Tales from the Tread: ’Human Imprint’ opens at the museum
December 18, 2018
Mother-of-pearl buttons, a shard of fine, hand-painted china, a small delicate sole of a shoe. These were the unlikely items found in abandoned mining sites which indicate the presence of women. Images of the artifacts are featured as part of the "Human Imprint" exhibition that opens this week at the Tread of Pioneers Museum.
if you go
What: “Human” Imprint exhibit
When: Exhibit runs to May 31, opening reception is 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 4 and an artist talk is scheduled for noon March 26
Where: Tread of Pioneers Museum, 800 Oak St.
More info: treadofpioneers.org
The "Human Imprint" project, by artist and associate professor of studio art at the University of Denver, Sarah Gjertson, explores the histories of handwork, contributions of women and the stories of artifacts from historic mining sites across Colorado.
What began as peripheral fascination during backcountry camping trips ultimately led to a multi-year grant funded project that includes photography, sculptural objects and an extensive body of printmaking works undertaken at Steamboat Springs' very own Oehme Graphics.
Through travel, research at historic archives, online digitized collections and accessing on-site cemetery records, Gjertson has uncovered some of the lesser known histories of women and their contributions to this highly mythologized time in the American West.
"Human Imprint: Structures, Artifacts and Women" is on display at the Tread of Pioneers Museum until May 31. The public is invited for the exhibit opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 4 as part of First Friday Artwalk.
"I am not interested in the 'gold rush' aspect of these sites but am compelled by the human imprint that remains there — the evidence of ingenuity, curious artifacts, skeletons of architectural structures and evidence of the hand," said Gjertson. "This lineage of the handmade is exciting to me as an artist and maker, and exploring the histories of these sites and the people who inhabited them."
Many who live in or have visited Colorado have likely encountered historic mining towns or sites, most of which are 100 to 150 years old and in precarious states due to long term exposure, neglect and other human impacts. Some are fond of these relics of history, others may view them as impediments to progress.
However, Gjertson's interest grew after revisiting many of the sites over a several years' time, and bearing witness to the negative effects of reclamation efforts, investor and development schemes and restricted trail access making them further invisible, even on public lands. She considers these mining sites living museums and suggests the tug of sentimentality and nostalgia experienced in person can be palpable.
The artifacts one encounters at these sites, Gjertson maintains, are the most potent storytellers. "Of particular interest are the gloves, buttons and shoe soles that suggest the presence of women, whose stories I hope to reveal in this project," Gjertson said. "Hopefully, this work is a prime vehicle to start conversations around the challenges of preservation, the relevance of local history and the roles women played in the American West at such a pivotal time."
Hear more about the "Human Imprint" project from the artist at noon March 26 at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, when Gjertson will share stories about the women whose images appear in the work and some of the current impacts affecting the mining sites of the project.
The Tread of Pioneers Museum is located at 800 Oak St.