The Matterhorn is painted in shades of red, the grandeur of the Swiss mountain evident even in 2D. Looking further, I can make out the blurry silhouette of the human figures in the foreground, their colors blending into the surrounding landscape.
“I want the numbers to remind the viewer how beautiful and big this mountain is,” Noelle Phares said. “They are only there to remind the viewer that the subject is the setting. ”
This piece is a work in progress for Denver-based artist Noelle Lighthouses. The message behind it, however, is far from it. Looking around his Lakewood studio, his pieces are all incredibly unique. However, between each of them, one thing remains constant: their ability to tell a story that you can’t help but need to hear.
Phares has spent the last few years making a name for itself in the art world, but its path to getting there was far from typical.
“I have in a way always thought of contributing to a sustainable life”, she explained. “The way I thought I was doing it was through science. ”
Phares is an environmental scientist by training. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a master’s degree in environmental science and spent three years managing products at an environmental technology start-up.
“But I just wasn’t happy,” she said. “For years I’ve been like, ‘Why am I not happy with this job? It is so important. I think a lot of it was just realizing I couldn’t sum up what all these years have come to. I couldn’t see it, I couldn’t feel it. I just knew I needed a change.
Phares quit her job in the spring of 2017 while still living in San Francisco. At the time, she thought she would find another role in the world of environmental technologies. However, this time away from work eventually led to a newfound passion.
“Sitting at my little apartment office, I started coloring in water every day. It reminded me that I had this deep dream of being an artist when I was little, ”she said. “My dream growing up, which seemed like a very unrealistic dream, was to be a musician or an artist. I never really thought of these as practical career paths.
Aside from a single art class in high school, Phares had no formal art training. Art had always been an afterthought, an oil painting here and there in college. But with more days spent with a brush in hand, a new creative spark has been born.
“I felt like I had something to paint… creative things were really easy for me, so I made the crazy choice to just dive in,” she said.
Her Etsy store started with just a collection of 10 prints – small pieces of a cactus or geode that reflected what Lighthouses saw in nature. But as his art evolved, Phares began to wonder how to further reconcile his two passions – environmental science and art.
“What really appealed to me from an environmental science perspective is seeing how the things people have built change landscapes over time,” Phares explained. “How are the buildings we create changing the way water flows in landscapes? How do landscapes change around the things we build? “
Slopes, one of his most popular pieces to date, was the first painting that mixes geometry and art. The print is a mix of structure and flow, an abstract interpretation of the Sierra Nevada mountains built by hexagons and other geometric shapes.
“It triggers an interesting story about how the landscape combines with the sharp angles and shapes of human structures. They clash almost violently at first. But over time I start to think about how to transform them together in a less aggressive way, ”she said.
The work of Phares having evolved over time, the meaning of his work remains the same. She attributes much of her success over the past few years to her message – giving viewers a unique story with each piece.
“My ultimate goal at this point is to spark conversation and thoughts about how buildings change our landscapes, for better or for worse, but also to paint them beautifully, just to remind us that our ultimate goal as that developers on this planet should be developing in a way that improves the world, not destroys it, ”she explained.
This message is evident in all of its collections and has resonated with people around the world. Her work can be found not only across Denver, but in galleries across the country. His first international exhibition – The way we saw it – will open in the UK on October 14, 2021. She has also worked with a number of outdoor brands that emulate her goals – from designing a pair of skis for 4FRNT, a clothing line with Merrel, and a sock design with Smartwool that will be released this year. fall.
But whatever the medium, the best part about Phares is seeing the reaction to its work.
“People always want to know the story. I always find people curious about “what does this mean?” »», She declared. “That’s half the goal of this job for me. Even though it’s just chatting with people watching it, I tell them more about the landscape and why it’s vulnerable and why it’s so important to us as humans – that’s why I paint.
While Phares typically creates his art on canvas, his most recent project has been with Blackbrush Studios – a collection of beautifully remodeled studio spaces in Lakewood. After moving from San Francisco to Colorado three and a half years ago, Phares has struggled to find an artist studio that meets its needs. She and her present-day husband spent a year and a half renovating an old gun store into a stunning creative space for artists.
Along with Lighthouses, Blackbrush is currently home to photographer Tom McCorkle and Madelyn Claire Floral Design. The three are collaborating on events held in the space – their opening night last June welcomed more than 350 people with live music, food trucks and a collection painted by Phares exclusively for the event.
A big step up from his office in his San Francisco apartment, Blackbrush has given Phares an inspiring new place to work. But beyond that, it has been a space for Phares to grow as an artist. Each room in his studio is very different, representing an entirely new landscape and perspective.
“I think the hardest thing on this trip was trying to focus on ‘What’s my niche? What is it that I have unique to say? I’ve been painting full time for four years now, and I think that’s the thing that will always change. But that was the most interesting part, ”said Phares.
But as his art continues to evolve and change, Phares’s goal of contributing to the world of environmental science through his work remains steadfast. Its mission is clear: to draw people into the conversation.
“My goal is to spark a conversation about what meaningful design is and inspire people to be more conscientious in designing in ways that improve nature instead of hurting it,” Phares said. “I make prints of my paintings so that they end up in so many places that they would never have had otherwise. A single impression can go out in 1,000 different houses, part of that conversation goes to each of those houses as well. ”
Noelle Phares is a Denver-based artist who works in galleries around the world. Her work can be found on her website and on her Etsy store. Blackbrush Studios is located at 1431 Estes St., Lakewood. To find out more about upcoming events and new art collections, follow Phares on Instagram or contact her at [email protected]
All the photographs of Adrienne Thomas.