Gravity of Perception

 Photo of art work hung in a gallery

The Center for Visual Art’s Gravity of Perception celebrates photography as a powerful tool for reflection.


In conjunction with Denver’s Month of Photography, Gravity of Perception brings together artists who work with archives, both historic and newly created, to shed light on the past, reflect on our present, inspire hope for the future.


Sundown towns, redlining, Ferguson, LGBTQ discrimination and gun violence – these are difficult American histories. These histories contain stories we should not forget. And, many of these stories are not told often enough – including in fine art spaces.

Gravity of Perception, on view through March 23 at the Center for Visual Art, brings together 7 lens-based artists – Tya Anthony, Marcella Ernest, Kris Graves, Zora Murff, Lorenzo Triburgo, Xaveria Simmons and Krista Wortendyke – who delve into these histories in ways that are, “both understated and powerful, sobering and uplifting,” says Cecily Cullen, Director and Curator of CVA.

Krista Wortendyke and Kris Graves prompt us to look closer at larger social issues and prompt conversations about race and violence. Whether it’s Graves’ haunting and poignant photographs memorializing the sites where young black men lost their lives to police or Wortendyke’s colorful, abstract data visualization, the artists use visual absences to ask us to consider the implications of those losses.

“While the work in Gravity of Perception may prompt difficult conversations or shed light on uncomfortable truths, each artists’ work also offers the opportunity for reflection and empathy. These artists do not just open our eyes and awareness, but invite us to envision a better, more inclusive future, “ says Cullen.

In that vein, Xaviera Simmons and Tya Anthony create work that offers us a glimpse at what that future could be. In her Sundown series, Simmons envisions and crafts a world where the large volume of artistic and intellectual contributions of people of color are rightfully revered and held precious. Anthony’s work boldly envisions the traditional tarot card deck with bodies of color standing as powerful deities, visionaries and archetypes.

“This exhibition celebrates the work of artists of color, female artists, LGBTQ artists and Native American artists. Artists from communities that generally do not receive as much opportunity and exposure in the fine art realm, “ says Cullen. “A recent study by the Public Library of Science which found that 85 percent of artists in U.S. museum collections are white, and 87 percent are male confirms that representation is an ongoing issue.”

Marcella Ernest and Lorenzo Triburgo’s work explores the lives of individuals in these underrepresented, marginalized communities. Both artists explore their subjects’ experiences as a way to translate critical issues of gender, sexuality, safety and belonging. Triburgo’s beautifully rendered and protective “portraits” of LGBTQ prisoners and Ernest’s experimental film amplifies their subjects’ voices to an audience that might otherwise ignore them or keep them at a distance.

“What connects each of these artists – and all of the artists we work with at the CVA – is their approach to their practice and how they deftly imbue their work with a keen intelligence that compels you to look deeper, pause and reflect,” says Cullen.

Zora Murff’s sweeping work, Re-Making the Mark, is a notable example of that intellectual approach as he employs his deep knowledge of history and psychology to meditate on the differences, and similarities, between fast and slow violence. Just as America’s urban landscape is still shaped by generations of segregation and systematic discrimination, we have the opportunity to learn from the past and use that insight to build a better, more inclusive tomorrow, starting today.

Gravity of Perception is organized by the Center for Visual Art and the Center for Fine Art Photography and is curated by Cecily Cullen, Hamidah Glasgow and Natascha Seideneck. Special thanks to the MSU Denver of Office of Diversity and Inclusion for their generous support.


About the Artists: 

Tya Anthony draws from nostalgia, photographs acquired online and images from her extensive archive of family photographs. Her work in this exhibition explores the intersections of past and contemporary culture while creating a space of autonomy and regard for bodies of color. Website  |  @mztya

Marcella Ernest is an Ojibwe artist who creates video using poetic imagery and abstract narratives. In her video work, Because of Who I Am, Ernest layers imagery and sound to convey the anxiety and pain of discrimination for one who dared to push back against cultural gender norms established within a tribal community. Website  |  @marcellakwe

Kris Graves is a photographer who documents the landscapes where black Americans have died at the hands of police. The neighborhoods, streetscapes and parks look calm with the only indication of the past violence revealed through memorial elements such as stuffed animals and flowers. Website  |  @kgprojects

Zora Murffs photographic series prompts inquiry into how racial violence has been recorded through images, and how these same images can be used to interrupt collective belief. Website  |  @zorajmurff

Xaviera Simmons’ photographs in her Sundown series reflect on discriminatory sundown towns where Black Americans are not welcome after dark. The work brings to light systemic prejudices and re-contextualizes archival photos from the past within contemporary photographs. Simmons honors the resilience of black Americans who have suffered from discriminatory laws and policies, while drawing parallels to conditions today. Website  |  #xavierasimmons

Lorenzo Triburgo’s photo series, Policing Gender, examines mass incarceration from a queer perspective. The work alludes to the specific and intensified discrimination faced by prisoners who identify as LGBTQ. Triburgo supports this artwork by hosting workshops to lead participants in the act of becoming pen pals to LGBTQ-identifying prisoners as a way to provide support and a measure of safety to those prisoners. Website  |  @lorenzotriburgo

Krista Wortendyke’s photographs examine violence and society’s perception of violent events through the lens of data and contemporary art. Her artwork, Mass Observation, compiles visual documentation of media representation of violence. This collection of imagery creates an archive of sorts and asks the viewer to consider if there is another way to perceive these events. Website


Gravity of Perception Events:


Opening Reception
Friday, January 11, 6 - 8 pm  |   Join the curators for welcoming remarks and light refreshments. VIP Preview at 5:30 pm.

Lorenzo Triburgo Artist Talk and Workshop
Wednesday, February 20, 6 pm

Xaviera Simmons Artist Talk
Friday, March 15, 6 pm

Kris Graves and Zora Murff Artist Talk
Thursday, March 21, 6 pm

Closing Reception and Dance Performance by MSU Denver students
Friday, March 22, 6 pm


965 Project Gallery:

The 965 Project Gallery presents The Space Between. In this exhibition, MSU Denver photography students uncover narratives of lives that lie between categories; exposing the spaces between past and present, freedom and oppression, dreams and reality. Monique Archuleta confronts the Nation’s turbulent past through archive photos of the 1960s Chicano Civil Rights movement contrasted with images of the sites as they appear today. Olivia Garcia Escandon exemplifies the duality of being a Dreamer in America with dynamic portraits of Latinx students bisected by drastic shadows while posing in front of the United States flag. This exhibition was co-curated by Kristin Smith, 965 Student Curator and Natascha Seideneck, Assistant Professor of Art - Photography, MSU Denver. The 965 Project Gallery is a student-led space that provides premiere professional development opportunities to students interested in fine art curation and arts administration.


About CVA:

Center for Visual Art is the off-campus contemporary art center for Metropolitan State University of Denver. CVA provides a year-round schedule of bold, contemporary exhibitions of both local significance and international reach, educational programming open to the community and immersive workforce development for students in creative fields. CVA is free and open to all.


Media Contact:

Heather Link-Bergman, Communications Manager   •   303-294-5207 x120