| August 26, 2016 | Lifestyle
Writer Ali Margo ascends the stairs of the Aspen Art Museum to discover town’s finest work of art: nature.
En plein art: As front-row seating beneath the mountains, the rooftop deck of the Aspen Art Museum bridges the gap between some of the world’s greatest art and Aspen’s sublime scenery.
When the Aspen Art Museum was built, in 2014, I was an outspoken critic. I called it “glaringly conspicuous” in my Aspen Times column, and compared the building’s exterior to “a fish tank in an Easter basket.” I wrote, “I’m a little confused as to how anyone in their right mind would think this building is attractive or appropriate for a Colorado mountain town.” Then, one day I went to see the art museum for myself.
As soon as I stepped foot in the Shigeru Ban-designed museum, the stark beauty of the space was disorienting, like waking up in a strange place unable to remember where you are. Seeing it from the inside out, the building’s design suddenly made perfect sense: The confluence of geometric shapes rolled and crashed into one another like the rapids of the Roaring Fork River during spring runoff. I noticed how the museum played with natural light, altering my perception in startling ways, akin to early evening alpine-glow that transforms the surrounding peaks. I began on the bottom floor and worked my way up (the way the docent at the front door had instructed me to do), an intentional analogy for ascending the mountain.
When I reached the summit—the top floor with its rooftop café, SO—and its front-and center view of Aspen Mountain, I gained the same feeling of clarity I get when I summit a local peak. Art is supposed to challenge you. It’s meant to take you out of your comfort zone. It’s supposed to give you a new view- point, stretch your current perceptions of the world, and, most importantly, yourself. When I looked up and saw Aspen Mountain, I had the oddest sense of déjà vu. The mountain, with its raw beauty and unforgiving presence, does exactly the same thing.
The unfamiliar is oddly familiar. Art is life.
Photography by Tamara Susa