“From its humble beginnings, through the rocky crags of Waterton Canyon to its desolate and dry end just west of Denver International Airport, the High Line Canal is a treasure passing through the Front Range of Colorado,” artist Jennifer Riefenberg writes.
Riefenberg, a longtime member of the Littleton Fine Arts Guild, which operates the Depot Art Center, has lived near the High Line Canal for the past 20 years, enjoying a strong connection to its beauty.
She has been a member of the High Line Canal Preservation Association and at the same time, she has been doing a lot of plein air painting (painting outdoors).
She conceived the idea of walking the length of the canal and recording its spaces and seasons in a series of small oil paintings. “I just decided to start and I never got sick of painting. I could probably do 1,000 and never get tired of the beauty” Riefenberg said. She expressed concern to her husband that she might end up with a great many paintings that looked alike, but each day was different.
Oil paint was the medium of choice because it withstands summer’s dry heat and winter’s cold better than other mediums.
Riefenberg’s paintings will be displayed at Koelbel Library in Centennial through May, with a public reception from 2-4 p.m. May 4. She has a total of about 60 paintings, but is not certain they will all fit. The show is called “The High Line Canal: a 66 mile Journey of Plein Air Painting.”
She tried to paint one day in every week at some point along the canal. “I jumped around and used the small wire-bound ‘Guide to the High Line Canal Trail,’ published by Denver Water as a guide,” Riefenberg said. She spent one and a half years and walked almost every mile.
On each day, she wasn’t sure what she’d paint until she got there. One rule of thumb was that the canal or trail must appear in every painting. Sometimes, the view to the west was so striking that it tempted her eyes away.
Zero mile in Waterton Canyon brings the water tumbling through a tunnel from the South Platte River. She slogged around in winter mud near 64th Avenue since there is no trail access to the dried out end of the canal.
The trail guide helped her with places to park along the way and other useful information. It is available at bookstores. The south part — Greenwood Village and Cherry Hills — is the most difficult for parking spots and involved some long hikes.
People she met along the way, especially in Denver and Aurora, were “a pleasurable experience — the kids were a blast.” Some skateboarders on paved sections in Aurora thought her project was “so cool.”
Riefenberg has self-published a book about the project, with her commentary along the way. It will be available to order for anyone interested and contains reproductions of the paintings plus her running text.
“It’s such a treasure to so many people,” she says of the canal she now knows so well.