Displayed in Greeley’s recently reopened Tointon Gallery are a few scenes that locals and longtime residents of Greeley may find familiar, stirring fond memories of warm Friday Fest nights surrounded by the colorful lights of the Rio Grande or a disappearing sunset behind the shimmering lights and buildings of downtown.
Artist and former University of Northern Colorado (UNC) printmaking faculty member, Sieger Hartgers, created these images with the intention to elicit memories, perhaps some nostalgia, from visitors to his collection.
“Being a romantic, I wanted that emotional connection,” Hartgers said. “My vision is quite unique because most modern artists want to try to stay away from emotional pieces.”
Hartgers unique perspective captures everyday scenes and moments from across Greeley and translates them into romantic images in the collection, “A Vision of Community, displayed at the Tointon Gallery from January 7 to February 26.
The fondness and connection Hartgers has for the city is apparent in his artwork. In fact, the connection goes back more than 25 years, after he retired from his role of chief combat artist for the U.S. Army and enrolled in a Master’s of Arts program for painting, drawing, and printmaking at UNC.
Hartgers’ life began to gravitate toward Greeley – he bought an art studio in the city; he became a professor at UNC’s School of Art and Design, he spent time biking the Poudre Trail, and he discovered other “nice little spots” to spend his time, all contributing to the growing image of a warm and inviting community developing in Hartgers’ mind.
He eventually moved his family to Greeley, becoming a resident and enjoying just over a 20-year career at UNC.
“My work and my life became intermingled [in Greeley],” Hartgers said. “That’s why I wanted to do this project.”
Before starting the Greeley collection, Hartgers completed a similar project for UNC entitled, “Impressions of Campus.” It depicts scenic images from across the university, conveying UNC’s positive impact on his life and career. Hargers hopes to one day receive another similar commission, but one for the state he now calls home.
“I would love to do something special for the state of Colorado, because it hasn’t been done yet,” Hartgers said.
Creating a collection this extensive and varied is truly a labor of love. It took Hartgers two years to complete “A Vision of Community,” and a lot of “blood, sweat, and tears.” His medium is printmaking, the process of using a matrix – something like wood, metal, or glass – to transfer images onto another surface, most often paper or fabric.
In this specific collection, Hartgers uses intaglio printmaking, a technique that employs etching or engraving to create the image outline on a printing plate. It also features his skill in other mediums and techniques, from graphite drawing and pastel work to large-scale paintings in oil and watercolor. The results are images of different styles and sizes, some of which remain black and white and others painted in brilliant colors.
Hartgers points to several images that stand out to him, such as a small black and white etching of the Poudre Trail and a larger, colorful painting he calls “Friday Night,” the latter a vivid depiction of a Friday Fest evening, so rich in detail and color you can feel the movement from the crowd. It took Hartgers almost a month and a half just to complete the initial sketch of “Friday Night.”
“Some of the paintings gave me headaches,” Hartgers said, “but I had a lot of fun doing it.”
It is apparent that Hartgers enjoyed the process when observing the attention to detail involved in each print. One specific detail, a sharp-eyed observer may notice, is the artist himself, tucked inside a crowd, looking out at the viewer — a nod to Hartgers’ Rembrandt influence.
For those who visit the exhibit during its run at the Tointon Gallery, Hartgers hopes people experience a sense of welcome and home – two attributes that he believes sets Greeley apart from other growing communities in the state.
“Some cities if you ask for directions, they won’t do anything,” Hartgers said, “but in Greeley, they will show you the road. A lot of cities lose that, but Greeley hasn’t.”