Tales from the Tread: ‘Human Imprint’ on display

Candice Bannister/For Steamboat Pilot & Today

If you go

What: "Human Imprint" exhibit

When: Opens for First Friday Artwalk on Aug. 3 from 5 to 8 p.m., then 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Friday, Aug. 3 through Sept. 1

Where: Depot Art Center, 1001 13th St.  

What: “Human Imprint: Exploring the History, Artifacts and Role of Women at Historic Mining Sites in Colorado.” with Sarah Gjertson

When: 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3

Where: Depot Art Center, 1001 13th St.

After several years of recreational backcountry camping trips, artist and art professor Sarah Gjertson became increasingly enamored of the remains of Colorado’s early mining settlements she encountered on the trips. The decaying handcrafted wooden structures implored her to want to know more about the people who built them and who had worn the shoes of the soles that also remained on the ground in front of her.

This initial curiosity would evolve over the next several years into an extensive research and art project involving printmaking, photography and sculpture using found objects.

Gjertson, an associate professor at the School of Art and Art History at the University of Denver, continued to seek out more mining sites. “I felt like I was standing in a living museum,” said Gjertson, “which was a much more potent experience once I began to uncover the histories of these sites.”

Gjertson began in-depth research in historic texts, library databases, online resources and archives around the state, about the role of women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “It really evolved into understanding the role of women at this time in the American West which is so highly mythologized,” Gjertson said. “What we usually hear about are the madams and the bordellos and the prostitutes, but there were also so many other women who contributed to those places whose histories are unknown.”

At 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3  during the First Friday Artwalk at the Depot Art Center, Gjertson will unveil selected works from her two-year project and printmaking series showcasing 15 of the women she researched in her exhibit “Human Imprint.”

The exhibit explores the histories of Colorado mining sites and the women who inhabited them through prints, sculptures, photographs and found objects. Her work reveals archival images of the historic women altered by a hand-operated printmaking press that adds elements of the historic sites of Gjertson’s research. Gjertson worked with Sue Oehme of Oehme Graphics in Steamboat Springs on the printmaking series, and the works will be on display at the Depot through Sept. 1.

“Women have been systematically written out of or omitted from history,” Gjertson said. “(This exhibit) was an opportunity to give them a second life and acknowledge their contributions to this time.”

Gjertson hopes viewers will think more about the lives of those who precede us. She also hopes the project will inspire conversations about the nature of preservation and conservation, a theme evident throughout much of the work in the “Human Imprint” project. “Instead of looking at something like, ‘It’s old and it’s falling down,’ there is this ability for those materials and those objects to tell us stories about human ingenuity and a time that has passed.”

To that end, Gjertson will also host an artist talk and presentation at 5 p.m. Aug. 31 at the Depot Art Center titled “Human Imprint: Exploring the History, Artifacts and Role of Women at Historic Mining Sites in Colorado.”

As a culmination of her exhibition, Gjertson will share the research and creative process behind the “Human Imprint” project. Gjertson will reveal the information she uncovered about the women whose images appear in the exhibit, and discuss the varying processes used in creation of the works in the exhibition. She hopes the project may also serve as a vehicle to start conversations around preservation, conservation, local history and the relative invisibility of women at a pivotal time in the American West.

The exhibit and artist talk are a co-presented by the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, Steamboat Creates and the Tread of Pioneers Museum. For more information, visit

Candice Bannister is the executive director for the Tread of Pioneers Museum.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.