Skiers clomping around the third floor of the Vail Transportation Center might notice a singular improvement to the once-drab dining alcove outside La Cantina restaurant: a colorful Olive Moya mural executed in the artist’s distinctive style, the latest addition to the Town of Vail’s Art in Public Places (AIPP) permanent collection. Working with enlarged, historic black-and-white images of nattily dressed revelers lounging around Mid-Vail’s notorious outdoor ice bar, a landmark après-ski destination during the 1960s and ’70s, the mural fittingly faces the main entrance to the Colorado Snowsports Museum, which provided both the inspiration and photographs that informed the artwork.
“The candid moment this captures—[skiers] picnicking in the sunshine—was a perfect fit in juxtaposition to this dining area in the Transportation Center and the mural’s close proximity to the museum,” says AIPP coordinator Molly Eppard. “It was a nice way to make this connection of the past with the present.”
Also a perfect fit was Olive Moya, a Denver visual artist whose murals can be found everywhere in the Mile High City, from the Denver Art Museum’s recently renovated Martin Building to Epic Brewing’s taproom in RiNo.
“People are starting to take notice of Olive’s work, as she has received a couple of highly visible public commissions,” says Eppard. “We were particularly interested in her technique of combining wheat pasting [a liquid adhesive akin to wallpaper paste once used to affix advertising bills to brick walls] with her signature gestural style and bold use of color patterning.”
Moya’s mural, she adds, energizes and humanizes this formerly utilitarian space off the main stairwell leading to the Transporatation Center’s upstairs waiting room. At times the artist omits, disrupts, or highlights aspects of the background photo with geometry and colors, organic shapes rendered in pinks, blues, greens, and yellows, a retinue of characters that playfully interact with the underlying image, sometimes interrupted by sharp, vivid pathways reminiscent of Keith Haring’s Pop art style or Cy Twombly’s blackboard drawings. These visual cues, she explains, like piecing together a jigsaw, are designed to heighten the viewer’s connection with the work.
Seeking to replicate that connectivity outdoors, in December Moya will collaborate with ice sculptor Paul Wertin to guide the design and execution of the Town of Vail’s Winterfest ice sculpture garden on the banks of Gore Creek, reprising the role that the late Lawrence Argent, a celebrated Denver sculptor, played with Wertin at the event’s inception 15 years ago.
“I’ve been itching to make my work three-dimensional,” says Moya, who received her BFA in 2011 from the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. “Working with an ice sculptor gives me the ability to design what’s in my head without the barrier of teaching myself an entirely new technical skill. The challenge for me has been trying to envision and plan how to make the space immersive while staring at 2-D photographs of it.”
Both of Moya’s ice-themed installations—one permanent, the other programmed to melt away at winter’s end—give the artist the freedom to express her creativity in multiple mediums—in paint, ice, and even time—straddling the past with the present and the future.
“Creating this ice installation is such an interesting way to continue my mural project,” says Moya. “The ice bar at Mid-Vail was created and destroyed, and yet the memory of it and that time period in Vail’s history is still vivid in many people’s minds.”
Moya says she thinks a lot about how experience and memory shape our connection to a place and the community we find there; it’s why she’s making public art her life’s work.
“The creativity and interest that art brings us is important because it gives us meaning,” she explains. “The mural carries importance because it highlights a place and time where a community created a collective memory. The ice installation nods to the memory itself while also giving a new group of people an opportunity to create and share an experience.”