Down the street, the Schoonover Gallery will be featuring a new artist, Faye Crowe. Crowe is an architect and incorporates that knowledge into her work with pieces that capture the “natural electricity and comforting warmth of the American West,” according to the gallery.
Crowe is originally from Arizona, but is now based in Golden.
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