by Cecilia LaFrance
Surrounded by power tools and materials in the former Jerry’s Record Exchange in East Denver, Dmitri Obergfell faces an unusual art project. With notepad in hand, he calculates the next addition to the construction of a miniature version of Denver’s historic Colorado Building. As an art preparer and fabricator for the Dikeou Collection, Dmitri will also replicate items from the building’s 5th floor contemporary art gallery. Strategically designed to stand at a child’s height, the windows of the replica will serve as the portal for youth while adults can look in from above. In a few weeks, Dmitri says, he’ll have the project completed and ready for installment at Tiny Town, a miniature village and railway in Morrison.
“I went to art school for studio art and, just like every other artist, had to find another source of income.” His “day job” with the Dikeou Collection fits his own philosophical outlook as well as his schedule, he says. “It provides me access to a lot of different things.” Appearing giant-sized next to the building project, Dmitri gives examples of other artist ventures hosted in the pop-up art space acquired by the Dikeou Family’s real estate and investment interests: alternative art events, Zing Magazine release parties, and writing functions. Dmitri is exposed to the gamut of the Dikeou’s art philanthropy and sponsorship.
Life of an Artist
“It’s always a struggle, but it’s a good struggle.” A 2010 graduate of Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Dmitri has achieved a balance between finding work as an artist and making his own art. “I’ve been able to carve out a situation where I’m fulfilled in all aspects. I like to come to work.” With a studio at home and a wife, who also works in the art field, to talk with about the minutia of art, he doesn’t stray far from his passion.
“A lot of my artwork recently has been about culture.” For example, his installment at the Mi Tierra exhibit at the DAM in 2017 specifically asked for contemporary representation of culture. Currently, Dmitri’s neighborhood influences his work. Living near Federal Boulevard, a cruising destination for customized rides, Dmitri sees inspiration in the object personification of vehicles. “A lot translates to art.”
Dmitri’s unique upbringing built a world view different from how others may have grown up, he says. The son of a racehorse trainer, Dmitri was exposed to the local customs wherever his mother was needed. His Russian mother and Mexican immigrant father, who met on a racetrack, provided another layer of cultural appreciation.
Working with “whatever medium best fits at the moment,” Dmitri labels himself as a conceptual artist, predominately working in sculpture. His art is represented at the Guild Art Gallery in Denver and internationally with Montoro 12. Previous accomplishments include work shown in Boulder, at the Denver Art Museum, and projects with the Clifford Still Museum.
“It’s not easy to be an artist in Denver,” Dmitri admits, but his likes it. The art scene has changed within just the past five years, he says. It was kind of a cow town when he first came to Denver in 2005, which he says allowed some leniency for galleries. Denver art broadened with more artists moving in, but didn’t necessarily diversify. “In some ways it’s not as good of an art scene.” Plus, because of Denver’s increased costs, more galleries are closing. However, he says, “Everyone I’ve interacted with has been positive and wants to support each other.”