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Earth art is made and displayed by CSU-Pueblo students

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CSU Pueblo’s art building has a large, airy courtyard that was transformed into a mud mural venue Friday, April 6, through Sunday, April 8.

Kiko Denzer, visiting artist, and Maya Avina, professor of art, pose together on the last day of the workdshop. Photo by Melissa Miller.

Kiko Denzer, creator of “Earth Art, Mud Mural,” presented 15 student participants with a one-credit workshop on mural making through CSU-Pueblo’s Department of Art.

Denzer has been working with this technique for 20 years. He started out making clay-stone sculptures and used brick-floored, domed fire ovens for baking. Denzer and Maya Avina, art department faculty, know each other through their mutual interest in natural building techniques.  

Benefits of this medium are that it is non-toxic, cheap and readily available, the bugs won’t eat it and it can be reused by rewetting it, Denzer said. He noted that unlike lime plaster and concrete this medium requires no kiln burning. Cement has to get up to 2,000 degrees and in that respect its processing is a major greenhouse gas contributor, he said, while mud is ecologic, economic and aesthetic.

The group of students saw many other works by Denzer and discussed design principals during the Friday evening lecture and introduction. On Saturday at 9 a.m., the group gathered again for an eight hour day of mud mural making.

The layer of thickness that creates the panels of the mural is composed of clay, sand and manure. The mixture is both soft and textural.

“It is an ancient addition to earthen plaster because it both improves water resistance and makes the mixture adhere better,” Avina said.

A complaint from one participant was the manure smell of the mixture and getting her hands in it.

Manny, sociology major in classes at the Citadel Center in Colorado Springs, said he enjoyed the camaraderie. He felt connected to indigenous culture and working with this medium reminded him that art was like communication for ancient people, Manny said.

Megan Soto, a health promotion major graduating this May liked the experience, a hands-on exploring art and genera outside of her major field, she said. It took about three hours to get the mud ready, Soto said.

It took a half hour of work just to get the mud to stick, Flo Nethery, an art major, said. Students would press the mud up on the walls and it would fall, however, the results were forthcoming.

“It was a pretty big class. I was surprised we had such a big number. I wish we could do more,” Nethery said.

“I took it because I’m interested in natural building. It is so much fun. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it,” said Alyssa Costanza, a ceramics art major.

Smaller, darker panels were added Sunday, April 8, when the group gathered for their final efforts. A layer of grey slip clay was painted onto the designs to add to the visual spectacle and design principals. See the display of designs on the panels of mud in the art courtyard through this summer.