I was taking photos of canned-food sculptures at the Stanley Marketplace in Aurora when I noticed something magical down the hall.
I should have guessed it would be a run-in with Lonnie Hanzon, the artist behind the Wizard’s Chest’s look, a trash fashion show last year, multiple years of Denver Pride Fest installations and, now, Camp Christmas. His holiday project is set to open on Nov. 21, and he was kind enough to let me document things as they come together inside the Marketplace’s giant aircraft hanger. Hanzon is using every cubic foot available.
He recently told our colleague at CPR the project was inspired by his own childhood memories of Christmas, specifically special trips downtown to see gaudy department store windows dressed for the season. It’s a fitting origin story for an artist who went on to specialize in retail decor.
The show also owes its genesis to Hanzon’s backyard, which is famously dense with bric-a-brac just waiting to be turned into art. Hanzon’s husband, Terry Koepsel Hanzon, said a lot of the stuff they’re installing at the hanger came from their collection of stuff. He said the yard is pretty bare right about now.
Camp Christmas begins and ends with a bar, Koepsel Hanzon said, and attendees can get “merit badges” and little stamps that will commemorate their progress through the holiday maze. There are a number of spaces that adhere to separate design traditions: deco, the Renaissance, the Victorian era, a very pink space called “Pinky’s Place” and, of course, an area dedicated to classic plastic Santa Clauses. A human Santa, in the flesh, will show up on Saturday mornings.
Here’s your look at the work in progress. You can get tickets to see the show in all its glory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ website. The installation is a partnership with Off-Center, the DCPA’s “most adventurous programming wing.”