The heart within the art

Lutheran High students complete unfinished works by the late Henry Esparza

Posted 10/2/18

For a few hours on a Wednesday afternoon, the fellowship hall of Grace Lutheran Church was converted into a small art gallery. Dozens of people trickled in the Parker church around lunchtime Sept. 26 …

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The heart within the art

Lutheran High students complete unfinished works by the late Henry Esparza

Posted

For a few hours on a Wednesday afternoon, the fellowship hall of Grace Lutheran Church was converted into a small art gallery.

Dozens of people trickled in the Parker church around lunchtime Sept. 26 to see the work of 19 different students from Lutheran High School's Art Academy. Each piece looked similar in size and style. No piece was much larger than 18 by 18 inches and typically done using acrylic paint and various mixed media. Almost every piece had a small heart shape placed somewhere on the canvas.

Originally, these pieces may have looked even more alike. While they were finished by the budding art students at Parker Lutheran, each piece was an unfinished work of the late Denver artist Henry Esparza.

Henry Esparza died in 2017. His wife, Sandra, donated his unfinished pieces to the students as a way to carry on his legacy as an artist and a teacher. Sandra is currently in hospice for brain cancer.

“All of them learned a lot,” said Lutheran High School art teacher Mark Hollenbeck. “Not by anything I taught them, but just by learning about his life.”

Each student put their own touch on their pieces. Some added mediums they were used to, or elements that played to their strengths. Others used recurring themes in Henry's paintings in their own style. One piece depicted the anatomical shape of a heart, a nod to the late artist's signature symbol.

“I'm blown away by the number of these students that individually picked up on some piece of his legacy,” Sandra said. “I heard people speak using descriptions and words that he would use. Stillness. Beauty. His connection with nature.

“He was an artist for the art.”

Henry was an abstract artist who used various mediums on each work, including acrylic, varnish, decomposed granite, plaster and sometimes branches of trees. He would create on paper, canvas or wood. His biography on his website, henryesparza.com, says he was an art teacher and an avid baseball fanatic, which the students also incorporated into their pieces honoring him.

“It was kind of scary knowing I would be finishing that when I'm not a professional artist yet,” said Eme Tischart. “I wanted to put his ideas and put my ideas together so we can both have our ideas together.”

Adam Ballou admits to not being much of a painter, let alone having one of his pieces exhibited in an art show.

Ballou is a 17-year-old senior at Lutheran High School and considers himself more of a photographer. Ballou's first canvas piece was on display beside 18 other pieces from his fellow students — a landscape painting depicting the crossover between night and day.

“With photography, it's a lot of being at the right spot at the right time, but you capture it in seconds. This, I've been working on this for over a month,” Ballou said. “Some art isn't just a second of shooting and some Photoshop and editing. I really learned to appreciate how long it takes to create art with your hands.”

The art display consisted of a mix of student's works from students with little work in canvas painting. Sculptors and photographers, like Ballou, had the chance to connect with the artist.

Before a few students got in front of the crowd, growing bigger by the minute, a dozen or so lined one wall of the room, waiting patiently for a chance to speak with Sandra about their pieces.

“I never thought I'd ever have art in an art show, so this is a whole new thing for me,” Ballou said. “As a rising artist, to be able to work on a piece of a professional artist … it's intimidating but it's also an honor to do that.”

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