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For artist Jonathan Saiz, things are looking up

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For artist Jonathan Saiz, things are looking up

A successful art career requires two crucial skills: the ability to think up new things and the drive to make them real. It’s not about creativity; lots of people have that. It’s more about owning the capacity to see ideas through to the end — to produce fresh objects, over and over again, and then to present them to the public.

That stamina sustains Jonathan Saiz and keeps him in the top-tier of Denver artists. He’s an art adventurer who stays in the spotlight by constantly surprising. One day, he’s presenting miniature paintings at the Denver Art Museum, the next he’s applying an oversized mural to a bare concrete wall downtown. He’s been known to paint giant waves or intimate portraits or antique furniture. He’s illustrated a best-selling tarot deck and is now working on a children’s book.

It’s part showmanship, part substance and fully experimental — things don’t always work out. But, as a critic, he’s one of those creatives I always watch to see what arrives next. I recently came across a social media post with photos of a large-scale, and very complicated, mural that he painted on the ceiling of his own living room.

It looked impossible, and so I asked him some questions.

Artist Jonathan Saiz at his downtown Denver home on September 15, 2021. Said spent nearly a month using paper board and balsa wood to create a piece of art for his home that he shares with his partner. The ceiling piece is inspired by temples and Moroccan art. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Q. I have a lot of questions about your work, but I have to start with the ceiling mural because it is a wonder — delicate and monumental at the same time and, no doubt, very difficult to pull off. Can we begin by getting some specs so people know just how grand it is?

A. The mural is 350 square feet in a two-story atrium of a condo, located 14 stories up in the Uptown neighborhood. It’s painted with regular house latex on thick paperboard panels, nailed to the ceiling with hand-cut balsa wood trimming. It’s not my biggest mural to date, but it is my first ceiling creation!

Q. And how did you manage to create a piece so high off the ground? Sounds a little dangerous, to be honest.

A. It was a scary, stressful ordeal to install. I mostly created the panels on the ground to minimize the dangerous install periods up on the 25-foot-tall scaffolding. My trick to avoid focusing on my fear of heights was to hum and sing made-up songs to my dog Oscar while I worked.

Q. It’s a very orderly mural, full of symmetry and strict geometry. But within that there is quite a bit of free, artistic expression, a mix of styles and historical references and probably some personal moves.

A. The inspiration started with a rose motif from the Bahia Palace in Morocco, but quickly evolved into a mashup of my personal loves of Art Deco, Native American textiles and sacred geometry. Without a client to please besides myself, I was able to experiment — even adding rose oil, rose petals, love notes and other secret magical ingredients into the paint and behind the panels to give it some extra ritualistic energy. I wanted it to become the calm, glowing heart of our home.

Q. I wonder how you view it? Is it decorative to you or is it a painting, a work of art?

A. Decorative art sets the tone for a shared space — design calibrates our energy. This mural is decorative and so much more.

1635165261 648 For artist Jonathan Saiz things are looking up

AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 15: Artist Jonathan Saiz at his downtown Denver home on Wednesday, September 15, 2021. Said spent nearly a month using paper board and balsa wood to create a piece of art for his home that he shares with his partner. The ceiling piece is inspired by temples and Moroccan art. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Q. OK, last question about the piece: What is it like to live with it, to have it over your head all day? We think of artists as making objects to sell, but this one is for you, no?

A. It’s wonderful to see it every day and night, to share it with my partner, Dean Prina, and to finally have something for myself that can’t be sold or removed. Living with it also reminds me that it’s possible to create whatever we imagine we can, (that) we could still build epic temples if we wanted to.

Q. I was looking back at your work over the past few years, and I think the piece you are best known for might be the tower of 10,000 tiny, 2-inch square paintings that you created for the Denver Art Museum in 2019. And you have done many, many of these small pieces in various configurations.

A. Working in multitudes of small pieces to create a larger whole is liberating for me. The pieces can evolve in unexpected ways, and I get to use a much higher diversity of materials. I love working with multiple elements that interact with each other to create a multifaceted whole.

Q. I just saw this new piece you did, taking an old, ornate, antique cabinet, painting it and filling it with mysterious objects. What is that?

A. I found this 19th-century cabinet, dusty and forgotten, in an antique store and I felt I could connect with its history like a time machine. I wanted to preserve it by collaborating with it, creating new clay and gemstone objects within it to activate its theatrical personality and to fill it with 21st-century curiosities. I plan on collaborating with more found historical objects and artisans like that soon.

Q. Another avenue you’ve explored: the tarot deck. Can you tell us about your deck of cards?

A. The Fountain Tarot deck is made up of 79 of my paintings to create a larger interactive world, and its history is deeply connected to our global metaphysical past (a lot like the mosaics and cabinets). It’s a dream to have created something that is now used in multiple languages around the world and was just added to the library at the McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica this month. It’s part of the history of tarot now. It was a random passion project that changed my life.

For artist Jonathan Saiz things are looking up

Provided Jonathan Saiz

Jonathan Saiz created 79 paintings to illustrate “The Fountain Tarot.” The deck, co-created with Jason Gruhl and Andi Todaro, is sold at bookstores across the country.

Q. We’ve seen you create big things and small things, portraits, tarot cards, and I hear you are now illustrating a children’s book for the Clyfford Still Museum. That leads to the existential question: What are you? Most artists describe themselves as painters or sculptors or photographers.

A. I’m a creator who likes to stay busy to keep the existential demons at bay. I’m the type of artist who will dive fully into any type of project or medium if it sparks my curiosity or presents a worthy challenge.

Q. So many artists want to work at it full-time but few manage. Many other talented artists have a hard time making a living from their work. Why are you able to do it?

A. A wide diversity of projects keeps me afloat. And it also helps for me to look at the commerce of being an artist as a game. Some free projects really do pay something more valuable than money, and some projects are worth taking just to survive.

Q. One last big question: You recently pledged to reduce using materials in your art that might be harmful to the environment.  Is that a personal choice? Or do you think that as an artist you have unique social responsibilities?

A. I think 21st-century artists can be powerful agitators for important social causes or they can bury their heads in the sand like past generations. I’m having fun finding creative ways to inspire solutions and making resolutions that create a more sustainable planet. I believe artists must honor that responsibility in order to access the higher creative muses.

Q. Bonus question: What is your dream project?

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‘1917’ star George MacKay re-enlists for ‘Munich: The Edge of War’

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‘1917’ star George MacKay re-enlists for ‘Munich: The Edge of War’

With “Munich: The Edge of War” on Netflix this week, George MacKay skips from one Great War to the next.

The London native, an actor since childhood, broke out as a soldier in the trenches on a perilous mission in Sam Mendes’ Oscar-winning hit “1917” two years ago.

“Munich,” adapted from the Robert Harris bestseller, imagines a behind-the-scenes life or death struggle at the world leaders’ conference there in September 1938. Germany’s Adolf Hitler threatens another global war if he isn’t allowed to annex German-speaking Czechoslovakia.

England wants at all costs to avoid another war. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Jeremy Irons) allows Hitler his victory.

Chamberlain declares he’s won “peace in our time.’ One year later, Hitler invaded Poland. WWII began.

George MacKay as Hugh Legat, in ‘Munich: The Edge of War.’ (Courtesy of Netflix © 2021)

Where “Munich” finds thrills is in its invented plot during that conference. MacKay, 29, plays Hugh Legat, Chamberlain’s private secretary, an Oxford grad eager to rise in the diplomatic world.

At the conference he meets an Oxford chum, Paul von Hartmann (Jannis Niewöhner), now an underling in Germany’s foreign ministry. Paul has a secret memo that outlines the Fuhrer’s plans for world domination. Can Hugh somehow manage to get Chamberlain to read it? If not, Paul is prepared to assassinate Hitler.

MacKay was aware of a certain symmetry going from one WWI thriller to the next war. “There is a conscious choice here in my being aware of not wanting to do something that too obviously has any sense of repetition,” he said in a Zoom call from London.

“But this is different: Hugh’s not a soldier, the war is yet to begin. There was enough in the story with parallels with what was going on in the world at the time I was reading it.

“I felt that this was a story I wanted to be a part of and any reservations about doing something that involved looking at a world war so soon after ‘1917’ was outweighed by the benefits of what that story actually said.”

“Munich” isn’t meant, MacKay suggested, to condemn the PM.

“It’s kind of saying with Chamberlain that you can’t blame someone for not predicting the future. He was dealing with the cards he was dealt at that moment.

“In hindsight, perhaps it wasn’t easy to do at time. I think that the film allows Chamberlain to be seen within a different light. Basically, he did as best he could. And there is something admirable in that even if it wasn’t quite what many of us in history would have liked to have happened.”

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Dear Abby: Fiance’s female friends want more – what’s he doing?

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Dear Abby: Can’t budge lonely, needy friend from the phone

Dear Abby: My fiance, “Peter,” has a number of female friends I’m not comfortable with, primarily because they are women he “had” interest in before we started dating. He says he has told them he’s taken now and they can’t be more than friends, but I don’t think they got the message. He recently told me one of them told him a guy had proposed to her but she’s delaying accepting in case Peter becomes available. This is the second time something like this has happened.

I believe it’s because of the way he relates to these girls. I mean, if he has really made clear in words and actions that he’s not interested in them romantically, they wouldn’t base their life decisions on the hope that they may still have a chance with him.

Peter may tell me these things because he wants me to know lots of women are willing to have him. But I’m confused at this point about whether he’s truly committed to me. Could it be he just likes “talking” to women even though it leads them on? And is this behavior healthy for a future marriage?

— Second Thoughts

Dear Second Thoughts: You are asking intelligent questions. Unfortunately, not knowing your fiance, I can’t answer them. I can, however, offer this: When couples become serious, they stop playing games. If your fiance thinks that causing you to feel jealous or insecure at this point is constructive, he is making a mistake because it won’t stop after the wedding. Peter appears to be immature, and that’s a red flag. Premarital counseling may help to clear the air.

Dear Abby: I have been married for 28 years. I thought we were very happy for the first 25. The change came when our children all left home. We sold our large house, which I was more than willing to do. But the house we have moved into causes me a lot of anxiety because of the traffic noise. My husband is very forceful about his “right” to choose where we live. He has insisted that the next move is also his choice and has already purchased the land. He claims he has provided for others all these years, and now it’s his turn to get what he wants.

Abby, I raised the children, I still have a job and I contribute to every aspect of home life. Although I love him with all my heart, I wonder if I’d be better off throwing in the towel. He refuses to go to counseling, but I have gone, to help with my anxiety. After three years in this new home, I don’t see any sign he will change his ways. I have tried talking to him about choosing something different together and moving, but he won’t do it. Help!

— Back Up Against the Wall

Dear Back: I can’t change your husband’s attitude and, apparently, neither can you. I’m glad you have been seeing a therapist, because it’s time to schedule more appointments. Your therapist will help you to decide whether you can continue living with someone who refuses to recognize your contributions to the marriage and who has such a controlling, authoritarian attitude.

You have decisions to make that should not be taken lightly or decided while you are emotional. You deserve peace of mind and an equal voice about where you choose to live.


Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at DearAbby.com.

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Bruins take 7-1 beating from Carolina

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Bruins take 7-1 beating from Carolina

The Bruins have played enough good hockey over the first two weeks of 2022 to reasonably believe what happened on Tuesday night at the Garden was an aberration.

They better hope it is.

After the feel-good event of Willie O’Ree’s number retirement ceremony, the B’s killed the vibe by playing a simply awful first period against the Carolina Hurricanes en route to a well-earned 7-1 beating.

It was not even as close as that lopsided score indicated.

Was this just one of those nights that every team experiences over the course of an 82-game schedule, or the start of a backslide? We’ll have a better idea of that when the B’s get back at it Thursday hosting Washington.

But it wasn’t a great sign that the thumping came in a measuring-stick kind of game against the Canes, who shut the B’s out back in October.

The only team that mattered in coach Bruce Cassidy’s assessments, however, was his own.

“It’s problematic against anybody, to be honest with you,” said Cassidy. “It’s Game 36, so a measuring stick? I don’t know. We’re building our game. We’ve been playing well, better lately, much better than the start of the year. Not tonight obviously. We had nothing. They were clearly better than us in every area, so this is less about the opponent, more about where we’re at. Obviously they forecheck hard, they do some of the things top teams do well, they’re hard on pucks, they get on top of you, get to the front of the net. We weren’t nearly good enough. And we wouldn’t have been good enough against the worst team in the league. We just weren’t competitive, and we paid the price.”

Patrice Bergeron, who was all for “burning the tape” on this one, had no explanation for the performance.

“It was very disappointing the way we played, the way we showed up, the way we started the game,” said Bergeron, who had the only Bruin goal. “We were very flat and it stayed flat the whole game.”

One of the hallmarks of the B’s recent surge was the emergence of their bottom six, but in the first period the B’s third line was on the ice for three goals against and the fourth line was on for two as the B’s lost their checks all over the ice and the Canes ran out to a stunning 5-1 lead in the first 20 minutes for an early knockout punch.

It was easily the B’s worst period of the year.

Teuvo Teravainen got the Canes on the board first at 3:44 when, after Tuukka Rask stopped a 2-on-1 offering, he converted a Jaccob Slavin pass. At 6:03, Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored his first of two goals when he was left all alone in front of the net to put back a big Rask rebound.

It looked like the B’s might get their legs under them when Bergeron scored on a deflection for a power-play goal at 11:13 — snapping a streak of 35 straight penalties killed by Carolina.

But it did not take long to learn that this would not be the B’s night. Just 13 seconds later, Kotkaniemi deflected home a Slavin shot and the Canes had their two-goal bulge back with the B’s fourth line and defense pairing of Brandon Carlo and Urho Vaakanainen on the ice.

“That was a big letdown for us, guys who are used to being relied to keep the puck out of the net, the bottom of the lineup and some of the D that are relied on. They just didn’t get it done tonight, for whatever reason. We’ll move on,” said Cassidy.

Seth Jarvis and Derek Stepan scored 56 seconds apart and the rout was on. Charlie Coyle and Oskar Steen were both minus-3 while eight other players finished the period with a minus-2. Rask, playing in his second game after returning from offseason hip surgery, finished out the rest of the period but that would be it for him. Final line for him, five goals on 12 shots. Linus Ullmark replaced him to start the second period.

“It would have been one of those nights where we would have needed an unbelievable effort from (Rask) to get any points at all, and that’s an unfair ask,” said Cassidy.

The Canes invited the B’s back in the game in the second period when they took three penalties, the last two of which gave the Bruins 68 seconds of a 5-on-3, but the B’s could not do any more damage on goalie Frederik Andersen.

Any hope of a comeback already out the window, Slavin and Andrei Svechnikov added power-play goals in the third to complete the embarrassment.

For Rask at least, the game was already in the rearview mirror.

“It’s gone already,” said Rask. “One thing you learn over the years, you’re never as bad or as good as you think, so you want to keep it even-keeled and trust the process. That’s what we have to do as a team and I have to do as an individual.”

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