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Denver man is the only living artist in new Denver Art Museum exhibit

Comic book featured amongst masterpieces at Denver Art Museum
R. Alan Brooks
Posted at 10:30 PM, Nov 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-23 00:30:46-05

DENVER — A Denver man is the only living artist, and the only artist of color, featured in a new exhibit at the Denver Art Museum.

“Saints, Sinners, Lovers and Fools” features Flemish masterpieces from the 15th to 17th centuries.

At the center of the exhibit you will find “The Return of Balthazar” a graphic novel written and illustrated by R. Alan Brooks.

“I thought it would be really interesting to do two things — one, to show Balthazar’s experience of meeting the infant Jesus from his perspective, but then also what it would be like for him to see all those centuries of art that depicted him as a white person,” Brooks said.

In the earliest writings, Balthazar was described as African decent with a thick beard. Historically he was not always depicted as Black, and to this day, he is portrayed in some countries in blackface.

The Denver Art Museum approached Brooks about the project as the exhibit features some of the first art to depict Balthazar as a Black king.

“I grew up in church, I was familiar with the idea of the three kings. But I never realized that the Bible doesn't say that they're kings, doesn't say the three of them,” Brooks said.

Brooks is a science fiction writer and teaches graphic novel writing at Regis University. He typically doesn’t illustrate his work.

“I never drew so many camels in my life,” he said.

The result is a reimagining of Balthazar’s story told in English and Spanish. It’s art you can take home by purchasing a copy in the Denver Art Museum gift shop.

Brooks said the project took him back to his roots.

“My mother is a reverend, she went to seminary when I went to college. But she loved the exhibit,” Brooks said. “I think there's something powerful in people being able to see what that is, to see him sort of fully depicted as African king.”

You can learn more about Brooks at his website.

You can visit the "Saints, Sinners, Lovers and Fools" exhibit at the Denver Art Museum through January 22, 2023. To learn more about the exhibit, click here.