Art Gym Denver is a large and magnificent facility that houses studio space and equipment in a shared setting for local artists. The first goal of Art Gym is affordable access to both the space and the equipment. The second goal of Art Gym is community: exposing artists to a range of disciplines and fostering growth.
Louis Trujillo is one artist who calls Art Gym home. Not only does he spend his time in the quiet drawing studio upstairs where he was most recently working on his color-pencil self-portrait for Sexxxhibition, a show he co-curated at Art Gym—Louis also welcomes guests and potential artists and works in the coffee shop that contributes to supporting the space.
The self-portrait he contributed to the Art Gym’s most recent show, Sexxxhibition, marks a shift in both Louis’ personal view of himself and his artwork.
To understand the importance of this shift, we started at the beginning of his artistic journey.
“I credit being a creative person a lot to my mom and to my grandfather. They were always creating with me when I was a kid, and so I knew I always wanted to do something creative for a career. But I grew up in a working-class family, so fine art was not something that was ever presented to me as something for a career. I thought I would have to be in a different field in order to make money to provide for a family.
“But, I began to attend Metro State University, which is where I got my bachelor’s in fine arts, and I took my first drawing class there, and that kind of introduced me to the idea of fine art as a career. So I went for it.”
After graduation, Trujillo worked as a successful sculpture installation artist out of the co-op Sych Gallery on Santa Fe.
“That has given me the opportunity to really show my work and to grow as an artist.”
Trujillo’s work evolved over the years, but his own life has always been at the center in some way.
“My work has always been autobiographical. Earlier works, I would say, were more about my unconscious dreams and nightmares, and then that evolved into work about my family and Alzheimer’s. A few months ago, I decided I wanted to start to explore my identity as a gay man.”
This shift marked a change in the subject as well as the medium in which Trujillo worked. It also marked a shift in his own perspective of himself as an individual and an artist.
“It’s not something that I have always been comfortable with. I wish I was comfortable with it more as a undergrad and had explored it more, but I wasn’t. Growing up, I had to suppress those feelings, and I am sure a lot of queer people can relate to that. I dealt with some bullying— I was good at avoiding situations like that—but at the same time, I wasn’t my authentic self. That is very hard and caused me to become depressed.
“But then, when I got with my partner, who I am with now for 11 years, he is really the type of person who really doesn’t give a f*ck what anybody thinks about him. He just does him, no apologies. He has really influenced me to just be me. So I really credit him alot with the inspiration that I have for these drawings that I am doing now.”
The drawings are magnificent, extremely detailed colored pencil self portraits of Trujillo as himself, an intimate expression. This artistic and personal shift will be displayed for the first time at Art Gym in Sexxxhibition.
“I am really excited to re-introducing myself. I am definitely changing it up. I created an all- new website and new Instagram account towards re-branding myself as a queer artist. I see myself as working in this medium for many years, if not for the rest of my career.”
The exhibit is co-curated by his partner, James Mullane, and the curator of Art Gym, Elke McGuire. It is on display now.
“My partner and I, we follow a lot of artists who talk about the subject of sex. But we feel like when we are out looking at exhibitions in Denver, we don’t see a lot of that. So we wanted to bring that to the community and to Denver. It’s a great representation of all forms of sex. From the gay perspective to the straight, male and female, all of the works are not necessarily about sex—but they imply sex because of the image of the breast, or in my case, the underwear. They are sensual in nature. So it’s really exciting.”
For Trujillo, this exhibit displays how sex and love are universal and beautiful in all forms, which aligns with his own growth in loving himself and his process of making art.
“When I was focusing on making a career in art, I feel like I got a little to caught up in what’s going to make me successful. I got a greater reaction from doing these sculptural installations. So, in my mind, that was the key to a career. I’d say that last year, I reached a point where I decided that I am just going create work that I want to create, that I love to create. I am less focused on my audience’s reaction, and I am more focused on my own reaction and whether or not people love it. I love it.
“It’s about just enjoying the process and not having any other expectation but that. It’s been a real weight that has been lifted.”