Voyage Denver Introduces you to Topher Straus
Today we’d like to introduce you to Topher Straus.
Topher, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I enrolled in art school, with a specific focus on cinema, at Syracuse University—one of the nation’s top film schools. The core curriculum was studio arts-based and I had zero experience creating art. I was inexperienced, surrounded by young prodigies who had been creating art since grade school. It was frustrating to be behind the curve; I almost failed out.
My lack of artistic skill presented me with a blank canvas. I was able to do things differently, my way, and without any traditional bias. Soon I began to enjoy the process of creation. It would serve me well, as a form of self-expression. After graduating from Syracuse, I chose to keep my art very private.
While directing documentaries and tv commercials in Los Angeles, I showed a handful of people some large acrylic paintings I had done in my free time. The paintings were, and remain to this day, very sacred to me. They were dark, unhappy, and private. Part of me was embarrassed to share it.
My friends who saw my work expressed great admiration for my raw emotion and thematic use of my palette—urging me to show it in a gallery. But I wasn’t ready.
I had to go through a divorce and lose my father before I finally found myself. In fact, it took 25 years to submit any of my work to a gallery. I held my first show in July of 2018 at Denver’s Bitfactory Gallery.
As I found happiness, the tone and style of my work would change. Since last year, I have been creating landscape paintings of the National Parks and printing them on 30” x 60” aluminum sheets. I love the way the reflection from the aluminum interacts with all of the bright colors that I use. I had my first landscapes show in early 2019 at the Niza Knoll Gallery, in Denver’s historic Sante Fe Arts District.
The show was called “The Parks.” The timing couldn’t have been better. The show opened just as the US Government shut the national parks down. I saw the show as not only an opportunity to present my art but also to remind everyone of the everlasting beauty that exists in our national parks. The show was a huge success.
The paintings have since been featured in an Internationally Juried show in New York’s Katonah Art Museum and also in a solo exhibition at the American Mountaineering Museum. Both shows will be running until the end of Summer 2019.
I couldn’t be more thrilled to be an artist. In the last year, I’ve sold over 60 paintings internationally and I’m currently featured in various art galleries in Colorado, as well as being featured in international art publications. It’s such a gift to have a passion that I can share with the world. It’s been an amazing year and there are so many bright things on the horizon.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Once my head was in the right place, making the decision to become a full-time artist was easy. There’s been a lot of trial and error; creating art can be very difficult. I didn’t realize how time-consuming logistics can be. Finding art space, transporting pieces from one gallery to another, and distributing pieces to collectors. Some months I do well creatively; cranking out pieces, dripping with inspiration. Other times, I try really hard to get my work out there, but can’t find time to create.
I just have to have faith, that through hard work and a little bit of luck, everything will turn out the way it’s supposed to.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
There are a countless number of individuals that have supported me and my endeavors. I am eternally grateful for everything they’ve done for me. I was elated to see the positive feedback from spectators at galleries and Instagram users, it feels great to see my work being appreciated by complete strangers that have no connection me personally. Instagram in particular, has been an amazing resource. It’s the perfect place to display my art for practically unlimited viewers. I’ve gained a significant number of followers and fans that come to the shows, to meet me and view my work in person.
The one person who never fails to be there for me is my son, Oliver. His enthusiasm and extroverted personality enables me to embody the youthful perspective that comes through in my work. He is, by far my most important and inspiring source of motivation.
What were you like growing up?
Growing up as a native of Denver taught me to have a passion for the outdoors. It shows in my work and I love making my work in Colorado. I have always been very creative – it’s a fundamental part of my character. As a teen, I was a child actor for KWGN’s The Two Bits Club appearing in over 350 commercials as on-air talent. I also performed in a children’s performing company. Always been a hard worker and had a passion for life. My mother, Jean Dennis, instilled respect for my environment and encouraged my voice as an advocate.