Sep 012011
Authors: Courtney Riley

We all need art, whether we realize it or not, according to Brandton Manshel, the owner of the fresh Gnu Gallery.

“Art is rad. The earth without art is just, eh. Get it?” he laughed. “It does something for us. It engages a different part of our brains that needs exercise. I’m just an art kind of guy.”

The Gnu Gallery took the place of the Gallery Underground after it closed this past May. Manshel uses the gallery as an outlet to feature local artists’ work, as well as his own.

The gallery is included in tonight’s First Friday Gallery Walk, an event held the first Friday of every month in which art galleries in Fort Collins are open for free, self-guided tours.

Tonight is also the first night of the gallery’s new show featuring the work of CSU alumnus John House and two CSU students, Paul Keefe and Justin Camilli, who are both senior art majors.

Visitors of the gallery tonight will be able to enjoy a live performance by the Denver band Force Publique, who will begin playing at 10 p.m. Admission to see the band is $5, and most of the shows the gallery puts on cost about the same price.

“John’s work is incredibly grotesque and dark,” Keefe said. “All three of us don’t have comforting artwork. There’s a unique pairing with the music because they’re kind of a darker band. It wouldn’t work if the Beach Boys were playing or something, but this band meshes nicely.”

Both Keefe and Camilli’s specialty is printmaking. In the show, they both share one wall of the gallery, while House’s work is displayed on another wall.

“Physically they’re like small-scale watercolor and graphite drawings,” Keefe said of his and Camilli’s artwork. “There are a lot of ominous feelings about them.”

“My artwork as kind of experimenting with a twist on reality, kind of like a fantasy,” Camilli said. “(It shows) a delirium kind of state of mind, almost daydreaming or thinking about real life and then escaping that. Kind of like a dream state almost.”

For Keefe, art is more therapeutic than anything.

“There’s a lot of narratives in my artwork and stories to tell,” he said. “It’s just a fun, creative outlet for me.”

Art serves as an outlet for personal expression for Camilli as well.

“For me, I can’t really not do art,” he said. “It’s a way of expressing myself and the things that are inside of me that I’m afraid to let out any other way.”

The two student artists have shown their work at the Gnu Gallery before, but they were a little wary at first.
“We didn’t know how it was going to be. There was good art in the Gallery Underground,” Camilli said. “But we realized the owners are really down to experiment with a artwork and music. That’s the benefit of the gallery.”

Manshel likes to think of the gallery as an outlet for art that’s more eclectic and harder to sell compositionally. It also aims to be available to artists with little or no experience in a gallery setting. “We call ourselves an ‘experience gallery’ because we combine visual art and other acts, such as music or theater, which allows us to be a lot more liberal in the types of stuff we do and show,” he said. “We’ve also hosted a ton of bands and other acts from all over the country.”

The Gnu Gallery provides something entirely different from other venues in the Old Town area, Manshel said. The experience of both the artists and the spectators is enhanced by the gallery’s intimate setting.

“The Gnu gallery is definitely one of the more contemporary-friendly galleries in town,” Keefe said. “Others focus on oil paintings, landscapes and cliche Colorado scenes. (But the Gnu Gallery) kind of tries to highlight the local artists that aren’t well known.”

Students need to help grow the gallery and increase its popularity with their fresh ideas, Manshel said.

“We don’t really have a plan. This just makes you love us or hate us,” Manshel said. “We sure try to host the most interesting art and acts in town. We’ll stamp your hand and you can come in and out all night if you have to go get a drink somewhere. We start early and stay up late. We can do that.”
They have a lot of fun and fill an unexplainable niche, he said, which is unlike anything else here.

“Other galleries don’t have to dare people to come in,” Manshel said. “The stairs are pretty treacherous. Come on down sometime and see what we mean!” 

Entertainment Editor Courtney Riley can be reached at

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